The break-out star of Paddy Considine’s Tyrannosaur tells Louise Tutt why she enjoyed playing such a harrowing role.

To Olivia Colman, Tyrannosaur is a film about kindness and love. Yes, there are some “shocks”, of which one of the least disquieting
features a headless dog, but for the UK actress who plays Hannah, the warm-hearted Christian woman hiding a God-awful secret, Paddy Considine’s film is a love story.

“She was one of the most beautiful characters I had even seen,” Colman recalls. “Reading the script it was clear who she was and what she was like.”

Hannah is the beacon of light to whom Peter Mullan’s angry, lonely Joseph turns when he stumbles into the charity shop in which she works. He in turn unwittingly becomes a haven for Hannah’s own troubled soul. The role was a change of pace for Colman after
the TV comedies, including Peep Show and Rev, for which she has become well known in the UK.

Since its premiere at Sundance last year, Tyrannosaur has brought Colman to international acclaim. She was the winner of the best actress prize at the British Independent Film Awards.

Tyrannosaur began as a Bafta-winning short made by Considine called Dog Altogether, featuring both Mullan and Colman, which in essence became the first 10 minutes of the feature.

“Paddy wanted to see where the characters went,” Colman recalls. “He wanted to fi nd out if Joseph is right with his assumptions of Hannah’s cosy life. It turns out he wasn’t.”

Colman met Considine on the set of Edgar Wright’s Hot Fuzz in which they both starred. “At the first rehearsal, I was so excited Paddy Considine was coming in,” smiles Colman. “He came upstairs and I opened the door for him. He says he thought, ‘She’ll be good’ [for
Dog Altogether]. I’ve no idea what made him think that but I’m very glad he did.”

Colman clearly adores Considine’s work on his feature-length directorial debut. She smiles at the suggestion she ever had to consider what she could bring to the role of Hannah. “It was all there,” she explains. “Paddy had done all the work. I just wanted to try and do it
justice and do it as truthfully as I could.”

She believes Considine’s experience as an actor helped him support her playing such a raw and intimate role. “He knew what it was like,” she says. “He wasn’t going to put a mark down and make you stand there. [He said], ‘Go where you need to go and we’ll follow
you.’ It gave you the confidence to do it.

“He said, ‘Make it your own,’ but actually it was perfect. If I had tried to work around it, I would have diluted it and made it less good.
“He was always physically close by. In the difficult scenes, the ones with Eddie [Marsan, who plays Hannah’s abusive
husband], he would say, ‘I’m right here and stop at any point.’ He’s incredibly nurturing. He knew what you needed.

“It was also filmed chronologically and that’s a real treat. It’s normally really hard to journey back in your head.”

Tyrannosaur was produced by Inflammable Films with Warp X. It was backed by Film 4 and the now-defunct UK Film Council, with Screen Yorkshire, EM Media and StudioCanal (then Optimum Releasing).

After a busy 2011 — Colman played Margaret Thatcher’s daughter in The Iron Lady and also filmed Roger Michell’s Hyde Park On Hudson playing Queen Elizabeth, the late Queen Mother — she is now starring in Noel Coward’s Hay Fever on stage in London.

The actress dismisses the notion some of Hannah’s bleaker aspects could have crept into her own life. “I don’t take it home,” she explains. “It is pretending, and as long as you know that you are all right.”

She even insists a role like Hannah can be cathartic. “You rarely spend that much time in your normal life crying like that. It’s quite a nice thing to do in a way. As Paddy says, ‘You don’t want Method actors anywhere near this shit.’ He’s quite right.”