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Olivia Colman takes a dark turn in 'Tyrannosaur'

Paddy Considine directs Olivia Colman in "Tyrannosaur."

Paddy Considine directs Olivia Colman in "Tyrannosaur." Credit: Paddy Considine directs Olivia Colman in "Tyrannosaur."

Olivia Colman gives a performance of such raw dramatic intensity in "Tyrannosaur," the feature filmmaking debut of character actor Paddy Considine, that it comes as something of a shock to learn that the actress is best known for her work on British sitcoms such as "Peep Show" and "Green Wing."

The 37-year-old won't be an unknown on this side of the pond for much longer - not after winning a prize at the Sundance Film Festival and earning some Oscar buzz for her work as the abused charity shop worker Hannah, who strikes up a deep, unlikely friendship with the rage-filled Joseph (Peter Mullan) in Considine's film, which opens on Friday. We spoke with the actress.

The film allows the audience to form preconceived notions about Hannah and Joseph before challenging them. Why was that appealing to you? [In] the script, [Considine] did that - challenging perceptions. [His] using me in the film was challenging everybody's perception - people in the U.K. know me from comedy. So it was all resonant with me.

Is there a danger that the violence might overwhelm the human story? The love story, to me, is what the film is. It's not about the acts of violence and things. Most of the acts of violence, you don't actually see - they're left to your imagination. ... The core of this story is two people who are [platonic] soulmates.

How do you avoid internalizing the grim scenes? When you're watching the film, it feels like there's never a moment out of it. ... You feel very strongly while you're doing it, but you're aware you're pretending. You're aware that "cut" will be said.

What do you make of the whole Oscar thing? It seems to me flattering and sweet, but probably silly. That's not why this film was made. I find it sort of strangely mercenary when films are made in order to gain awards. This film was made because Paddy needed to make it. ... [But] if people like it enough to want to recognize it - my God, that's amazing. It's thrilling.  

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