Olivia Colman Discusses Her Favorite Profanity in Wicked Little Letters

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Summary

  • Olivia Colman shares her love for profanity in the uproariously funny and cheeky comedy Wicked Little Letters.
  • The film dives into a scandalous tale set in 1920s England, filled with expletives, shocking declarations, and a central mystery.
  • Director Thea Sharrock explores parallels between the film’s poison pen letters and modern-day social media banter.



Olivia Colman is happy to share some of her favorite swear words and devilish lines from her playfully profane new comedy Wicked Little Letters. (We’ll get back to that in a moment.) The film is chock-full of expletives and shocking declarations, of course, which makes it all the more fun to watch, especially because the story is set in the otherwise conservative seaside town of Littlehampton, England, in the 1920s. The dirtiest things around are the outhouse and the unwashed dishes.

All that changes when strait-laced Edith Swan (Olivia Colman) and the folks of Littlehampton, England, begin receiving letters full of colorful if not hilarious profanities. Feisty Irish transplant Rose Gooding (Jessie Buckley) becomes the prime suspect. But something feels off about the accusations, and Police Officer Gladys Moss (Anjana Vasan) embarks on uncovering the truth.


Based on the real-life scandal that rocked an English town 100 years ago, Wicked Little Letters is directed by Thea Sharrock (Britannia) and ever so cheekily written by Jonny Sweet (I Hate You). The film also stars Timothy Spall, Hugh Skinner, and Malachi Kirby. Uproariously funny, it’s a keeper for Olivia Colman fans or anybody who appreciates robust, sidesplitting comedies, particularly British romps. Oscar and Emmy winner Olivia Colman and Thea Sharrock unpack the tale in this exclusive MovieWeb interview, drawing comparisons to some of the heightened banter witnessed on social media today. Dive in.



Why Olivia Colman Took on The Role

Oh, what fun Wicked Little Letters is. “You saggy old sack of chicken bits,” one letter reads. “You really are a sad stinky bitch,” reads another. Meanwhile, when accused of “sending” the vile letters, Rose admits she’d never write such things. Pressed further, she tells her deeply conservative neighbor Edith what she would write… “You look like Queen Victoria shoved a …”


You get the picture. Anchored by a central mystery and subsequent mission to discover who wrote the letters, this comedy takes off and soars. When asked why she said yes to the project and came on board as a producer, Olivia Colman shared: “It’s always a sort of gut feeling, but it turned up, and I thought it was really funny, and I wanted to play Edith because there’s so much to her… you think she’s one thing, and then you find out there’s so much more. Same with all human beings, but I thought it would be funny to play her. I feel very empathetic towards her.” Adding:

“She’s clearly being oppressed at home under the thumb of her father and when we filmed it… I’m 50 now, but she was certainly 49 when we filmed it… and to still have no agency and no freedom and the way she sort of reacts to that, I loved her for. The producer side is totally by accident. It’s more that I’m married to Ed [Sinclair], who’s a producer.”

And the Favorite Swear Word Is…

Jessie Buckley as Rose wearing a white shirt and orange hat with Olivia Colman as Edith in Wicked Little Letters 
StudioCanal


As a flurry of wicked words and phrases populate this story, we just had to ask: What was Olivia Colman’s favorite bit? “Well,” Colman smiled. “I just love the fact that… I think [the film uses] like a candid swearing. It’s like if a kid has learned all these rude words, and they just put them all in, blah, blah, blah. I love the word piss, and I put piss and sack together. That’s quite funny. And it was sort of… I’m sorry I don’t know if I’m allowed to say things on your…” Trust us, it’s okay.

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“But I loved the slightly rubbish nature of the swearing, and it is obviously so much fun to say that at work,” Colman added. “And you know, to think my kids are doing very sensible things in school and mummy’s off to work to put on an outfit, put on a wig, and swear at people all day. It’s kind of marvelous. I really enjoyed it. But my favorite, I always remember when Timothy [Spall], who plays my father, reads out, ‘You want f***ing in the nose holes!’ That’s my favorite. It made me giggle and snort through my nose every time he said it.”

Poisonous Penmanship in the 1920s to Critics on TikTok

Anjana Vasan as Glad, Susie Fairfax as Dorothea and Lolly Adefope dressed as Police Officers in Wicked Little Letters
StudioCanal


While being foul-mouthed was shocking in the 1920s, some 100 years later, it’s commonplace on social media. From TikTok to Instagram, colorful comments and criticisms abound. Audiences eventually learn what’s behind the purposely profane missives in Wicked Little Letters, but we wanted to know if director Thea Sharrock had today’s social media banter in mind to also bring forth a more cautionary tale about the pitfalls of hypercritical comments.

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“We had it in mind,” she says, “because the parallels are very obviously there when you’re doing something from 100 years ago. We, by default, think about how we handle these things nowadays. I would love it if we were kinder to each other. I understand what I was drawn to, and it’s always nice to hear Olivia talk about what it is that encapsulates a character, and what it is that draws her to it. For me, the complexity of Edith is that she was such a conundrum.”


She went on to say that it was not difficult to understand the motivations behind the letter writing in Wicked Little Letters, or Edith Rose, who’s been subjected to her father’s strict rule. “She’s very complex, but the layers are all obviously there. And for me to find a character [where] there’s so much pain… you also want to understand it. I feel very drawn to that, particularly in the concept of a comedy, which is just brilliant to have the two sides.

“So, I would love it if people come away from this and think, ‘You know, I do have a choice,” added. “I have a choice in how I behave with other people. We all have difficult times, but you don’t have to be mean to other people in how you present yourself.” Dive into the uproarious fun of Wicked Little Letters, which hits theaters March 29.


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