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Much as viewers love a good side-by-side of actors and the historical figures they portray, we accept some inevitable cosmetic differences. Not The Crown, however, which sought so desperately to match Season 3 star Olivia Colman’s likeness with that of prior lead Claire Foy and the Queen herself, that it tuned to both cosmetic and CGI effects.
The feature in question was Queen Elizabeth II’s blue eyes, which two-season star Foy was fortunate enough to share with Her Majesty (never mind their distinctly different facial structures). Yet for as well-received as the announcement that Colman would succeed Foy was, it seems filmmakers had trouble looking past The Favourite Oscar-winner’s distinctly brown eyes. According to an extensive profile of The Crown Season 3 from The Guardian, both cosmetic and post-production enhancements were considered to supplement Colman’s performance.
Initially, Colman was fitted with blue contact lenses, the effect of which director Ben Caron described as if “she was acting behind a mask. . . . It was as if we had taken all of her acting ability and put it in a safe and locked it away.” Next, the tried-and-true method of applying a blue sheen to Colman’s irises in post was applied—presumably with intent to repeat the effect in all 10 episodes—though Caron finally conceded “it didn’t feel like her. CGI-ing her eyes seemed to diminish what she was doing.”
So, why abandon the effort, when the Netflix Emmy winner was previously content to slap ghastly blonde on Matt Smith’s head or quietly shove John Lithgow’s American birth certificate under the rug? “We always thought it should be Olivia, right from the beginning,” director Nina Gold said of the casting change. “The thing everybody loves about Claire was that she transmits her humanity in a very simple, plain, not-doing-anything kind of a way: you just get it. We felt that was exactly the same thing Olivia does. It’s not about looks—it’s about a quality.”
The Crown Season 3 will premiere on Netflix on Friday, November 17. Season 4 has already begun production, adding X-Files alum Gillian Anderson to the cast as a young Margaret Thatcher.