Photo: Bottega Veneta coat, Maison Michel hat, Chanel ring.
It has been a pretty good couple of years for Natalie Dormer. The British actress was cast to play in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay part one and two and has had a recurrent role in the epic TV series Game of Thrones. A true chameleon, Dormer easily goes from portraying a medieval Queen Margeary Tyrell to a hardcore rebel with a half-shaved head. Natalie Dormer is no stranger to any form of acting. TV, cinema, theatre, she has done it all, and she excels in anything she does with her unearthly presence and her piercing blue eyes. Before seeing her in the movie The Professor and the Madman from Sarhad Safinia, which will be released later this year, rediscover our interview with a truly committed actress – to her art, and to others.
Can you talk about your early years as an actress after your graduation from acting school until your big break as Anne Boleyn in The Tudors in 2007?
I was cast by Lasse Hallstrom in Casanova, and it was very exciting to be acting next to Heath Ledger and Jeremy Irons in one of the most beautiful cities in Europe for my first proper job. I then promptly fell into nine months of unemployment, which was a big shock to the system. I had to go back to temping in an office to pay for Christmas that year. But it was definitely the most invaluable lesson I could have learned early in my career: Never take anything for granted, never believe you are simply entitled to work. A few months later, I found myself chemistry reading with Jonny Rhys Meyers in a casting office in New York in front of a group of executives, and the rest is history. Quite literally, History! (The English Reformation) It was my first time in New York City and though I am always a Londoner in my heart, I have had a love-affair with New York ever since, and hope to get on Broadway when my schedule allows.
What usually attracts you when reading a script?
Truthful, poignant, tight writing. It doesn’t matter if it’s TV, film or theatre or whatever genre it is. A good script is a good script. I want three-dimensional, truthful characters that the audience will care about and a script that has something to say. Even if the script is just for pure entertainment and escapism it can have something to say. I look now for roles that are different from what I have done before. I want to challenge myself and people’s perceptions of me. If we challenge ourselves, we grow.
What would you be doing for a living if you weren’t an actress?
I have no way to answer that question.
Since season two, you have a recurrent role in “Game of Thrones”, the already iconic series. Were you aware of the show and the books it is based on before? How was it to manage to grasp everything the series was about?
I had watched the first season and was a big fan of it. I have not read the books. I asked the creators of the show if I should read them and they said that I could if I wanted to, but it wouldn’t necessarily help with my characterization of Margaery as they were looking to flesh her out in a way that wasn’t in George’s books. I think people over-exaggerate how complex the show is. There are a lot of characters and storylines, yes. But the audience is more than intelligent enough to work it out over a few episodes and become familiar with everyone. It’s false economy to talk down to an audience, they want it to be a rich, multi-texture experience and they are more than capable of coping.
Season five is coming up in April this year. What can we expect for your character Margaery Tyrell?
“Third time lucky”, as the proverb says! Husband Number three. Will the marriage (and the husband!) survive?! Margaery looks like she’s finally done it and then takes a huge fall. And we are tip-toeing closer to where the published books have left her, so it is very exciting.
Not only are you a TV star, but you’re also present on the big screen with The Hunger Games: Mockingjay part 1 & 2. Could you tell us about your character and your experience shooting the film?
That’s a massive question. I spend a lot of time promoting Mockingjay Part One last November and talked a lot about how proud I was to be a part of that family and the experience. It is simply an incredible acting ensemble, and boasts people at the top of their game in front and also behind the camera. Cressida was a joy to play. To run around with the a half-shaved head in army fatigues and boots with a semi-automatic rifle was a welcome change to all the sitting down and Machiavellian talking in Margaery’s long silk skirts and flowing brunette wig. It was fun to go to the other end of the physical spectrum. I loved that Cressida was a woman defined by her job: a skilled, in-the-field director, that knows innately how to package an image and a message. Both Margaery and Cressida are women who know how to manipulate ‘hearts and minds’. It is an interesting unifier to my recent roles.
Had you been watching the movies before actually been cast to play in the two final parts?
I loved the first “Hunger Games” film. And I have read the books. I adore that Suzanne Collins and the movie saga do not talk down to their younger audience. The material fully appreciates that young adults are more than capable of engaging in complex, contradictory themes of power, death, war, social, political and media struggles. They get what it is to explore those questions that relate to their modern world. That is why the books and films are so popular.
What is it like to be part of such big franchises as Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games, which have such an important and loyal fanbase?
I have said for over a year now that I have the gift of two of the most passionate, loyal, supportive, creative, and vocal fanbases an actor could hope to have in Game of Thrones and Hunger Games fans! Add the support I get from fans of the TV series Elementary and the other film and theatre I have done on top means I am a very lucky woman.
How do you usually prepare for a role? Do you consider roles for TV and cinema differently?
No. Nor theatre. It doesn’t matter what angle you approach a character from (because that varies) ultimately my process is the same regardless of the medium. A human approaching another human. What does this person want or rather think they want?
Costumes are a big part of your work. What is your relation to clothing both on set and in your private life? Would you say fashion is a big part of your life?
Costumes are no more or less a part of my life than they are for any other actor. The pivotal thing is the clothes we wear change the way we feel and, importantly, the way we move. The physical is a great way to ‘find’ a character. And it’s the same for the different ‘roles’ we play in life. How you dress for a business meeting is not how you dress for a jog or a red carpet. Personally, I think great style comes from being comfortable.
What are your inspirations outside the cinema world? In art? In music?
The list is long! That’s a whole other interview.
What would you like to change in the world?
Female education in the world – every girl should have the right to education – and gender equality, hence lending my face and support to Plan UK’s ‘Because I am A Girl’ campaign. And you should watch ‘Girl Rising’ too. I also feel very strongly about supporting charities for vulnerable children. That’s why I ran the London Marathon in 2014 for Barnardo’s. Whether affected by poverty, abuse, disability, addiction or isolation, no child should ever feel that they are alone and life isn’t worth living.
What are your next projects?
I have two movies next. I am just starting Patient Zero with Matt Smith and Oscar-winning director Stefan Ruzowitzky and then I’ll shoot The Forest directly after, before starting season six of Games of Thrones. In the Spring, watch out for The Woman in Red that I shot before Christmas. And obviously, the final installment of The Hunger Games, Mockingjay Part Two comes out in November. Excitingly, on IMAX too!
Interview by Maxime Der Nahabédian
Photos by Jermaine Francis
Styling by Marie-Louise Von Hasleberg