Natalie Dormer video exclusive: Not your average horror movie scream queen

Why 2016 will be the year the Game Of Thrones star spends in darkness.

You know Natalie Dormer. She’s the star behind Game Of Thrones’ imprisoned queen Margaery Tyrell and badass documentary maker Cressida in The Hunger Games.

These two gargantuan series have turned her into a geek favourite, but in 2016 the Berkshire-born actress is stepping outside the franchise safety net for challenging character-driven parts.

Dormer is starting with The Forest, a slow-burn horror about an American who heads to Japan’s Aokigahara Forest in a bid to find her missing identical twin sister Jess. Don’t expect a grisly Saw-style slasher flick; this is a different kind of chiller.

“It’s definitely a psychological horror, it has the suspense-thriller elements, but not so much the gore-fest,” Dormer tells Loaded. “For me personally, that’s the kind of horror movie I prefer as an audience member.”

Natalie Dormer in The Forest
Deep in The Forest Natalie Dormer's Sara makes her way through Japan's Aokigahara 'Suicide Forest'. Image Picture Icon Film Distribution

Aokigahara, located at the base of Mount Fiji, also happens to be a notorious suicide destination. Its dense sea of trees shut out natural light, while its iron deposits in volcanic rock play havoc with compasses and block cell phone signals. The perfecting setting for a horror, then. It also gave Dormer scope to stretch herself as an actor.

“We all have someone we’d travel half way around the world for if we thought they were in trouble.”

She’s made of sterner stuff than Scream Queens like Nightmare on Elm Street’s Heather Langenkamp and Friday The 13th’s Adrienne King. The Forest pushed Dormer’s character Sara “to a place where you have your own inner fears reflecting back at you.”

The 34-year-old observes: “The central relationship is between two sisters and I found that refreshing.

“We all have someone we’d travel half way around the world for if we thought they were in trouble.”

The Forest also marks the first time Dormer’s name has been first above the title. Amusingly, she’s numbers one and two on the call sheet thanks to the twin roles of Sara and Jess. The responsibility of being the film’s lead is clearly something she thrives on.

“You’re on set every single day, every single scene,” she says. “I got a kick out of that.”

Natalie Dormer on the set of The Forest
Horror heroine Natalie Dormer on the set of The Forest. Image Picture Icon Film Distribution

Later this year Dormer leads on In Darkness, a revenge thriller about a blind musician who gets pulled into London’s underworld. Dormer and her partner, Ripper Street director Anthony Byrne, co-wrote the script. Their impressive cast includes Emily Ratajkowski, Ed Skrein and Stacy Martin.

With a dearth of female filmmakers in Hollywood, could In Darkness represent a first step towards directing for Dormer?

“I’d like to die being an actor”

“Ask me when we’ve shot In Darkness, let me see how that experience fares for me,” she responds. “It was a very steep learning curve, an interesting experience that added to my skill-set in knowing how to tell a story and the mechanics of filmmaking.”

Despite a move behind the camera, Dormer has no intention of giving up acting to be a filmmaker full-time.

“I’m an actor first and foremost, and I’d like to die doing this job,” she says. “It’s a job for life, being an actor if one so chooses. I like the idea of going way into my dotage doing this.”

Before she hit it big thanks to Game Of Thrones and Hunger Games, Dormer had a fleeting role in the first Captain America back in 2011.

Natalie Dormer in Game Of Thrones and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay
Franchise queen Natalie Dormer in Game Of Thrones and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay. Image Picture HBO/Lionsgate

If comic book fans had their way, she’d be heading back to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. When the studio announced their Captain Marvel film last year, Dormer was hastily photoshopped onto images of the super-powered heroine by fans eager to see her in the part.

“I’d never rule out being part of a franchise again”

Would she consider making it a hat-trick of big franchise roles?

“I’ve been very lucky in my career so far that I’ve managed to spread myself over TV, film and stage and covered different genres. I only ever hope that I continue to keep that diversity in my career,” she explains.

“It’s a gift and a privilege to have achieved that so far, and that’s what I look to do. My experience of franchises has only been the most positive that one could possibly hope. I would never rule out being part of a franchise ever again in the future.”

For now the focus lies elsewhere. “I’m very much concentrating on smaller, heavyweight intense roles,” she says. “I’m just trying to keep myself on my toes.”

The Forest will open in UK cinemas on February 26.

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Loaded digital media manager Simon Reynolds has written about film and entertainment for various leading websites since 2008. Follow Simon at @simonreyn

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