I ask Natalie Dormer if she saw the Oscars. She didn’t. She said she was all tucked in bed, confident that Eddie Redmayne would win—he did.
Patricia Arquette’s Oscar speech was the definitive highlight of the night, rallying for wage equality and equal rights for women everywhere. The crowd went wild, particularly my new favorite friend duo, and unlikely seat partners: Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez.
Dormer heard the sound bite on the radio, and she notes that women are beginning to play a more powerful role in Hollywood. She makes an important point clear: this isn’t just good for the actresses.
“Film is finally starting to catch up with something that television has known for a while. And that is that we need more three-dimensional fleshed-out female protagonists. It’s not only about having female characters for your female audience. It’s the benefit of all the population, we’re 50-50 in gender, and art helps us cope with life. It reflects that.”
Dormer’s résumé is lengthy and evolved, volleying between film and television, her credit lines include: Casanova, a 2005 period film with the late Heath Ledger that’s sparked fan montage videos on YouTube as recently as 2014; a 2007-2010 run on The Tudors, where she played Anne Boleyn to rave reviews; the recurring role of Margaery Tyrell on Game of Thrones, which she’s held since 2012; and The Hunger Games—she’ll close out the trilogy later this year. She plays roles of rebellious, independent women, and roles that require a lot of physicality (even in Casanova, where she daintily appears to break a wooden birdcage and a railing, through pure, absent-minded force of will).
It’s a very specific type of woman, and I wonder if these characters ring true to her personality. I ask her if she finds these roles, or if they have a way of finding her: “I take it on a case-by-case basis. I choose whether I want to do a job specifically on the merits of its grit. I look for the quality of the writing—be it in theater, film, or television. I suppose I’m also thought of in certain regard by casting directors. They might be open to giving me these sort of ambiguous roles with lots of layers and colors to them.”
Dormer plays women that fight, love, reign, die: “That’s just personality dependent, all characters should be rich like that.” She pauses. “The fact that we even have to mention it is interesting.”
As Natalie explains it, women are typically seen as the angel or the whore, put on a pedestal or portrayed as the mistress. And she seems to desire an end to that: “It’s boring to have a character that is either good or bad. A modern audience is so much more sophisticated than that. If the audience can appreciate Walter White, an anti-hero, and all the positives and negatives of that personality and watch him on a journey, they are more than capable of doing that with a woman and female characters.”
I mention that our generation appears ready—and demanding for diversity—in films and on television screens. She agrees: “Any social group that feels like it has not been represented properly in art, be it people of other ethnic descent, this is the struggle of society.” Here is an actress who finds herself tasked with providing more than just pure entertainment, she strives to bring cultural awareness to the screen.
Natalie has two movies in pre-production: Patient Zero and The Forest. She describes Patient Zero as “action/entertainment/apocalyptic—more in keeping with The Hunger Games.” It’s a Contagion-type movie—although, she clarifies, it is not about zombies. Instead, she relates it to the recent Ebola outbreak, explaining she’s excited about the film because the story has a new take, one that is relatable and current, but will also make people think.
And then there’s The Forest, more of a psychological thriller, Brothers Grimm-style tale. The general premise, I gather, is that the true horror at times is the life we create inside our own minds.
These films appear to fit in perfectly with her body of work—this new kind of fantasy/thriller/drama mash-up that is so popular these days. Is this a niche Dormer is monopolizing? If so, she stands unopposed. “It’s purely by accident. I trained in the theater. I’d love to do a kitchen sink drama-type thing—a real modern, straight drama. Or a comedy. All the things I haven’t done or been known for, I’d love to get my teeth into.”
She pauses, then continues, as if to drive the point home: “I’m always looking to challenge my perception of myself and people’s perception of me. Something that scares me a little bit, because that’s how you grow.”
When speaking with Dormer one gets the sense that—much like the fiercely independent women she embodies so seamlessly on screen—she’s ready, eager for the next challenge to overcome. And it’s infectious: unambiguous is the feeling that her audience will rise with her, following her into the unknown. Unambiguous is the feeling that we will cope.
Photographer: Eliot Lee Hazel for ProbationLondon.com.
Stylist: Nicolas Klam for Jedroot.com.
Hair: Giannandrea for TheWallGroup.com using Macadamia Professionals.
Makeup: Matthew VanLeeuwen for TheWallGroup.com.
Editorial Assistant: Adam Watkins.