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“There was a period of struggle but I never considered giving it up” - an interview with Natalie Dormer

27 August 2017

Her name still isn’t one that rolls off the tongue with a burst of familiarity, but actress Natalie Dormer has had a hand in some of biggest projects – small screen and big – in recent years. From The Hunger Games to Game of Thrones, the Reading-born star has an eye for iconic, generational drama and, having worked in film and TV in equal measure, is now set to take the lead in Venus in Fur at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, from 6 October.

“I guess you could say it’s a return to the seductive roles that gave me a break in the industry,” she begins, referencing her portrayal of Anne Boleyn in the lavish series The Tudors, and the pattern continued with Dormer’s starring appearance as doomed queen Margaery Tyrell in Game of Thrones. But the star herself asserts that her reality is the polar opposed of her art.

“There was a time when it seemed a little one-sided,” the 35-year-old muses of her brush with temptress typecasting. “The truth is, I'm happy in my tracksuit bottoms and hoodie, sitting on the sofa, watching TV. That's how close I am to being a seductress.”


Natalie Dormer

Her latest project however, a stage role in the Patrick Marber-directed Venus in Fur, may be Dormer’s most daring to date. As a key player in the adaptation of David Ives’ critically-acclaimed Broadway hit, Dormer will have to rely on some of her previous on-screen experience for the nine-week run at the Theatre Royal Haymarket 

“I’m looking forward to it, and with every passing week am growing more confident in myself and the script,” she says. “Of course, it’s a challenge, and every night you are putting yourself up there to be shot at, but I like that pressure and the artistic rewards are incredible.

“I like being part of the changing climate when it comes to female characters and the way women are represented,” she explains. “The industry needs to keep heading in the direction where women are shown to be vital and dynamic individuals and who help drive a story forward.”


Natalie Dormer in The Hunger Games Part 2: Mockingjay

And though Venus in Fur will be the first time in over five years that Dormer has swapped screen for stage, she’s savouring the chance to inhabit such an explosive character in the perilous and often unpredictable world of theatre.

“As I said, it goes back to taking yourself out of your comfort zone and challenging the perception of you,” the star offers. “Human beings get very comfortable in what is assuring and familiar so it’s good to shake things up, I find. That’s the thrill of being an actor - you never know who you're going to be playing from one character to the next, so why not make it as interesting for yourself as possible. That's why we got into this game.”

Dormer’s turn in Venus in Fur is a throwback to earlier outings more reminiscent of Boleyn and Tyrell than the boisterous freedom fighter Cressida in the latter stages of the blockbuster Hunger Games franchise. But even so, the star is quickly developing a reputation for imbibing characters with a layered nuance that spans characterisation.

“I get written to by a lot of young girls who are seeing this renaissance of three-dimensional, fleshed out, complicated, contradictory female roles,” she enthuses. “These are young ladies who I want to be able to take along for the ride, into dramas and horrors and whatever else I do.”


Natalie Dormer in The Hunger Games Part 2: Mockingjay

It’s not just for future generations, however. Despite her high-profile period start in The Tudors, there was a lull early on in Dormer’s career that many actors have fallen into. Rather than relenting, the star resolved to keep at it in the industry – and the life lessons she learned are now paying dividends with a string of complex and thrilling roles with top directors on stage and screen.

“There was a period of struggle but I never considered giving it up,” she nods. “It can be a very despairing, ruthless industry but I always think these things come together in serendipity, where everything is aligned for you. There are great highs and great lows in the industry and we're addicted to it.

“It took time before I was able to become more forceful,” she admits. “I suffered from a lot of bullying in school and I needed to work on my confidence level in my twenties. I'm much more open now and I'm pretty straightforward, and I know I can keep gaining confidence every time I play these kinds of characters, so why stop?”

Venus in Fur run at the Theatre Royal Haymarket from 6 October till 9 December. Tickets from £10.
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