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Natalie Dormer plays two queens of propaganda in her various genre supporting roles: In the Hunger Games universe she’s Cressida, the shorn-headed, vine-tattooed documentary filmmaker turned propaganda-meister who follows Katniss into battles and war zones, backing up the symbol of the revolution. In Game of Thrones, she’s Queen Margaery and, although she has more support from the people of King’s Landing than Cersei ever did, is probably rotting in a dungeon, because she perjured herself to protect her brother. But while her two main characters know extreme hardship, Dormer feels lucky that the biggest price she’s had to pay is being away from family and friends for months on end to shoot these projects back-to-back. “Champagne problems,” she calls them. Dormer chatted with Vulture about how the Paris terrorist attacks affected the film’s premiere, Hunger Games–Game of Thrones mash-ups, and why she picked something creepy for her first leading role.
The Mockingjay - Part 2 premiere in Los Angeles was scaled back due to the Paris attacks. Not just because of the movie’s themes, but also because part of this film was shot near Paris, right? Such as the scenes involving … I don’t even know what to call it. The black goo?
[Laughs.] The tar, or whatever. That’s an extraordinary building in a suburb of Paris, Noisy-le-Grand. It’s residential apartments, and they were also used in Terry Gilliam’s film Brazil as well because it’s so extraordinary to look at. We shot the exteriors when we’re running to Tigris’s shop in Ivry-sur-Seine, because there was some really interesting architecture there, these triangular buildings. Those were some of my last days shooting, running through the snow on the way to Tigris. We loved our months there.
Usually your premieres are anything but subdued. Jennifer Lawrence falls down on the carpet. Woody Harrelson shows up in his pajamas. People accidentally kiss each other.
It’s true — it’s always a bit of a circus when The Hunger Games family comes together! It’s just a testament to how friendly everybody is, especially the core cast, who have been doing this for four or five years. And then for us latecomers, they adopted us into that family. When you shoot two movies back-to-back for nine months, like we did for Mockingjay, that’s what kind of happens. You get put through these extreme physical situations, and you go through these long days, and with all the traveling, you bond and become a family. It’s a lot of work, but we have a lot of fun when the camera’s off, and what the press gets is a snapshot of what we’re like when we’re together, because it was intense there for a while.
I wasn’t at the Paris premiere [where the cast wore pajamas], though — I was shooting Game of Thrones in Belfast. I was too busy being Margaery Tyrell! But I’ll suggest [wearing pajamas to a premiere] to the Game of Thrones gang. We’ve got all these story lines and multiple locations, so often press junkets and premieres are the only time we get to see each other. I just had the joy of working with John Bradley in the movie Patient Zero, so that was kind of like Samwell Tarly and Margaery Tyrell in a movie together! Because even though we’ve been part of the same family and cast for years, we’d never worked with each other before. It is kind of sad with Thrones that there are certain characters who you never get to have a scene with. I mean, there are so many! I can’t really pinpoint anyone, but there are loads of people I’d love to have scenes with.
Are there any inside jokes you have with Gwendoline Christie that only someone in both Hunger Games and Game of Thrones would get?
Well, we’re the Hunger Thrones girls! We’re the Game of Games girls! [Laughs.] She’s a lot of fun. I was really happy when they finally got Brienne of Tarth and Margaery to have a conversation, because Gwen and I are good friends. Cressida and her character in Mockingjay didn’t get on-camera together, but I’m just happy we get any time together, because she’s been so busy with Star Wars, so I’m happy that she got to have a little cameo and be a part of the Mockingjay family for five minutes.
Did you see the Hunger Games–Game of Thrones mash-up, where Katniss wants to kill Jon Snow instead of President Snow?
[Laughs.] I didn’t see that. Yeah … It seems death and Snow are on people’s minds at the moment, in both projects. The idea of Snow’s mortality is kind of pressing in both projects at the moment. That’s the joy of doing both The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones, because the fans are so passionate and informed and enthusiastic to create these mash-ups, the fan literature, the fanfiction, and all the artwork. It’s amazing. When I meet fans at Comic-Con, they often give me drawings, or paintings, or even computer images. So many talented people out there! It’s really moving, because the last thing I can do is draw or paint.
For both Hunger Games and Game of Thrones, you play a crucial supporting role. But you have your first leading role coming up, in The Forest, where your character has a misadventure in Japan’s Aokigahara Forest, the so-called “suicide forest.” Are you drawn to genre projects?
I’m not a horror girl per se. It’s not a genre I ordinarily watch, but I was so intrigued by The Forest because it’s not your normal horror movie. It’s a psychological horror; it gets inside your head in a terrifying way, and like Mockingjay, it was a really physical job. There was a lot of running around in the forest at night! And this is a real place, unfortunately, where people still travel to commit suicide. It has this perverse heritage. When we were shooting in Japan for a few weeks, I got to go to the actual forest. We didn’t shoot in there — we shot in Serbia — but it was a really interesting ride. I didn’t find anything particularly eerie about it, but my Japanese driver did. The whole thing in the film is you have to stick to the path, and it’s a pretty forest, if you stick to the path, if you walk along and you’re hiking with your friends or whatever. And I found it really intriguing that while we’re in this pretty forest, while I was taking photos, that my driver would not step off the path. Not at all. So there’s a superstition about that place, definitely.
It looks like you’re finally getting to grow out your hair, after shaving half your head every morning for nine months for this part. How’s the fuzz coming in?
It’s growing back! Right now it’s like a fluffy duck kind of stage — it’s only three inches long on that side. I have quite a lot of hair, so I was able to flip it over and hide it. It’s all good! I’m really glad I did it, because the look was so strong for Cressida, and I thought it was a small price to pay to be part of that ensemble. Luckily, Margaery Tyrell’s hair is a wig. [Laughs.] Cersei, Daenerys, myself — we all wear wigs. And the wigs are so incredible, no one ever knows you’re wearing one! No one ever realizes it’s not our own hair. So I just put Margaery’s wig on over the undercut, and there was Margaery staring back at me in the mirror. It’s wonderful to have that channel as a way back in to the character, when you’ve been away for so long. I mean, I was away from home for nine months, and that’s a long time — friends got pregnant and had babies in that time! People got married. There were christenings. Your friends have to be super understanding that you can’t be there for any of it. Thank god for Skype and FaceTime!