She’s made a name for herself bringing a sultry modernity to royal characters, but now Natalie Dormer is ready to abdicate.
“I want to challenge people’s perceptions of me,” says the 31-year-old actress, who’s currently in Dubrovnik, Croatia, filming the fourth season of “Game of Thrones,” in which she plays Margaery Tyrell, soon-tobe wife of the evil King Joffrey. It’s her third prominent royal role, after playing Anne Boleyn on Showtime’s “The Tudors” and a young Queen Elizabeth in Madonna’s film “W.E.”
But Dormer, a Brit, has a wider range than those parts — juicy though they may be — would suggest. Careerwise, she’s got a specific role model in mind. “Helena Bonham Carter started off in a similar fashion,” says Dormer, referring to Carter’s early, aristocratic gigs, “and she managed to shake it off.” So Dormer is broadening her horizons in several disparate directions.
First, she’ll appear in this Friday’s “Rush,” Ron Howard’s Formula One biopic starring Chris Hemsworth as 1970s racing legend James Hunt. Dormer plays a nurse who tends to — and then hooks up with — Hunt after a racing injury. “My role represents a string of his dalliances — he was known for being a bit of a Lothario,” she says (see story, left).
Next up, she’s in Ridley Scott’s movie “The Counselor,” out in October; it’s a drug-trafficking drama with a weighty cast list, including Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem and Goran Visnjic. But among all those hotties, it was Scott who had Dormer swooning.
“That was just a pinch-yourself moment,” she says. “I’ve always been a huge Ridley fan — I mean, of course. ‘Blade Runner,’ ‘Thelma and Louise.’ He’s the closest thing we have in the British film industry to a living legend.”
Perhaps the biggest deal, though, is the role she’s scheduled to start shooting next: “Mockingjay,” the two-part final installment of the “Hunger Games” series. She’ll play Cressida, a film director who leaves the comfort of the Capitol to document Katniss Everdeen and the uprising she’s inspired.
“It’s incredible how poignant an allegory it is for what’s going on in the real world,” says Dormer of the series. “You only need to turn on the television and watch the terrible things about Syria, about a government turning on their own people.
“That’s the strength of fantasy,” she says, “whether it’s ‘Game of Thrones’ or ‘Hunger Games,’ where you can make a really strong statement about society without getting caught up in the constrictions of current politics.”
As for her current TV “game,” Dormer is all for the show’s preponderance of bare skin. And she disagrees with criticism that the nudity is weighted too heavily toward female characters. “I think there’s a fairly healthy equality between the boys and girls and who gets to take their clothes off,” she says.
Dormer adds that Margaery’s true nature is something she’s playing quite close to the vest. “The defining feature of Margaery is that she’s hard to read. So I’ve been having fun playing this ambiguous element to her: Is she sincere? Is she not? You can’t quite decide if she’s a goodie or a baddie.” One thing’s certain, though: Dormer’s sure to charm everyone’s pants off.