English ingénue Natalie Dormer has made a big impression on television first as the seductive Anne Boleyn on The Tudors, and then as the masterfully manipulative Margaery Tyrell from Game of Thrones. Next, she brought her radiant charm and signature smirk to the big screen as the ever-cool Cressida in The Hunger Games movies. Now, with The Forest, Dormer is shouldering a film of her own, playing not one but two lead roles.
In The Forest, Dormer stars as Sara and Jessica Price, twin sisters who share a dark past and a supernatural connection. When bad girl Jess goes missing in Japan’s notorious Suicide Forest (a real and really spooky place), Sara uproots her settled life to rescue her lost sister. But there are dangers in this Sea of Trees, ghosts that feed on guilt and sadness. And they want to make a meal of the pained Price twins.
We sat down with Dormer in New York to discover what attracted the spunky star to this chilling psychological thriller, and why its story meant so much to her personally. Plus, we embraced her internet celebrity with a Game of GIFs!
So The Forest harkens back to the Japanese horror sub-genre that was really popular in the early 2000s. Is that a genre that particularly speaks to you?
Natalie Dormer: That’s not the reason I took The Forest. The reason I took The Forest was the psychological elements of it. To me it’s more a suspense thriller. It’s a psychological horror. To me it was about the unraveling into madness; the descent that Sara goes into that I found really interesting. And also, I also took it because I found it really refreshing the whole motivation of a character with her relationship with her sister, which relationships like that, to be central to a story, I don’t think you see often enough.
Yeah, totally true. The sister bond is so central to this. It’s, I mean, frankly, kind of unheard of a lot in these genres. Especially what’s interesting to me is Sarah doesn’t…she’s a very kind of confident character. There’s one part where she tells Aiden that she doesn’t care if he’s uncomfortable. And that really spoke to me. But it seems like you seem particularly drawn to characters who aren’t afraid to stand up for themselves. Is that important to you?
Natalie Dormer: It’s important to me to play real women. I want to play real characters. When I read The Forest that’s what I saw on the page in Sara. She’s an overachiever. She seems very confident. But that comes from a deep trauma. It comes, actually, from a deep, deep insecurity. And I think a lot of overachievers out there, the Straight A students and the girls that seem to have everything under control, are often the girls that are fundamentally the most vulnerable. And it’s a façade and it’s a mask to protect themselves from something.
So that was something that really spoke to me. the whole vulnerability was the guilt that she carries in her heart, that she let her sister down when they were young, and that she’s been carrying that guilt all her life and constantly trying to find a way to make it up to Jess. So the interesting thing for me is to play Jess as well, who has dealt with this trauma that the girls have, by going to the completely opposite end of the spectrum, by being the wild child, and the radical one, and the irresponsible one, they are real women. And I will always go where I see real people.
This is a very physical role. Your characters in this, which, as you mentioned, you play two, they go through more violence than you have on Game of Thrones.
Natalie Dormer: [laughs] Yeah, I was a bit battered and bruised and bitten to death by mosquitoes. I like a physical challenge. I’m a bit of a masochist that way. I get a kick out of a physical challenge. But it’s very gratifying when you see a massive fall through a hole or a run or a sequence in a movie like this and it looks cool on camera. Then the payoff is great.
Your gifs are actually huge on the internet where people love to have the cycling motion of you. I was thinking, I’m going to throw some internet speak at you, and if you want to listen and respond straight to camera, we can make fun gifs for the internet.
Natalie Dormer: OK.
So the first one is “all the feels”.
All the feels?
All the feels; basically, just overwhelmed, very excited.
Natalie Dormer: [laughs]
— Screen Rant (@screenrant) January 5, 2016
Natalie Dormer: Spoilers? Oh, no. that’s not happening.
— Screen Rant (@screenrant) January 5, 2016
Natalie Dormer: In any capacity! Step away!
[Laughs] This is going to be good.
Natalie Dormer: Oh. I thought you were giving me intro to the good! [gives thumbs up]
Haters gonna hate.
[Laughs] Let’s see. “This”, which is when you agree with something on the internet.
I like it. Thank you so much! That’s my time.
Up Next: Taylor Kinney Interview for The Forest
Rising with terrifying grandeur at the base of Mt. Fuji in Japan, the legendary real-life Aokigahara Forest is the suspense-filled setting of the supernatural thriller. A young American woman, Sara (Natalie Dormer of “Game of Thrones” and “The Hunger Games”), journeys there in search of her twin sister, who has mysteriously disappeared. In the company of expatriate Aiden (Taylor Kinney of “Chicago Fire”), Sara enters the forest having been well warned to “stay on the path.” Determined to discover the truth about her sister’s fate, Sara will have to face the angry and tormented souls of the dead that prey on anyone who dares come near them. These malevolent spirits lying in wait for Sara at every turn will plunge her into a frightening darkness from which she must fight to save herself.
The Forest opens in theaters January 8, 2016.