Natalie Dormer Talks THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 1, the Audition Process, Her Haircut, Comic-Con, GAME OF THRONES, and More

     November 19, 2014

natalie-dormer-the-hunger-games-mockingjay-part-1-interview

Opening this weekend is director Francis Lawrence’s The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1.  In the next installment, we find Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) at the forefront of the rebellion in District 13 while Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and Johanna (Jena Malone) are held captive in the Capitol.  Unlike the last two films which focused on surviving the games, Mockingjay – Part 1 is about the rebellion spreading throughout Panem and the way both sides play the media to gain the upper hand.  It’s an extremely well done movie and fans of the franchise will not be disappointed.  Joining the cast are Cressida (Natalie Dormer), Boggs (Mahershala Ali), Pollux (Elden Henson), Messalla (Evan Ross), and Castor (Wes Chatham) alongside Liam HemsworthWoody HarrelsonJulianne MoorePhilip Seymour Hoffman,Elizabeth BanksSam Claflin, and Donald Sutherland.

A few days ago in New York City I landed an exclusive interview with Natalie Dormer.  The actress plays the character of Cressida, a rebel who uses her camera as a weapon in the propaganda fight against the Capitol.  During our interview, Dormer talked about landing the role, her audition process, the haircut and tattoo, if she was a fan of the series before she signed on, the way she prepares for a role, going to Comic-Con for the first time, if she’s interested in doing a Marvel or DC superhero movie, Game of Thrones, how she stopped reading the parts of the script that weren’t hers so she could watch season 5 as a fan, and a lot more.  Hit the jump for what she had to say.

Click here to listen to the interview.  Otherwise the full transcript is below.

the-hunger-games-mockingjay-part-1-poster-natalie-dormerCollider: First of all, congratulations on the movie and your work, but I want to jump backwards for a second.  I saw you at Comic-Con on stage at the women in film panel – I forget what it was called.

NATALIE DORMER: “Women Who Kick Ass”.

That’s what it was.  I’m going to give you props, because I learned on that panel that you are very fucking smart.  You really gave succinct, intelligent, great answers and I appreciated it.  It was just a really good panel.

DORMER: Thank you.

Did you enjoy being at Comic-Con this year and how has it changed?  The people I’ve spoken to who are also on Game of Thrones say that it’s life changing what’s gone on the last year in terms of popularity.

DORMER: Yeah, there’s been a shift.  There’s definitely been a shift.  I loved Comic-Con, but it was my first one so unlike Kit [Harington] or the others I didn’t have the comparison of the before and the after, but my understanding is that steadily over the years incrementally the craziness over Thrones is getting bigger and bigger.  So for me it was just a dream, because my first experience of it was Thrones season four and promoting Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1.  I was oscillating between the two casts and the two incredible fan bases, so I had the most incredible first experience.

So you basically paid for no food, no drinks – you know what I mean.

DORMER: I didn’t have time to have food or drink [laughs], I was just ushered between the two families for signings and panels constantly.  The days are almost a blur.  But wow, the takeover of the city by the fans, it’s just incredible.  It’s wonderful.  How long have you been going?

A long time.

DORMER: And have you just watched it get bigger and bigger?  Because George RR Martin talks about when he was walking around in the seventies, going through the stores, trying to find obscure magazines.

natalie-dormer-the-hunger-games-mockingjay-part-1I went there in the nineties as a fan, and I went there before the room doubled in size, and I remember the first year of Smallville, when it was just coming out, there was a room that held about 300 people and it was a big deal that 20 people were in the hallway waiting to get in. 

DORMER: Wow.

That’s just one perspective.  It’s bananas what’s happened.

DORMER: It’s bananas what’s happened, and now everyone wants to go.  Like, every show is trying to get it.

The other thing is some of the shows really don’t belong, but they just want the fanbase and the passion.  Jumping past all that, did you reach the point with Mockingjay that they offered you the role or did you still have to audition?

DORMER: No, I had to audition.  I did an audition tape at home, because I was working at home so I couldn’t be in the room, and just on the 7D did an audition tape and sent it to Francis [Lawrence].  But I got the job with that one tape, they didn’t ask me to re-record or anything, obviously Nina [Jacobson] and Jon [Feltheimer] and Francis really liked it.  I just got the phone call saying “They really love you.  They want to know if you’ll shave all your hair off.”  Like it was a dealbreaker.  So I was like, “Ummm yeah, you know what?  For The Hunger Games, I probably would.”  And that’s when I became part of the family.  And then when I joined, Francis and I had a phone conversation about two or three days later where we discussed the hair and decided to go for the half shaved look instead.  So I got away lightly.  I was willing to go full view.

the-hunger-games-mockingjay-part-1-chatham-dormerYeah, Karen Gillan had to shave her hair for Guardians of the Galaxy and she’s going to have to shave again when they start filming next year.

DORMER: Oh, yeah so actually the fact that we did the two movies together meant that we did it in a nice big chunk, nine months, so I move on.

I have to say the haircut is really badass and I’m sure you’ve got a lot people saying it looks really cool.

DORMER: It looks good on camera, yeah.

It really does.  Are you prepared for – because I’m sure there are going to be people who look at that haircut and say “that’s effing cool.”

DORMER: See people have said that to me, but I’m just not so sure.  Because it’s not so much the haircut – I agree with you, the haircut fucking rocks and I love the undercut thing, and I’ve got this little bit of a fluffy undercut now that I’m really enjoying and I can style it, hide it, show it, not.  The thing you know is going to be an iconic look is that tattoo is kind of really her, the fluffy undercut is cool, but for people to be like  actually “I think I’m going to put a tattoo on my head”, that’s another level.

I’m not necessarily sure, although you’re right, maybe –

DORMER: But that’s what she is, that’s the look.  It’s not about the undercut, it’s about the tat with Cressida.

No, you’re right.  I still think people are going to go for it in some way in terms of shaving part of the hair, or being inspired, because I think ultimately many people draw inspiration from  what they see, and they see a strong woman with this look rocking it well, they’re like “I want to do that too”.

the-hunger-games-mockingjay-part-1-jennifer-lawrenceDORMER: Well the Katniss Everdeen one-sided braid has kind of been around a bit recently now, so maybe it is catching.

[Laughs] I like that.  How have you changed as an actor in terms of the way you get ready for a role from when you first started to the way you are now?  Do you have a very similar process or have you adapted as your skill set has improved?

DORMER: That’s a very interesting question.  My internal, emotional process is probably the same, but obviously the more you work, the more technically skilled you get.  So I’m probably heightened.  I’m a lot more aware now about how a camera crew works and what they need from me and how we can work simpatico, and I’m kind of aware of – my technical understanding of how a set functions and how a camera crew works has just helped inform me.  But my actual internal, emotional process is still the same and when I go back to the stage, because I’m originally stage trained, completely more or less exactly the same, just a little bit older and a little bit wiser.

Part 1 is very interesting because it breaks away from what’s been done before and really focuses on the propaganda of war.  How much did you know about what the films were going for before getting involved?  Generic question, but had you read all the books?  Were you a fan of the series?

DORMER: I hadn’t read the books.  I read the books upon getting the role immediately.  I was incredibly impressed by them.  The team as a whole, Francis Lawrence and the producing team, are so committed to being faithful to the books and the source material and I think that shows.  You obviously have to make it a wider world and take it away from the Katniss Everdeen internal monologue POV.  You have to open it up, so I think they do a very good job at bringing in the different angles for the different characters.  I knew I was in safe hands – we were a month into shooting Mockingjay when Catching Fire came out and it did so well, and obviously that was helmed by Francis, and the reaction to that movie was extraordinary.  So to know that Francis had our backs now…Francis was like team captain and he had it.  He had it.  He gets the material.  He gets the source material, and he’s very good with big spectacle.  This film could just be like, big spectacle and big epic kind of distant themes.  He’s very good at bringing you down to the kernel of the emotional truth of the mater.  So to see the reaction to Catching Fire when we were a month into the shoot made me so excited about knowing where we were heading.  I was a massive fan of the first movie.

the-hunger-games-mockingjay-part-1-mahershala-ali-francis-lawrenceI would imagine that puts everyone in a great mood when you’re like, “This made commercial and critical success, we trust this guy.”

DORMER: Exactly, and the success of Hunger Games is that such a commercially viable movie can really deal with some important subject matter, and we need more of that.

A hundred percent.  Before I run out of time, a lot of people online are very passionate about getting you in a Marvel or DC movie, superhero stuff like that.  Have you heard that online chatter and is that something that interests you?

DORMER: [Laughs] I’m not going to comment about potential jobs in the future because that’s a rabbit hole to go down and get caught up in, but all Ill say is I’ll go where the good scripts are.  For me, Catching Fire, Game of Thrones, all my other work, I’ll just go where the good scripts are.  I love being part of huge mega blockbusters and a I love being a part of small independent films and small stage.  I’m just looking at the material.  I want to know the character and I want to know the text, and then the decision I make from there.

A hundred percent, and having spoken to a lot of people, that is the right answer, where the good script is and the good director.

DORMER: Exactly, and I’m not biased towards what a budget is, it’s the material.

the-hunger-games-mockingjay-part-1-cressida-natalie-dormerDay in and day out I’m so impressed with Game of Thrones, just the scale, the ambition, the storytelling, what it’s willing to do.

DORMER: Yeah.

For you, as someone who works on it, but I’m sure can also appreciate the level of craftsmanship, what is it really like to be a part of something that is just so well done and could easily go off the rails but never does?

DORMER: David [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss] are just – all credit to them, they just do such a good job.  I’ve just finished season five and it’s a phenomenon, and it grows every year and we all as a cast – like we were talking about Comic-Con – as a cast, we talk about it, because we’re kind of flabbergasted about how it grows and the support that is out there internationally.  So I think we’re all just hyper aware that we’re part of a phenomenon and it’s a moment in our lives and our careers and to enjoy it, because “this too shall pass” and it’s just an incredible ride to be one.

When the show is currently airing, because the show is obviously so green screen and effects heavy, and I’m sure you don’t see it, because I’ve spoken to some of the directors and they say that sometimes they’re finishing days or a week before it airs, so are you watching it weekly with everyone else?

game-of-thrones-season-4-natalie-dormer-gwendoline-christieDORMER: Oh, I watch like a fan, and actually this is the first year – this is my fourth year playing Margaery – and I’ve tried an experiment this year.  I haven’t read the bits of the script, I have until about half way through the series, but after about half way through season five I stopped reading the parts that aren’t mine.  So I don’t know what’s going to happen, because I love watching the show as a fan.  So this year I’m experimenting with not knowing what’s going to happen.  I haven’t read all the scripts in detail.

What’s great about that is you literally now can’t spoil it for people, because you really don’t know.

DORMER: I really don’t know, and when Kit or Emilia [Clarke] start talking I’m like “Shut up!  I don’t want to hear.”  In the makeup trailer I’m like, “I don’t want to hear.”

That’s really funny.  Congrats on everything.  I wish you nothing but the best.

DORMER: Lovely.  Nice to meet you.

Look for another exclusive Hunger Games interview tomorrow.  Until then, click here for all our previous coverage which includes clips, trailers, images, and more.

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