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Photography Chad Pitman
Styling Micaela Erlanger
Text Alex Bhattacharji
Particularly in the US, Natalie Dormer is known for playing alluring queens—first turning heads as Anne Boleyn on Showtime’s The Tudors, and now captivating critics and diehard fans as the thrice-married Margaery Tyrell on the HBO hit Game of Thrones. But in this fall’s first installment of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, fans of the British beauty are in for a shock: Dormer plays Cressida, a punked-out guerilla documentarian for the rebellion charged with crafting a populist image for Katniss, played by Jennifer Lawrence. It required the 32-year-old native of Reading, England to shave one side of her head to the skin, applying a tattoo where the hair was shaved and trading her royal gowns for army gear and a semi-automatic rifle. As it turns out, Dormer—petite, quirky, gregarious off-camera—can be quite a royal badass.
First, let’s discuss your hair—it’s growing back, but you had one side shaved to play Cressida in The Hunger Games. Who wielded the razor?It wasn’t me; it had to be done to the movie’s specs. So I talked to Francis Lawrence, the director, a lot about it and also the head of hair—sorry, head of hair always sounds funny, the chief of hair. I had a kind of reconciled myself to it by the time it I sat in the trailer and they got the razor out.
How did the cut affect your personal style?
It opens you up to exploring more kind of punky, funky looks on the red carpet or at events. But I was actually quite surprised at Comic-Con—there’s a lot of lopsidedness going on. Girls are doing the lopsided thing, very tight…down one side so it almost looks like they’re shaved. That seems to be en vogue and I seem to be ahead of the curve. I don’t know if the Katniss Everdeen thing is catching on as well, but a lot of girls are wearing plaits to one side.
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You also play Margaery Tyrell on Game of Thrones. I know you’re sworn to secrecy, but aren’t you tempted to blurt out something you know?
But I don’t know. See that’s the thing, as far as Thrones is concerned, we’re kept in the dark as much as the audience. I was sitting next to George R.R. Martin on the Game of Thrones panel at Comic-Con and everyone wanted to know, The TV show is going to overtake the books—what are you gonna do? People are very concerned for obvious reasons.
Margaery has had some interesting arranged marriages. Do you enjoy seeing her make it through all these relationships?
It’s kind of refreshing as a woman not to be playing a character that’s just defined by whom she’s in love with, to be honest. With Margaery, political ambition is motivating her—her relationships with all these different men has an agenda. Game of Thrones is like The Hunger Games in so far as it has beautiful writing of strong, complex, contradictory women—whether you’re talking about Arya Stark or Brienne of Tarth, who are physically empowering themselves; or women like Cersei and Margaery, who are doing the more traditional political court machinations. Margaery represents a very modern sort of PR, winning the hearts and minds. I’ve called her Kate Middleton crossed with your First Lady, Michelle Obama. She is a politically savvy woman who is harnessing romantic notions of royals in the populous’ mind.
In The Hunger Games, Cressida is very much about PR, too—but she does it wearing fatigues and combat boots. What was that shift like?Oh, I was glad to be out of the flowing silk skirts and to be running around with a semi-automatic rifle and army gear for a while. It was fun to be with the boys in the mud and the dirt, and being empowered in a physical sense. And now, after nine months of running around in dirt and water, it’s nice to get back into Margaery’s silk skirts.
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Speaking of image and perception, was Jennifer Lawrence who you expected?
Jen has this amazing reputation as being really grounded and very real and very funny and she’s all those things. She keeps the mood buoyant. So there was a very fun energy on set. And it’s long hours—action takes a long time to shoot—and it’s sometimes very hard stuff. So yeah, you’re just standing in the dark with water up to your neck. It’s sort of… after 12 hours, everyone’s cracking jokes to keep each other laughing. That’s how you get through that kind of stuff.
With all your experience wearing long gowns, were you able to advise Jennifer Lawrence on not tripping in one?
Oh, my God, I’m so clumsy. I’ve tripped down and up stairs. There’s a scene where Sansa and I, two seasons ago, are walking down cliffs. I fell down those cliffs. And when I was walking up to Joffrey’s bedroom for the crossbow scene, I definitely fell up those stairs nearly into camera. Long skirts are annoying; they get in the way.
I know you can’t divulge any Game of Thrones spoilers, but let’s try this: You played Anne Boleyn before—will you get beheaded a second time?
I don’t think they’re going to do that. I don’t know how… It’s an occupational hazard as an actor in Thrones to contemplate how they’re gonna kill you. I’ve had too many sharp things taken to my head recently, so maybe some poisoning or being burnt by a dragon or something would be a better way to go.
Hair Sarah Potempa
Makeup Jake Bailey
Manicure Maria Salandra
Prop Styling Emma Kibble