“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”The Game Of Thrones star, who plays the lead in new horror film The Forest, knows how to turn fear to her advantage.
Whether she’s shining as scheming queen Margaery Tyrell in Game of Thrones, acting the rebel in The Hunger Games or winning awards for her manipulative Anne Boleyn in TV hit The Tudors, Natalie Dormer has proved herself a memorable addition to any cast. So, after more than a decade on screens big and small, it’s surprising that the recent horror flick The Forest marked her first lead role. The prospect was daunting, but that, it turns out, was precisely its appeal. Here, the British actress opens up about facing her fears, taking on physical challenges and believing that it’s the worst experiences in life that can help you the most.
THE RED BULLETIN: In The Forest, you’re tormented by ghosts and demons. What’s the most terrifying situation you’ve faced in real life?
NATALIE DORMER: It could be this film—my first leading role after 11 years in acting. But when it comes to sheer terror, I’ve never been so scared as when I jumped out of a plane a couple of years ago.
What made you do that?
A broken heart. I was grieving for a lost love and feeling jaded. I had to confront my inner demons, so I did a parachute jump. I tried to shock myself into waking up and feeling what life was all about again. One of the twin sisters I play in The Forest does something very similar.
How did it feel?
You fly to a height of more than 10,000 feet, stare down and see everything getting smaller: the houses, the trees, the patchwork fields. As the tension increases, so does your self-doubt. What am I doing here? Why am I putting myself through this? Then comes the sheer visceral terror when you jump out of the plane. You’re in the moment, the wind is hitting you and you’re spinning. Then comes the calmness of the parachute opening and you have that moment of catharsis and exhilaration. I learned a great deal about myself that day.
Does that mean you would do it again?
No, I don’t think so. But I like a challenge—it’s an important part of my personality. If I’m afraid of something, that’s an extra reason to do it, whether it’s jumping out of a plane, running a marathon or five weeks shooting a horror film where I’m in practically every scene. I always look for something I’m scared of—it’s the only way to grow. It’s healthy to leave your comfort zone every now and again.
What tips do you have for budding marathon runners?
It’s hard enough hearing your alarm go off at 5 in the morning and getting up to go jogging for two hours before work. But marathon running is about preparation, discipline and sacrifice. Motivation is a very important factor, too. I did my run for a good cause, a children’s charity. There were people who had pinned their hopes on me and I didn’t want to let them down.
What time did you run?
I did it in 3 hours, 50 minutes, which is pretty good for a first marathon. I’m hoping to do the same again in April, if my schedule allows. If I do, it will be for ChildLine, which offers free advice to young people in need.
But you can’t run a marathon or do a parachute jump every time you’re in need of a new challenge …
Work is still the biggest challenge. If you pick the right role, you’re forced to grow. You have to raise the bar a bit higher every time. That’s still true of Game of Thrones, even though I’ve been playing the part for five years. The show’s creators uproot your character every season, throwing you into a brand-new scenario.
Life also offers you challenges you can’t plan for. For example, I was bullied in school. And after you’ve been through those lows, it makes you more grateful when things are going well. It may be a cliché, but in my experience, it’s true that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Even when you get broken, ultimately you’ll be stronger when you get back on your feet.