Game of Thrones' Natalie Dormer on sexism in the film industry: 'The tide is turning, just slower than we would like'

On getting away from costume dramas: 'Sometimes you just want to put on jeans and a T-Shirt'

Natalie Dormer at The Forest photocall
Natalie Dormer at The Forest photocall

Slowly but surely, Natalie Dormer is becoming one of Hollywood’s most vital voices. Whereas many actors shy away from the subject of sexism, she remains willing to address the subject head on, speaking about both the positive and negative aspects of the film industry.

“The tide is definitely turning,” she says with regards inequality in the film industry. “Just slower than we would all like. You have to focus on the positive.”

In the last year alone, she points out, the likes of Mad Max: Fury Road and The Hunger Games (in which she played Cressida) both featured female protagonists and were commercial successes. Along with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, they proved “that an audience will go and see a female protagonist in an action movie.”

But change, she warns, must come from those at the top: “It doesn’t lie in the actors; it lies with the scripts being written which give those opportunities and write those characters, and it comes from the people who commission those scripts. So, it comes from the money men and the studios.”

If the scripts aren’t there, she concludes, then women won’t get the parts. It may be common sense but in an industry filled with casual sexism in scripts, it is worth reminding ourselves that interesting and complex female characters come mainly from the writers.

“Often the answer is just ‘delete John and write Jane’,” she says. “I don’t think you need to ‘write for women’, per se. You don’t need to write about shoes and babies and periods. Women have brains the way men have brains.

“If you just change the name of the character; that’s what Angelina Jolie did with Salt, which was a role originally for Tom Cruise. I think male writers maybe panic that they can’t write female characters too much. Just change John to Jane.”

Even in taking in on The Forest - about a woman looking for her twin sister in a haunted Japanese ‘suicide forest’ - she has refused to work on a movie within the confines of the average Hollywood blockbuster.

“I liked [The Forest] because the central relationship was based on siblings. There’s not enough… [Dormer stops for a second] It was a nice change for the motivation of the lead character to be about a sibling relationship rather than an amorous relationship.”

Playing the lead in a horror is quite unlike the costume dramas the majority the 34-year-old is best known for and The Forest is yet another calculated move away from being typecast.

“I love Margaery Tyrell and her long skirt, but I’ve been aware of not wanting to be pigeon-holed into costume drama for a number of years. The audience is finally seeing the ramifications of that.

“Sometimes you just want to put on jeans and a T-Shirt when the alarm goes off 45 minutes later. But, I’m all about challenging the perception of myself, people’s perception of me. I’m interested in genres and things I haven’t done before, so I’m overdue doing some good contemporary work.”

The Forest is out in UK cinemas 26 February.

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