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Q&A: Actress Natalie Dormer on “THE FOREST”

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At the beginning of the J-Horror remake boom of the early ‘00s, the subgenre had a certain level of excitement attached due to the associated talent involved in the films. With filmmakers like Gore Verbinski and Wes Craven attaching their names to these projects, the likes of Naomi Watts, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Kristen Bell and more jumped into a genre that hasn’t always been painted in the best light among rising stars. And as fate would have it, the J-Horror genre is set to return stateside this Friday, January 8th, with THE FOREST, complete with rising star and GAME OF THRONES actress Natalie Dormer front-and-center of the petrifying picture. FANGORIA sat down with Dormer last month to talk about terror, twins and her trip to the real life Aokigahara “Suicide Forest”…

FANGORIA: What was your first reaction when you got the script for THE FOREST?

NATALIE DORMER: I was completely engaged after the first 10 pages. I was like, “Ooh, this isn’t like normal horror scripts that I real; there was like a real psychological intelligence to it. There was this real suspense-thriller element to it that really appealed to me. And I loved the basic central relationship of two sisters who love each other very much. The central relationship is based on sibling relationship and you don’t see that very often. So I became fascinated and then the page-turning happened. It was just a great concept: a forest that holds your own demons that you’re trying to repress back at you.

FANGORIA: You had the opportunity to play twins in this film. What was that experience like as a performer?

DORMER: It was definitely a bucket list thing to do, doing a scene with yourself. It’s not easy and I wished I had more scenes to do it so that I could get better at it. That first scene early in the movie was a bit like trial and error. But never the less it was still a lot of fun and I respect Tom Hardy now for doing it for an entire movie in LEGEND.

FANGORIA: You’re really able to sell the car for one sister to the other which must have been difficult considering there was not another actor to work off of or grasp on to. How did you sell that emotional bond between the characters?

DORMER: I just drew on my own love for my real sister. When I was Sarah thinking about Jess or Jess thinking about Sarah, I just thought of Natalie thinking about Samantha [Dormer]. So for that dynamic, I just went to my own love and devotion for my real sister.

natalie-dormer,-taylor-kinney-and-jason-zada-in-the-forest-(2016)

FANGORIA:  What was the shooting experience like for THE FOREST? I know there was some on-location location shooting in Japan.

DORMER: We did about a week in Tokyo and that’s where you see the outstanding opening with the neon lights and the rain as well as the stuff on the mountains when we were on the train. It’s a beautiful part of the world, but then we did some shooting on the Serbia/Bosnia border, which I really had no idea how beautiful that area was. That’s where we filmed the bulk of the forest shooting, and then we use a soundstage for the house and the ice caves. It was a lot of fun and it’s very fun to go to a lot of places you would never normally go to. That’s one of the beauties of being an actor.

FANGORIA: What was it like shooting the ice cave sequences on the soundstage?

DORMER: Kevin Phipps did an excellent job as our production designer. He created the most amazing cave. I actually took a day trip up to the Aokigahara Forest in Japan where I went into one of the real ice caves. So I had an actual frame of reference for when I got on set that day in Belgrade, so I knew how cold it felt and how terrifyingly freezing the wind can be. It’s a lonely and eerie place, so I return to the darkness of that experience and had the muscle memory from visiting those caves as a tourist.

FANGORIA: What was it like working with Jason Zada considering this was his first feature?

DORMER: It was his first film and he was on a very steep learning curve, but he certainly has an understanding of horror that is to be credited. It really is a genre that he knows and understands, and it was such an interesting collaborative experience. I also sing the praises of our cinematographer Mattias Troelstrup, especially because he was always running with the camera and running alongside of me, which was amazing to see as well. We had an amazing Serbian crew and a great Japanese crew, and one of the benefits of being a lead is that you can spend every single day bonding with the crew in a way that you don’t when you’re part of a massive ensemble. It’s almost like becoming a team leader because you’re bonding with this circus family for a two months.

FANGORIA: This isn’t your only horror project of 2016, as you also have PATIENT ZERO coming up. What’s that like going from a fairly big experience like GAME OF THRONES or THE HUNGER GAMES to a fairly smaller comparable experience doing suspenseful horror films?

DORMER: I always go where the good writing is, and that doesn’t matter what medium it is, whether it be stage, TV or film. It also doesn’t matter what genre it is. All I’m looking for are really good, interesting stories that are entertaining and contain real three-dimensional characters. A lot of the times with the scripts I will read a character and feel like they’re a real human being, and that is a product of really brave writing. So regardless of the medium or the genre, it’s all quality writing.

FANGORIA: Do you have any other projects you’re currently working on at the moment?

DORMER: No but I am starting IN DARKNESS in March, which is a thriller that I co-wrote. We start production in London and then I have a few other projects that I am waiting to be announced, so for me, 2016 is a very exciting year and definitely a change of pace for me from the last few years.

THE FOREST hits theaters nationwide on Friday, January 8th from Gramercy Pictures.

About the author
Ken W. Hanley
Ken W. Hanley is the Managing Web Editor for FANGORIA and STARLOG, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, his debut novel "THE I IN EVIL", and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.
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