'The Forest' Star Natalie Dormer Isn’t Superstitious and She's Talking New Season of 'Games of Thrones'

Natalie Dormer TheForest interview

In THE FOREST, Natalie Dormer’s character(s) venture into a haunted Japanese forest. The actress is not easily spooked so when was given the chance to visit the real-life forest known for paranormal activity - she jumped at the chance. She tells Cinemovie of her experience in the forbidden place and the grueling shoot. THE FOREST star also reveals why Latinos make great horror films that she counts as some of her favorites, and of course, we couldn’t let the conversation end without talking about Margaery Tyrell’s fate in Games of Thrones season 6.  

Natalie Dormer has been part of some great ensembles with roles in Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 and 2, Game of Thrones and The Tudors, but in her new supernatural thriller, THE FOREST, the British actress plays the two title roles as twin sisters, Sara and Jess. Sara travels into a Japanese forest where lost souls go to commit suicide, in search of her troubled twin sister Jess who has mysteriously disappeared. The film’s setting is the Aokigahara Forest, the legendary real-life forest at the base of Mr. Fuji. She is accompanied by an expatriate journalist Aiden played by Taylor Kinney of Chicago Fire, and both have been warned by their Japanese guide Michi (Japanese star Yukiyoshi Ozawa) to “stay on the path.” Sara and Aiden abandon the warnings in search of her sister which takes them into a terrifying detour into the forest.

Dormer stars in her first leading role in THE FOREST, and there were definite perks of playing twins, and being number one and two on the call sheet.

“I loved it. When you’re number one on the call sheet, you have such a rapport and a relationship with your crew. I have a lot of friends who work on the other side of the camera and have so much respect for all those job specifications audiences don’t know even exist. It’s really fun when you get to have a close knit family for a couple of months. When you’re standing in a forest at 3 a.m. being bitten to shreds by mosquitos, eating M&M’s to survive - you really bond with people.”  

Natalie Dormer, Taylor Kinney, Yukiyoshi Ozawa in The Forest Horror Film

For the forest scenes, the crew shot in Serbia. Shooting in the Aokigahara Forest in Japan was not an option since it’s held as a sacred place for the Japanese, according to Dormer who says the logistics also would’ve been near impossible for a film production. The Japanese believe the jukai, or the “Sea of Trees,” is a cultural marker for Japan’s strong belief in the paranormal world. While it’s a place of pristine beauty and pastoral, the forest has come to be known as a place where people go with the intention of taking their own lives. It is said the spirits of those suicides, the yurei, lure others to the same fate.  

If the real-life forest known as “suicide forest” were an option for the filming, Dormer says she would’ve been up to the task of entering the forest. “I would’ve love to, I really would.”

Although THE FOREST director Jason Zeda and the crew opted for a different shooting location, Dormer and the filmmakers ventured into the actual forest for research purposes. THE FOREST star had no trepidation of walking into the forest, because she was “curious more than anything.”   

“The Japanese are steeped into their superstitions and it has a great heritage… a little history underneath Mount Fuji. It’s really a sacred place to them. I managed to see the forest. I didn’t feel scared, but more sad and compassionate that people go there to make that choice.”

Luckily the day she visited the Japanese forest, Dormer says the day was “beautiful” and the birds were out chirping and singing. She was confident enough to step off the path to explore, but her Japanese guide was not amused.

“When I wanted to step off 5 meters from the path to take photographs, my Japanese driver refused to walk even half a meter off the path which was really interesting to me. I thought he was joking. He smiled and shook his head when I invited him off the path. There is really a deep, deep sense of respect there. It’s beyond the phenomena of people going in and not coming out. Fuji is a spiritual place for them.”

Natalie Dormer in The Forest image

They also visited underground ice caves which she describes as “f*** freezing” and it felt supernatural because of the chilly winds generated by the convection currents. “It’s eerie. It’s otherworldly, but I can’t say I was scared, but I was more pensive with the choice that some make there.”

THE FOREST crew, however, did spend time shooting in Tokyo, but they substituted the Japanese forest with a locale near the Serbia/Bosnian border - another equally beautiful place, according to Dormer.

“I was actually surprised how picturesque and beautiful the countryside is there. It was a very interesting experience. That’s what I love about acting. You find yourself in places in the world that you wouldn’t necessarily of thought of going on your own for vacation. It was an enjoyable experience.”

THE FOREST was shot in chronological order which is unheard of in film, says Dormer, for budgetary and continuity reasons. That choice helped her as an actress as her character deteriorates physically and mentally as the days go by.

"I’m really glad we did. It really helped me in my mental gambit shooting in chronological order. My under eye bags stacked up. The make-up artist said, ‘Yay! You’re not getting concealer today.”

Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell in Game of Thrones

Dormer clues us into another character's state of mind in the upcoming season of Games of Thrones premiering in April. We last saw Dormer's Margaery Tyrell imprisoned and awaiting trial by the Faith Militant for perjury on her brother’s behalf.

"Margaery is still incarcerated in a cell. She’s doing her damnedest to get out of it. She’s a wily one - that girl. She always has an angle and you never know whether to believe her or not. I think the audience will go into an interesting journey this season and work out again whether Margaery is sincere or not. I’m excited for April.”  

When it comes to her preference in horror genres, she says she doesn’t go to films to be scared for “scaredy sake.  She likes psychological horror films such as Don’t Look Now, Julia's Eyes, The Others starring Nicole Kidman, Guillermo Del Toro's The Orphanage and Pan’s Labyrinth. Most of those titles are Spanish language films or American remakes of Spanish films. Like the Japanese, Dormer finds the Latino culture rich in supernatural stories.

“I think the Hispanic/Latino cultures do it very well.”

THE FOREST opens January 8th.

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