Belfast Telegraph

Natalie Dormer turns her hand to writing for In Darkness

Natalie Dormer stars as a blind woman who gets caught up in a mysterious death. The Game Of Thrones star tells Georgia Humphreys why more actresses should create their own parts

Natalie Dormer knew she'd never feel fully ready for her screenwriting debut. But she took the plunge - and the result is a thriller, In Darkness (about a blind woman who gets caught up in a mysterious death), which she penned and co-produced with her fiance, Irish director Anthony Byrne.

And the Reading-born star has some advice for other actresses who want to follow suit.

"This is a big generalisation, but maybe, as women, we are more nervous when we don't feel quite ready, of, 'Oh, I'm being modest and self-doubting about that'," says the Game Of Thrones star, who also plays the lead role in the thriller.

"And the answer is, jump in with both feet. What's the worst that is actually going to happen? You're going to embarrass yourself slightly? I mean, there's worse things. And the only way you learn is by making mistakes."

Dormer (36) has given writing a go before, as a student. "When I was in drama school I wrote a play that I sent off, and got rejected from everywhere I sent it to, which is obviously par for the course," she quips.

Oh, and there was "some angsty poetry" from the first time she was in love as a teenager.

But she knew she wanted to explore storytelling more and was spurred on to write In Darkness by Byrne, who she has been engaged to since 2011.

"It was him turning round to, me saying, 'You write this with me. I believe you and I can write this together', and I was like, 'Okay!'"

The story follows blind pianist Sofia (Dormer), who overhears a struggle which results in the death of her neighbour Veronique (played by Gone Girl star Emily Ratajkowski).

When Sofia then meets Veronique's father, a Serbian businessman accused of being a war criminal, she finds herself drawn into a dangerous world of corruption, while viewers also learn more about her own hidden past.

And chirpy Dormer is honest about what it was like co-writing the script with 42-year-old Byrne, who she met while they were both working on hit series The Tudors.

"It was interesting," she says, letting out a high-pitched giggle. "It was a steep learning curve. Anthony had written his own material before, he knew he worked best by riffing off someone. But then we also learnt quite quickly not to write (while) eyeballing each other at the same time.

"It was better to do it separately and swap drafts of certain scenes and sequences."

Interestingly, she's since asked Game of Thrones writers, David Benioff and DB Weiss, about their process of working together. Laughing once again, she recalls: "David Benioff said to me, 'You (and Anthony) were writing in the same room to begin with?! You idiot!'"

The idea that women tend to be less fearless than men about producing, writing and directing, while also acting, is put to Dormer.

Does she agree?

"I don't know, it's happening," she reasons. "It's a culture change, it's a culture shift. It is becoming less unusual. Maybe it's not happening as fast as we would've liked, but it's definitely happening now."

Dormer would "never say never" to directing, but is really enjoying producing and developing stories at the moment.

"I would like to carve out some time to try and write again," she remarks. "There's only so many hours in the day, but being part of a team... It's a team sport, in a way that, maybe, when you step on a stage, it's not. Camera work really is a team sport."

Dormer has had a huge variety of high-profile roles in recent years - yes, Margaery Tyrell in HBO's Game Of Thrones, but also Cressida in The Hunger Games film series.

Then there's the much-talked about TV adaptation of iconic Australian novel Picnic At Hanging Rock, which starts on BBC Two this month.

But when it comes to In Darkness, she found portraying someone without sight an entirely different acting challenge to anything she'd done before.

"I completely underestimated it," she admits. "Not being able to make eye contact with your co-stars is tough. And I felt a sense of guilt that, you know, I wasn't... locking eyes with them."

An impressive line-up stars feature in the cast, including Neil Maskell, James Cosmo, Ed Skrein and Joely Richardson, who Dormer counts as friends.

And she says they were really supportive with the unique acting process.

"You realise as an actor how much you rely on your eyes to communicate with the camera," she explains.

"But the beauty of it was it kept me still. I think it's probably, if you want to be quite technical about it, one of the stillest performances I've ever given, and I liked that."

Overall, she reckons the experience of making In Darkness has made her a better actor.

"It's made me, hopefully, a more team-orientated actor," she elaborates.

"There's no greater lesson than starting a project right from the beginning and following it all the way through to the edit, the sound design, and the promotion, right to the very end. It's the whole whammy."

In Darkness is in selected cinemas now and also on DVD & Digital

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