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Actress on the Rise: Natalie Dormer

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Perhaps it’s unfair that after almost a decade in the business, British actress Natalie Dormer has yet to fully shed her go-to status as a complex sexpot. The on-screen reputation certainly holds some merit — at this point, nearly half her career has been spent in historically-inaccurate corsets, seducing or confounding men of narrative importance — but all that is about to change. Dormer’s star is on the rise, and whether the world’s ready for it or not, she’s about to make her mark on Hollywood.

Part of that is due to Dormer’s rather unique and unsettling nature. She’s a strange brew of intelligence, wry humor, and overt sexuality that somehow manages to straddle the line between demure ingenue and brash starlet. In an industry that brands its actors and actresses to the point of exhaustion, assigning labels and embracing stereotypes, she’s a welcome breath of hard-to-define fresh air.

And it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Dormer’s own philosophy bleeds into her philosophy on women’s portrayal in television and film:

“Men still have trouble recognizing that a woman can be complex, can have ambition, good looks, sexuality, erudition, and common sense,” she shared in an interview. “A woman can have all those facets, and yet men, in literature and in drama, seem to need to simplify women, to polarize us as either the whore or the angel. That sensibility is prevalent, even to this day.”

Dormer, of course, is no stranger to being cast in roles that blur the lines between whore and angel. She famously played Anne Boleyn in Showtime’s lavish historical production The Tudors, bringing to life a character who was publicly labeled a whore and a witch. Dormer’s belief that women who embrace their sexuality, their good looks, and their intelligence belong neither on a pedestal or in the gutter is what makes her such a dynamic — and often polarizing — figure.

But why is Dormer’s career only getting hotter? 2013 was a huge year for the actress, and based on every indication, 2014 will be even bigger. She starred in Season 3 of HBO’s irresistible Game of Thrones (as a beautiful and morally ambiguous noblewoman, of course) and also scored a plum recurring role as Irene Adler on ABC’s Elementary.  On August 22, news broke that Dormer would be joining the wildly popular Hunger Games cast as Cressida in the franchise’s final two installments.

Basically, get used to seeing this actress around. And hey, if you like your women smart, sexy, and full of ideas — which, when you think about, everyone should, right? — then the more screen time Dormer gets, the better for all of us.

Written by: Hayley Igarashi