Jennifer Lawrence, Natalie Dormer and Gwendoline Christie laud the heroic women of ‘The Hunger Games’ saga

by George Hadley-Garcia

Special To The Japan Times

At the London premiere of “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2,” actress Natalie Dormer, who plays Cressida in the film, received quite the surprise when she was accidentally kissed on the mouth by costar Jennifer Lawrence. The Internet went nuts.

“I sort of jumped,” Dormer tells The Japan Times. “I didn’t realize at first who it was, I was startled. But it was sweet of Jennifer, she’s very playful.”

Lawrence later declared, “We just kissed on camera! And I liked it!”

OK, so footage of two of Hollywood’s hottest actresses accidentally kissing went viral — cue a collective groan aimed at the Internet. However, anything Lawrence does nowadays is big online, partially thanks to her tenure as “Hunger Games” hero Katniss Everdeen. It’s the kind of territory Dormer, 33, is also increasingly finding herself in.

“As an actress, you can’t not become a bit self-conscious about your looks once you reach and pass 30,” Dormer says. “I like and have enjoyed playing women with sexual and other power, but I’m veering away from the sex because as an actor you have to develop lasting qualities and a talent that transcends how you look. I also intend to be more proactive in terms of writing or cowriting some of my own projects, or projects I can participate in.”

Dormer’s past work has included racy roles in successful TV dramas “The Tudors” (as Queen Anne Boleyn) and “Elementary” (as Sherlock Holmes’ love interest Irene Adler). However, she skyrocketed to fame playing the role of the gracious and calculating Margaery Tyrell in the HBO series “Game of Thrones.” That cemented her geek-culture credentials, which were further enhanced by her role in “The Hunger Games” franchise and will get another shot of Comic-Con credibility when she appears as Dr. Gina Rose in the zombie flick “Patient Zero” next year.

In this fourth and final installment of the enormously successful “Hunger Games” franchise, Dormer’s Cressida joins Katniss and comrades on a journey through the war-torn land of Panem to assassinate the nefarious President Snow (Donald Sutherland). The scope of the series, and that of Dormer’s other work, is nothing if not epic.

“One of the first lessons I learned in writing, especially fiction, is that conflict is key. It’s the most important thing,” the British actress says. “For some reason, we want to watch, and get engrossed by, conflict between people. To me it’s far more interesting than car crashes or most chases, though that brings in the juvenile audience.

“But besides conflict, it’s nice to see young people — specifically a young woman like the character of Katniss, who’s become an international icon for girls — able and actually willing to stand up against injustice and corruption. It’s a timeless lesson, as much for our time as any other. The difference is that in other times it was always a male to the rescue. I really think Jennifer will be remembered in this for decades to come.”

The versatile and talented Lawrence, 25 and already an Oscar winner, attained global superstardom from the series and naturally has mixed feelings about her final turn as Katniss.

“I sort of can’t believe I’m not going to be her again and put on her clothes, act with Josh (Hutcherson) as Peeta or Liam (Hemsworth) as Gale. I’m going to miss that,” Lawrence says. “You know what’d be really awful? If someday they do a remake with someone else — younger. But I can still work with several or most of the same cast and crew members in new projects. Though of course, it’s true: there’s only one Katniss Everdeen.”

There’s also only one Gwendoline Christie. At 190 cm tall, the British actress inherited the role of Commander Lyme in “Mockingjay Part 2” after actress Lily Rabe dropped out.

“Obviously I could say let’s face it, somebody female and this height is not going to become a leading lady,” says the 37-year-old Christie, adding that she thinks she’s lucky to be born when she was. “I’ve discussed it with Jen and Natalie, I remember years ago reading about (model-turned-actress) Brooke Shields and how her work and opportunities were severely hampered by her height — six feet (183 cm), I believe. I wouldn’t have been cast often, or at all, in the closing years of the past century. But now, and thanks to films centered on female heroes, the spill-off is that I get hired, sometimes for a friend-of-the-heroine part, or sometimes as an antagonist.”

Christie seems a bit modest in the roles she has chosen. She’s won rave reviews acting alongside Dormer in “Game of Thrones” as Brienne of Tarth. She’s also starring in the highly anticipated “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” as the villainous Captain Phasma.

While her height may have caused some bullying when she was younger — “If I’d just known some karate … but anybody different is open to criticism and bigotry” — it definitely helped her in landing such breakthrough roles.

Christie has also had a steady career in theater, where she always thought she’d find her niche.

“I knew I wouldn’t get to play Ophelia, not unless they found a six-foot-seven (200 cm) Hamlet,” she says. “And then it would be publicized as something of a freak show, which nobody would care for, actors included.”

The actress did have a turn as Lucifer in “The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus” in 2010. When asked if it felt odd playing the Devil, she says, “Not in the slightest.”

“It’s just another villain role,” she says. “It’s the villain role in Western theological myth. But why not represent him, or it, as a female? One’s playing a force, the force of evil, and that’s a human thing, not something gender-related. Though of course height adds to the character’s intimidating quality.”

Christie points out that she wins many parts set in fantasy worlds, “where my height isn’t an issue. Which is rather a negative commentary on our own world. Why should the male always have to be taller? It’s rare enough to see a couple with the two sexes of the same height … if you think about it, it’s the need of the men in charge to place themselves higher than women, even now.

“If I can help to change that, then that will be an achievement to be proud of. No one should be judged primarily on their height. Nor,” she snickers, “should anyone unusually tall be forced into a career in basketball.”

Dormer couldn’t agree with Christie more when it comes to Hollywood’s perceptions.

“It’s pretty recent that women’s screen characters were forced to fit a narrow mold, both physically and emotionally. Because, overall, females weren’t given the latitude in living — in being — that males were. And still aren’t, in much of the world,” she says. “Being strong, physically and of course mentally, is very important … Gwendoline is fantastic in ‘Game of Thrones’ — as a character and a role model.”

Dormer, who ran in the 2014 London Marathon, is a member of the London Fencing Academy and is working on a script that involves a heroine who is an expert fencer. Her role as Cressida, a rebel filmmaker, gave her a chance to get involved with the action as well.

Regarding her two co-stars, Lawrence’s pleasure is evident in the way she talks about them.

“I love them both,” she says. “We became friends, we really bonded. Natalie is … well, you can see why I wanted to kiss her, but she’s so much more than a pretty face. She has fire inside and I admire that. It’s the same with Gwendoline — the fire and the passion to be the best she can. I just love her in ‘Game of Thrones.’ She’s monumental and a standard-bearer for women and actresses.

“I’ll just come out and say it: I think we make a mighty trio.”

“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Pt. 2” is now playing in cinemas nationwide. For more information, visit www.thehungergames.movie/#/?lang=en-en.