Joan Lindsay‘s 1967 historical novel “Picnic at Hanging Rock” was already adapted into a 1975 film by Peter Weir, so one might wonder what a new TV version could have to offer, but not star Natalie Dormer. “The original material is just so dense,” she explains. “There’s so much subtext there that isn’t really ever fully explored” in the previous movie. With the six-hour Amazon limited series, Dormer wanted to “expand and flesh out that original novel in a way that it’s been begging to” since its publication more than 50 years ago. Watch our exclusive video interview with Dormer above.
The series centers on a group of Australian schoolgirls who inexplicably go missing while on a Valentine’s Day picnic at Hanging Rock in 1900. Dormer plays Mrs. Appleyard, the tyrannical headmistress at the girls’ boarding school.
Although the story is set in 1900, Dormer found the material to be strikingly relevant, especially in the age of #MeToo. “There are some universal themes about gender parity,” she says, “and how the struggle has been won and how the struggle is still being fought.” For all of the female characters — and even some of the men — it’s difficult to be their “true self, be it sexually, emotionally, or financially.”
The struggle between the old world order and the changing times is personified by Mrs. Appleyard, “who comes to Australia with a set of values … from Victorian England, a draconian, stifled, conservative society. She believes that she is tutoring these young girls in Australia in a way that will give them an arsenal, and will weaponize them for the realities of what their world is going to be. What she doesn’t realize is that the times are shifting, values are changing, and what she’s therefore enforcing on them actually cripples them.”
Dormer previously received two SAG nominations as a member of the ensemble cast of “Game of Thrones” (2014-2015). Before her iconic role as Margaery Tyrell on HBO’s epic fantasy series she was best known for playing Anne Boleyn on Showtime’s historical drama “The Tudors.” She has also appeared in films including “Captain America: Winter Soldier” (2011), “Rush” (2013), and “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1” (2014) and “Part 2” (2015).
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