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Picnic At Hanging Rock, the haunting 1975 film about three schoolgirls and their maths teacher who vanish during a trip in the Australian wilderness in 1900 is hard to forget.

It was so powerful that many people believed it was a true story.

In fact, the movie was based on a novel and this new six-part series fleshes out the story and the characters.

Game of ThronesNatalie Dormer, 36, heads the cast as Hester Appleyard, the enigmatic English headmistress of the boarding school whose past is cloaked in mystery.

Picnic At Hanging Rock

Natalie Dormer as the mysterious Mrs Appleyard

TV Times 
asks Natalie why  she think so many people still believe that Picnic 
At Hanging Rock is based on something that really happened?

‘I assumed it was true story! But that’s all down to the publishers of Joan Lindsay’s novel in the 1960s, which was reinforced by Peter Weir’s film in the 1970s’, explains Natalie.

‘It’s amazing that a PR stunt that was conceived in the 1960s has lasted so long. Joan also very cleverly talked about the story in an ambiguous way – she said it could be true, or a version of the truth.

‘Our series is in six parts and is very much a re-imagining of the novel. Weir’s film is hallowed and has its place in cinema history, but it is really a slice of the novel; whereas we, over six hours, are able to flesh out all the hints and suggestions that are left open in the novel. We also flesh out the ensemble cast and dig deeper into Hester Appleyard’s background,’ she says.

Picnic At Hanging Rock

Marion Quade (Madeleine Madden), Irma Leopold (Samara Weaving) and Miranda Reid (Lily Sullivan)

And why did Natalie want to play Hester?

‘They said they needed an actress who could be terrifying but also bring vulnerability to the role, because it would be very easy to make her a two-dimensional bully,’ she says.

‘Over the six hours, 
you get flashbacks into 
her past and begin to increasingly understand her motivation in adopting this persona.’

The sense of dark secrets, repressed sexuality and ominous fates is palpable, while the stunning scenery – both spellbinding and dangerous – adds to the eerie atmosphere.

TV Times rating: ****