During the show, she had plenty of feature-film side projects, including starring roles as iconic heroine Sarah Connor in “Terminator Genisys” and a key part as Han Solo romance Qi’ra in the standalone Star Wars films “Solo: A Star Wars Story.” Both films were just as demanding as “Thrones,” with significantly less returns, as each proved to be disappointing entries (both critically and in terms of box office take) in two enduring franchises. That’s not how Clarke wants to spend her time anymore.
“For 10 years, I was either on ‘Game of Thrones’ or I was doing a different movie, and if I wasn’t doing a different movie, I was promoting a different movie or I was promoting ‘Game of Thrones,'” Clarke said in a recent interview with IndieWire. “Now I just want to be able to do a project and to put all of my energy just into that, as opposed to trying to make myself into seven different people to do seven different kind of things at once.”
So, are there more big budget television epics or franchise feature films in her immediate future? “Not any time soon,” Clarke said. “I’m really actively looking for indies. Those are the things I’m making, as well. And those are the movies I watch.” Asked if she will be checking out the latest incarnation of the “Terminator” big screen mythos, Tim Miller’s franchise entry “Terminator: Dark Fate,” and Clarke was measured. “I’ll probably watch it, sure. I mean, why not?,” she said, before adding, “It won’t be the first movie I see.”
While it would be easy to pin Clarke’s new ambitions on just one thing — a pair of brain aneurysms in 2011 and 2013, the juggernaut of “Game of Thrones,” disappointing blockbusters or her father’s death — the actress said it was a combination of factors. “In light of all of it, ‘Game of Thrones,’ brain hemorrhages, losing my dad, the success of the show, dealing with fame,” she said, “taking all of those things into consideration, that’s definitely left me going, ‘Oh, ohhhh, I’m going to take my shoes off and my bra off.'”
However, Clarke acknowledged that even after the monumental success of “Game of Thrones,” she’s struggling to land the kind of parts that excite her. That has lead her to focusing on her burgeoning production company, which Clarke says is already handling half-a-dozen new projects, some of which she’s writing herself, but she’s a producer on all of them. While the new projects have stayed mostly under wraps, Clarke did tease that she’s got one limited series and one TV series on her full producing docket, many of them adaptations of books the avid reader has found on her own. The rest of those projects? Small indies, “like little-train-that-could kind of stuff,” Clarke said.
When it comes to her latest film, the Paul Feig holiday-themed romantic comedy “Last Christmas,” Clarke was sold on a script from her personal hero Emma Thompson — who also stars in the film as Clarke’s character’s mother — and a message that’s perhaps easier to find in a sweet mid-budget film than a guns-blasting action feature.
“It’s a story about accepting yourself,” she said. “It’s a story about a young girl coming to terms with parts of herself that she doesn’t understand and parts of herself that she doesn’t like and going, you know what, I’m just going to show myself a little compassion and treat myself kinder in order to help other people.”
Clarke has become pickier about the projects that do come her way. “In the beginning, I took everything that anyone offered to me, because why not?” she said. “I kept thinking that my good luck was going to run out. With the end of the show, I’m looking at things in a very different light and I now see the importance of my own time and I now respect and value that a little bit more. I want to do that a service. I’m going to be pretty careful about the next things that I do.”
On the acting front, she’s attached to a pair of long-gestating projects — an American remake of the South Korean rom-com hit “The Beauty Inside” and an Elizabeth Barrett Browning biopic about the poet’s most prolific years — though both are in early stages of development. In the meantime, she’s eager to return to her roots on the stage. The bulk of her formal training came from four years at the lauded Drama Centre London, where the demanding curriculum focused on the Stanislavski system and improvisation techniques. In 2013, she made her Broadway debut playing Holly Golightly in a new production of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” Asked about her interest in returning to that arena, she didn’t mince words. “I want to get on that West End stage tomorrow,” she said. “That’s something I really, really, really want to do.” She laughed. “Indies and plays! Sorry, agents! Sorry, accountants!”
Universal Pictures will release “Last Christmas” in theaters on Friday, November 8.