Miranda Otto, who plays the heroic Eowyn in “The Lord of the Rings” movies, takes a darker turn as a sinister cult leader in the new Hulu series “The Clearing.”
“I’m really fascinated by cults,” Otto, 55, told The Post.
“My auntie was actually in the [Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh] cult in the ’80s, when I was a really little kid. So, when they said this role was to play a cult leader, I thought that would be a real challenge.”
“The Clearing,” based on a novel by JP Pomare, is a fictional story that’s partly based on the real-life Australian cult The Family, which operated from the 1960s through the 1980s.
In the show, the group is called The Kindred and is led by Adrienne (Otto), who considers herself to be “the mother” of a large group of kidnapped blond children.
Adrienne rarely gets her hands dirty and has adult minions, including Tamsin (Kate Mulvany), who abduct and discipline the children on her behalf. She’s also helped by her friend, Dr. Bryce Latham (Guy Pearce).
In a present-day timeline, the series also follows Freya (Teresa Palmer), a young single mom who has a background with the cult — and becomes alarmed when news reports of abducted kids lead her to believe it may not be obsolete, as she thought.
Otto said that although her aunt was in a cult, she didn’t ask her about it.
“I didn’t really speak to her,” she said. “She’s older now and doesn’t remember much. But, I read the book called ‘Breaking The Spell’ by Jane Stork.”
She said she didn’t base her performance on any particular cult leader, such as Charles Manson.
“I really worked from my imagination and the scripts. [The show] messes with your mind a bit,” she said. “I was really trying to work out what [Adrienne’s] motivations were. At first I thought it was power, but I didn’t find power really useful as a tool. It becomes about someone who is unable to emotionally empathize …she’s able to feel it through a strange communion with [her followers]. That’s the weirdness of my character.
“On one hand, as an actor, I know what my job is. I am the antagonist,” she said. “I don’t believe that as a character [Adrienne] should be forgiven. I don’t want to say ‘it’s not really her fault.’ She is who she is. But I have to play it from inside her reality and how she sees things.
“Adrienne thinks she has all the answers and knows how people should be and her ideas on the world are correct. She thinks she’s coming from a good place.”
The veteran actress ( “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” “War of the Worlds,” “Homeland”) said it’s her role in Peter Jackson’s big-screeb “LOTR” trilogy that endures.
“People still come up to me. The fans carry the torch and are so kind, so it’s always a pleasure,” she said.
“I haven’t watched [the Prime Video] show,” she said. “It’s funny, it was such a special experience to me, and I have this thing in life where you can’t really ever go back to something.
“So, for me to watch it is like trying to return back in time — and I can’t.”