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300 - Lena Headey interview

Lena Headey in 300

Interview by Rob Carnevale

LENA Headey talks about the challenge of playing Queen Gorgo in 300, as well as some of the nudity and why she’s treating the film’s success as a wonderful moment – but nothing more…

Q. Was the character of Queen Gorgo a pleasant surprise in terms of how feisty she was?
Lena Headey: I didn’t realise how strong her character would be, even when I read it. Then I went back and saw a scene and it all started coming together. It felt good to be part of a story.

Q. Did the set ever feel like a bit of a boys’ club?
Lena Headey: No, not at all. We all got on really well. It was kind of like having a lot of naked brothers who were on a crazy diet. I’d rub it in because I could eat what I wanted to and did!

Q. Was the nudity ever an issue? Or did it help that the men were required to be naked as well?
Lena Headey: It’s always weird the thought of taking your clothes off in front of 20 people and then to have it projected in front of many more. But I trusted Zack completely. He was easy going and he knew what he wanted. There are a lot of directors who really don’t know and end up shooting hours of footage that you know when making it they won’t need. But Zack was very funny and Gerard’s bonkers.

Q. Did you think it was necessary?
Lena Headey: Yeah, I think it was necessary because we only get that scene to establish their relationship. It is a very obvious moment but I think it does it in quite a beautiful way.

Q. How surprised were you to get the part? Is Queen Gorgo very different from you as a person?
Lena Headey: I was shocked that I got the part, I really was. I went out the day before and had literally been attacked by the worst hairdresser in the world. I was like: “Oh my God, I can’t believe I look like this.” But I went along to the audition anyway because I thought I had nothing to lose. I thought Zack would laugh at me.

But we sat and talked for ages and my audition was that scene in the senate. It could easily have been a largely delivered piece but I thought that Gorgo is great with her husband and with men but she’d never been in that arena and found it really intimidating and frightening. So I read it like that and Zack said it was exactly what he wanted. He wanted her to have this vulnerability, almost like a kid when she’s faced with something she’s not used to.

Q. You had a much better hair day in the film. Was it nice to get dressed up?
Lena Headey: In very little! Those costumes were kind of like a geometry test in the morning. There wasn’t any tape or anything; they would just hang. I’d have to ask if people could see them.

Q. What is the audition process like as an actress?
Lena Headey: That’s the worst part. You sometimes have a great day that makes you think what have I done to lead up to that moment. But it’s the weirdest thing to go in a room in front of two or three people and know that you have to get yourself over in 20 minutes. It’s frustrating more than anything because you think “I can really do this” but proving that is somehow very hard.

The more you love something, the worse you tend to audition. If you don’t really care about something, you kind of nail it. So it’s a question of turning that around.

Q. Did you know who you were up against for this part?
Lena Headey: It was offered to a lot of big names but it was ultimately a role that they passed on. I think the term in Hollywood is: “They didn’t need to do it.” But I think it has surprised everyone really in terms of how big it’s been.

Q. Have you noticed anything happening in terms of your career as a result of its success?
Lena Headey: No, I’ve had no offers of work and I haven’t noticed anything immediately. I’m quite happy in my existence though. It’s a moment. It’s great but I take it as a moment.

Q. You’ve been in the industry for quite some time. Has the way you view the industry changed during that time?
Lena Headey: It’s changed quite a bit. I started when I was 17 and I think my idealism has gone. But not in a bad way. I would used to work for something like 50p and do things that people would never see, and I’ve tried everything even if it was going to be a dreadful failure and people would laugh. But it’s all experience, whether it’s been a director I’ve worked with, or a story, or a character. I enjoy what I do and it’s a great way to live your life.

Read our review of 300

  1. Lena Headey has become one of my favorite actresses. I have enjoyed her Waterland, Aberdeen, Ripley’s Game, Imagine Me and You and now 300. I think she is great and I admire her for taking chances in a profession she loves.
    Thanks for the wonderful interview.

    Socorro    Mar 25    #