Exclusive: Lena Headey talks 300: Rise Of An Empire

Seven years after she played Queen Gorgo in Zack Snyder's 300 , Lena Headey returns to the role in sequel 300: Rise Of An Empire.

Also starring Eva Green as the formidable Artemisia, plus Sullivan Stapleton as her adversary Themistocles, 300: ROAE transfers the action to the ocean for a series of stunning sea scraps.

We caught up with Headey to find out what it was like to return to the crazy world of 300 ...

How is it to return to the role of Queen Gorgo after seven years?
It was very nice to return. She's slightly older. This time she holds a sword and has a different story.

Zack said this time your mandate was to fight...
Yeah, I was, like “Give me a fight. Come on.” You know, because the last movie I sat around while the boys did it all. And I’m a tomboy, so I was slightly jealous.

It’s like if someone came in the room in a ball gown I’d be, like, “Eh, it’s pretty.” [ shrugs ] And then if someone was, like, “I’m doing a big fight.” I’d be like, “I want to do that.” So I did a little one.

How was it to play off the first movie, to get into the script that that Kurt [Johnstad] and Zack [Snyder] crafted – that sets up this parallel storyline. It’s not really a sequel, it’s taking place around the same time.
It’s slicing it in a different way and it was kind of interesting for me because you didn’t really see the result of Gorgo losing Leonidas. In the original you have the moment where David Wenham’s character comes back and she finds out.

But it was kind of nice to play this idealistic, smart woman who stood by her man and said, “No.” Then things change after he is murdered. She's sort of driven by the need to avenge his death.

What's it like doing the work when a lot of the sets and props aren’t physically there?
It didn’t feel as odd this time walking on. Of course, we’re in this kind of green bucket and there's half of everything. It’s like the “half world”. The original was bizarre to me because I’d never experienced anything like it.

It was just Zack kind of telling you where everything was going to be. And then this one, I thought, “You know what? These guys, they got skills. It’s going to happen.”

How much do props and costumes inform the character when you’re doing a role like this?
It’s more emotional in things like this, I think. When you connect to other actors, that's for me more of an anchor, where you are in terms of the fights and all that. Yes, the swords, and the kind of weird half-sword where they're going to add the real pointy bit later.

That's a weird one because also you don't want to hit someone in the face, you know what I mean? You’re judging the distance. Yes, all of those things help. But it’s kind of a green screen in your own head – your imagination has to take you that little bit extra. Does that make any sense?

You trained a lot with Mark [ Twight ] in the gym. Has any of that training been carried with you, any of Mark’s philosophies?
Yeah. I don't think you can't not, once you’ve met Mark. He’s a kind of measure of your own self, which is why I love him. He’s just awesome.

To get to spend time with him, you just have to raise your own game in every way. But I don't carry on, sadly. I do a little bit now and then. Obviously not four times a week, two hours a day because it’s not sustainable. I just wrestle my son instead. That's like an hour’s worth.

Queen Gorgo really exists in history, and even though the film takes place 2000 years ago, it feels very contemporary. Why is this a contemporary story even though it’s rooted in some degree of history?
Well, I think emotionally, historic period films need to be contemporary because it’s that funny thing where you think: “In 1610 a guy who lost his son would scream and weep the same as a guy today.”

That carries us through whatever time period we’re in. We’re all human beings. I think that's the element. So if you're present and you're connected emotionally to your material it should carry some impact and some contemporary feel.

300: Rise Of An Empire is out on Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray and DVD on 29 September. Own it now on Digital HD.

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