Total Film meets Lena Headey

''It felt like Bon Jovi in the eighties...''

Are you surprised by the success of the film?
 Well, Zack had a three-minute piece before we even met and he’d done this visual to show Warner Bros what he was thinking, I saw it and I thought this is kind of amazing. It was very roughly done, and as it went along, I thought it could be really exciting.

It’s something new, and pretty brave to put it out there, because people laugh very easily at something. I’m just very happy for Zack; he’s had it in his hands for years, and he’s made what he wanted to make and it’s done brilliantly financially.
 
How easy was it for you to build Queen Gorgo’s character – she’s not really in the comic. Were you involved with her creation?
When I met Zack it was already in the script, so I didn’t have any part in writing more for her. It sounds really bad, but there’s not a lot of thought that goes into it for me, it’s more instinct.

When you make something you always want to reshoot the first few days, because you’re just finding where you’re going. And you usually end up starting with the big scenes; they always put one of the big scenes in the first few days. So it’s just more or less a journey that’s instinctive, rather than putting too much thought into it.

300 has been a hit amongst women. Is that a surprise to you?
For me personally I do love it, I think it’s a great ride and it’s entertaining. I think when people go on in and they don’t want to like it for whatever reason, they come out and they smile. You just feel like you’ve been rocked by this moment. It’s not hard to look at the men, and there’s a lot of them, and if that turns you on, then it’s sexy.

How would you describe your character?
She’s sort of emotionally built like a man, she deals with things like a man, there’s no feminine moment or chance to fall to pieces, it’s practically thought about in terms of emotion.
 
Will your experiences help you in building your Sarah Connor character in the Terminator TV show?
 Yes, hopefully, or it’ll be a bit shit. I’ll be wearing more clothes though, and speaking differently.

What was the most difficult aspect of the shoot?
It wasn’t really difficult – it’s kind of not, it’s exciting. Sometimes it’s boring as all fuck to do this job, ‘cause you’re kind of sitting around. But it’s such a great place to be – and such a good job to have.

Some actors like to complain though...
 Your days are long, man, you can do a good 18-hour day sometimes, and it’s continuous and it’s tiring, because you’ve got to keep up a certain energy level because when that starts to go your concentration goes. But only in terms of that, otherwise it’s not a struggle.
 
You’ve done Brit films and Hollywood films – is there a difference in how they’re made?
 Budget (laughs). There is, there is, there is a difference, I think because of the sensibilities of the two. Not that I’m saying the Brits aren’t professional, because they are, there’s just more of a giggle on British sets.

It’s the Brit sensibility, so everyone’s just a bit more silly and less safety orientated. But America’s got Kraft service, so they win hands down. We don’t have snacks, I’d like to say that. Brits are like ‘tea-time’ and you properly get soggy sandwiches and a soggy biscuit.
 
What drew you to the project? Was it the pre-viz stuff, or the script – because we can’t imagine how it would look on paper, if we’re honest...
 Yeah, exactly. I read it, and I liked the fact that there’s one female in this, and like I say, she’s not your typical female in movies like that, and when I met Zack it all became very clear.

We saw the three minutes of the visual idea, and it all came together and you think, ‘It feels like a risk, but anything does.’ Anything you’re going to make is out there for everyone to criticise and say what they want about, so if you’re going to jump in, it’s best to jump in with someone like Zack ‘cause they’re like, ‘This is what I want to do,’ and it’s great to have somebody that’s so thorough and decided about something.
 
How was Comic-Con for you?
It was just populated with Gerry Butler fans; literally women screaming like Elvis was in the building. I don’t think anyone spoke to me or looked at me. It’s bizarre, because people are crazy about it. With Zack’s fans screaming, it felt like Bon Jovi in the eighties.
 
Did you do any physical training?
I arrived and they were all seven months into the regime that they had, and they were all very buff, living on chicken breasts, and I just thought, ‘I’ll have the brownies, thanks. And I’ll have a lay-in while I’m about it.’
 
Was there any going out on the lash?
They’re all Brits and Celts, so I don’t have to elaborate.
 
Why the British cast?
Money. The initial outlay. I don’t know, but I think it really works.
 
Is this the sort of thing you’d be interesting in seeing?
I used to be a real snob about what films I did. I set out with an ideal, but that choice and that path only happens to very few people, and I have to exist as well in my life. I feel lucky to do what I do, and there’s lots of things that I want to do and whatever takes my fancy at that time, and if it works out then that’s great. The trailer alone makes me want to see it. I love all that. I just like sitting in the movie theatre; when the lights go down, I feel very peaceful and very safe. And just being taken away anywhere, even if it makes you angry, and sitting with wine afterwards, getting all righteous about something.
 
What was your ideal – worthy projects?
Yeah, when I was younger, I was, ‘right, I’m never going to LA, and I’ll just do work for 50p’ and all those great projects that I love and admire. There’s a select group of people that do them again and again and again, and that’s great and they’re wonderful, but to be able to do those things you have to go and do something big and crazy to go back and do those things that fill you up in a different way. So now there’s a balance, and I think everything has its place. That’s changed.
 
How does Zack compare to Terry Gilliam...
Zack’s nice, and a human being, for starters. I think he has a heart that beats, which is the major difference.
 
It sounds like you and Terry have a wonderful relationship!
Let’s say we won’t be going to each other’s birthdays; the invites won’t be handed out either way.
 
It must be frustrating, the way the film ended up...
The whole experience was pretty intense from the beginning. It was well noted that I wasn’t his choice, so going in knowing that, and being made to know that the entire shoot wasn’t pleasant, so it was pretty much like boot camp, so now I’m ready for anything.
 
How do you feel about the way 300’s been received politically...
There’s always that possibility when you you’re dealing with a war, and countries, but Frank’s novel is loosely based on a historical event, and it’s entertainment, and it’s a movie and it’s crazy and big and loud. I know what we made. Are we not going to show our art because of it being questioned?
 
Do you enjoy premieres and things like that, or is it a necessary evil?
Honestly, and I’m not just saying this, I don’t particularly enjoy that side of it. It is necessary, if you want to be behind something, but I wish I could find it entertaining. I just find it weird and slightly overwhelming. It’s funny. You’re in a borrowed frock and you’re trying not to look terrified.
 
There’s a wave of these young, successful directors in Hollywood at the moment, like Eli Roth. Would you want to continue to work with young optimistic directors, as opposed to the Gilliams of the industry?
Yeah, the first thing you get is the script, and it can really change your mind when you meet the team or the director, it can sway you very much either way, sometimes it’s terrifying – ‘It was great, until I walked into the room.’ You learn a lot as well, you read about something that was hell to make, and I’m just not up for that anymore, I’ve done it, and it’s not worth it – it’s not worth the torture of emotions. It should be creative and fun, I think filmmaking is a process, and it shouldn’t be the end product, it just shouldn’t be.

With something like this, Zack and all of us enjoyed the whole thing, and I think that’s what you see – you can’t help but pick up on that on the screen, that everyone’s enjoying themselves.