300: Rise of an Empire Interview
To mark today’s DVD and Blu-ray release of 300: Rise of an Empire , Esquire shares fighting talk with two of the film’s deadliest female protagonists; the returning Lena Headey reprising her role as Queen Gorgo, and new girl on the Spartan scene, Eva Green, playing Artemisia
So Lena, how is it returning to the role of Queen Gorgo after seven years? We hear this time director Zack Snyder said your mandate was to fight.
Lena: It was very nice to return. She’s slightly older. This time she holds a sword and has a different story. This time I insisted: “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. Someone would come in the room in a ball gown I’d say, “Eh, it’s pretty.” (shrugs) And then if someone said; “I’m doing a big fight.” I’d reply, “I want to do that!” So I did a little one.
So the new film is not really a sequel, it’s taking place around the same time correct?
Lena: 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.
Eva, coming into a project like this, knowing the impact that the first film had, did you have any expectations or nerves?
Eva: I knew that they were going to have the same kind of visual thing — I knew it was going to look striking. They have amazing special effects people. I was a bit worried at the beginning to not be believable as a “woman commander”. The fact that I had to train for two months in advance gave me some confidence to build this crazy commander. But for me that was the best thing — the training and the physical stuff. It was why I did this film. It’s my first action film and it was a big challenge because I have a tendency to think too much in my head and this was like “just go for it, just do it”. Mark, the personal trainer, was very demanding but I think he adapted to me. I’m a girl so he was not as hard, I think. We did lots of lunges and squats. At the beginning it was really hard and then week after week you become stronger. To lift those swords you need to do that training –also, it helped me to look really cool for the fight scenes
You have quite a theatrical background Eva, so a film with this much CGI it must have been a far cry from performing on a stage…
Eva: You’re absolutely right. You just have to use your imagination. We didn’t have any water — it was all digital. I think I would have died if it had been real water because I get seasick. I was, like, “Oh, my god is it going to move?” No, thank God. We just had some fans to look like it was wind and all that. It was all an illusion but I had real actors with me and that’s what matters.
Both of your characters, like many of the films characters, exist in history, do you feel the contemporary take of the films add to their popularity?
Lena : 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.
Eva: I see it really as pure entertainment. My character is really loosely based on the real character, Artemisia. I think we should do a different film on the real Artemisia. I think people also want to escape from reality. It’s like an opera, this film. It’s very ambitious. It’s….“Wow”.
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