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Exclusive Interview with the Queen of "300" - Lena Headey

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Lena Headey as Queen Gorgo in

Lena Headey as Queen Gorgo in "300."

© Warner Bros Pictures
By now unless you've been avoiding TV commercials and haven't been listening to any movie news, everyone knows the movie 300 is about 300 brave Spartans fighting against immeasurable odds during the Battle of Thermopylae. But there’s so much more to the film than handsome, muscular, scantily clad men involved in fierce combat with their Persian foes. Stunning Lena Headey, who plays Queen Gorgo in the film, sums it up best: “I think it’s about belief and freedom and what the whole world goes through every day. It’s fighting for your heart and just for justice, for what you believe is true. We all do that everyday.”

Queen Gorgo is sexy and beautiful and above all tough. How did you approach the character?
“I think that the kind of element that’s the key to her is she’s rather male in psyche, in terms of pride. You know, whereas you’re used to seeing females cry, they cry and the emotion and the way we are, once or twice a month, and I think it was the kind of stoic, stillness of a man she has even when she wants to give in to it she doesn’t. I mean, she could do with therapy, probably (laughing).”

You were pretty much the only female in the cast surrounded by all these nearly naked men. Was that kind of strange?
“It was. They’re such great guys, though. It’s just a big group and it was like having loads of brothers wearing nothing. So, you know, the first few days were kind of strange. Then you think actually it’s a role reversal. We get to wear the clothes for a change, which is not a bad thing in my book.

This industry is so male heavy anyway and it’s such a male crowd. But, you know, when you get boys in shorts, it becomes quite girly, let me tell you (laughing). The questions about the thighs, the stomach, ‘Can you see the…’ It’s like a big girls night out.”

Were you familiar with the Battle of Thermopylae prior to this film?
“Not at all, only when I met Zack [Snyder, writer-director]. He kind of brought the book and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s kind of insane.”

Did you do any research?
“I just sat with Zack for like an hour and he told me everything he’d looked into. I mean, it’s fascinating, the society is kind of incredible. I’d love to see something about the backstory of the men - how they bring up the boys, what happens to the sons, what happens when they’re sent out and when they come back.”

That would make an interesting prequel to 300.
“Exactly. Apparently they send the boys out from 11 to 16. They’re out and then they bring them all back to this table. It’s this special ceremony with this table with cheeses and wine. They come down and they’re beaten by the men in the village while they’re trying to get food. There’s this whole crazy battle.”

What happened to the females?
“Apparently the women…the men come back and the women are given to the men. They have their head shaved, they’re taken to a room basically raped by the guys and then they get married because these men are not socialized with women. It’s a pretty intense society.”

When you first picked up the script, did your vision of the film match what the finished film looks like?
“No. Well, I’d seen a 10 minute teaser that he’d done visually, so I had some idea. I only saw it a couple days ago and it just blew my mind. I just thought it was so extraordinary. I was like screaming. This experience has been such a pleasure. Zack’s such a joy to work with. Just to be part of something like this whether you have two lines or ten lines, it’s just such a pleasure and I think it’s an extraordinary piece of filmmaking.

It’s beautiful; it’s romantic. A girl said it’s a date movie and I was like, ‘I know what she means.’ It’s a romance.”

Did you have the same reaction as that girl when you watched 300 for the first time?
“I thought what surprised me was how much you care about their relationship - about Leonidas and Gorgo - because we really only had one scene to do that with the love scene and the kind of dialogue beforehand. I found it very powerful. I found it very moving and I believed it. You believe that this foundation - her strength - is kind of behind this battle. She doesn’t go, ‘You’re not going!’ She’s like, ‘You go. I’m not going to cry; you just go.’”

The script doesn’t call for you to deliver many lines so how difficult was it to develop that strength in her?
“I just think there’s a stillness in her and a regality. She’s in this deeply male psychological society and she’s very male within that. There’s a kind of femininity in her dignity. There’s only one moment when she loses it at the end and it’s not a breakdown. So, I don’t know. I just think there’s a stillness and there’s a listener in her.”

How much of a physical set was around you and how much was green screen?
“Not as much as the guys. The scene in the coliseum when I talk to the council was like two pillars and some stairs. So to see them light and moving through it was just like extraordinary. I saw myself walking… I was just walking off the stage and it had green curtains. And then Sparta had pillars and floor, but nothing was extended. Everything ended with curtains.”

300 has to be one of the most talked about films of 2007. Did you ever anticipate when you were signing on that it would become this huge, monster project?
“I have to say I think when you meet Zack, and you see the visual, you know immediately it’s going to be something pretty extraordinary. I didn’t know that people would be so excited to see it. But then you come to think, ‘Why couldn’t they?’ All the ingredients are there for something special. I think to have something this big in terms of reaching people, it’s got such a lot of heart and emotion. It’s kind of clever. When I watched it I was like, ‘Wow, this really works on every level.’ I had rushes of emotion, besides just kind of marveling at it visually.”

Page 2: Lena Headey on the 300 Script, The Red Baron and The Sarah Connor Chronicles

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