By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—Though the follow up to the hit 2007 swords-and-sandals epic “300” is a stylish, hyper-realistic war movie with lots of men wielding swords, decapitating their enemy most gruesomely in meager uniforms that show off their sweaty pecs, it’s the fairer sex that really comes to dominate “300: Rise of an Empire.”
Eva Green, 33 and Lena Headey, 40, play gorgeous, heroic she-warriors on opposite sides of the Persia-Greece dispute, bent on avenging the wrongs they and their loved ones have endured at the hands of their enemy.
Green, the hauntingly beautiful French actress from “The Dreamers” and “Casino Royale,” plays Artemisia, a Persian warrior of Greek heritage, who leads a battalion of Persian fighters against her native people who mistreated her and wiped out her family years earlier. Bermuda-born Brit Headey, one of the few returning cast members from the original “300” cast, reprises her role as Gorgo, the Spartan queen, who upon hearing of the heroic death of her husband (King Leonidas, played by Gerard Butler) in the battle against the Persians, picks up the sword and vows to avenge him and his gallant army that were wiped out.
The actresses recently spoke about their respective roles in the Noam Murro-directed film. Zack Snyder, who directed and co-wrote the original “300” with Kurt Johnstad (based on Frank Miller’s graphic novel of the same name), was busy filming “Man of Steel,” to return to helm, but he did co-write the sequel with Johnstad (based on Miller’s “Xerxes”).
Q: Eva, how did that torment change your life and is she forever doomed because of that?
Green: First of all, it’s quite rare to see strong women in an action film kicking some ass, so that’s cool. She’s like a man in a woman’s body. She’s ballsy and very brave. As you said, she was traumatized as a child; she built this armor around her to survive. She became so driven by vengeance, blinded by vengeance, and completely obsessed, and she’s bonkers, a maniac and bonkers.
Headey: Gorgo’s just back for a bit of revenge, I’d say. Simple.
Q: Was it nice to be back in this group?
Headey: It’s a different group.
Q: You’ve got the same producers, at least.
Headey: It was a great thrill to hold a sword. I like that about it.
Q: Can you talk about the recurring theme of defending your family throughout the film?
Headey: Speaking from Gorgo’s point of view, the Spartan law is honor before anything else, and the fact that she loses the love of her life, there is nothing else to be done apart from avenge him. So, in terms of her, it’s pretty straightforward. There’s only one way to go.
Q: How was working out for this film?
Headey: I loved it, but then I’m a sadist and a tomboy. But the sad thing is when it’s over, it all kind of goes, “Bluh.”
Green: I was kind of lucky because I didn’t have to be naked like the guys so I was allowed to have my glass of red wine in the evenings. I’m so not physical so that was such a big challenge. You feel very powerful actually but not straightaway. It’s very scary at the beginning to have to do all the squats and lunges. It’s like, “Oh my God.” It’s painful. But then it helps you for the fights. You can go quite low. After a while you feel very proud of yourself and that was the best thing. I adored it. The stunt guys are just amazing because they’re so passionate. They love it and they’re fun. It was my favorite bit I have to say.
Q: What was the choreography like for learning all the fight sequences and stunts?
Green: It’s like a dance. I’ve always been an enormous fan of those Chinese films, “Hero,” “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” and all that. So I felt like a little girl and I had great masters. At the beginning, you can’t think too much. You just have to do it. So that’s a great thing, just let it all out. Just go for it. But it takes a while to digest it and be able to do it. It requires lots of work.
Q: How comfortable were the costumes to wear, especially during the fight scenes?
Green: (Costume designer) Alexandra Byrne is very talented and very brave. I love that outfit that she made with the golden spikes erupting from my back. I look like kind of a dinosaur or something. It was very cool and very easy to move. Sometimes my hair got caught in the spikes but you don’t see that in the film. Otherwise, it’s my favorite outfit. I look like a weird animal. It’s cool.