Out in cinemas on May 31st, The Purge features Lena as Mary Sandin, who alongside her husband James (Ethan Hawke) and two kids, find themselves in severe danger in their own home, on a night where any crime can be committed without consequence. Headey tells us what it’s like being an action hero, her own aspirations as a filmmaker and she responds to Hawke’s kind compliments about her talent.
Can you tell us a little bit abut your character Mary?
Mary is stuck, I guess it’s one of those things in life when you want more money and you want more of this or that, but when you get it you realise it’s a bit of a trap, so we kind of meet them when Ethan’s character is successful and they’ve all just sort of died a bit in the comfort and.started taking things for granted, and it takes this night to go wrong for them to all realise what they’ve been living I guess… The concept for this movie is really brave, it touches on a really uncomfortable subject and it puts it in cinematic form and I like that it’s all a bit surburban and a bit surreal in the beginning and then it turns on its head, and this family have to wake up, their conscience is kicked back into being and it hadn’t been there for a while. That’s what attracted me to it, plus James DeMonaco is a really smart guy and he made the film he wanted to make.
I interviewed Ethan for The Purge too, and he said that he has “never worked with anyone better” than yourself. Were you aware that you’d had such an impact?
No, not at all, that is so funny and very lovely. I’m quite shocked! Ethan is highly contagious because he is really passionate about what’s going on. He is just very present and very unaware of himself when he’s acting which is lovely, because you can be together in your work and there is no barrier. I enjoy his company a lot, he is just really good fun and very clever and yeah we got on very well.
Given the hypothetical scnario The Purge poses, I was wondering what crime you would commit if you knew you could get away with it?
I would like to go and steal loads of shoes. That’s what I’d do.
Ethan said he’d be an environmental terrorist…
Yeah his is slightly less selfish.
You’re a real action hero at the moment, I was just wondering if that was something you always dreamt of being when you were younger, or if that’s just how things have turned out for you?
It’s not how I dreamt things at all [laughs] I’m still learning, it’s a constant life schooling for me, but I started on little indies and British dramas and all that stuff and I miss that. I love what I do and it’s an adventure, it’s not fucking rocket science let’s be honest, but you’ve got to enjoy the journey of it all. But no I didn’t think I would end up with machine guns and knives fighting terminators and things like that, but like I say, it’s all part of my journey, and I get to do something like The Purge which was a tiny budget, and we shot for 19 days so it had that lovely energy that those movies do, because they require it to keep it going.
Do you find that lower budget movies have a more close-knit community and stronger atmopshere on set?
Definitely. I was reading an interview with Noah Baumbach the other day and he was saying that he just made that film Frances Ha and he was saying that the stars put money into the film and I was like, that’s fucking great. That’s missing. When people do all these things and ask for this and ask for that, you lose what it is to be filmmakers, which I use as a collective term right now, but yeah, absolutely when you’re all under one roof, there are no trailers, people don’t do disappearing and it takes them 40 minutes to come back to set and you’re all waiting, you’re all there, you’re all present and there is a constant energy. People argue, but you do when you’re creative and doing stuff and it’s all for the good. I prefer it as a working environment, I thrive on that rather than sitting in a trailer twiddling your thumbs for six hours.
Can you ever seen yourself taking on a role behind the camera?
Yeah, that’s my ultimate aim, I will be there. It’s a tricky thing getting there, but I will be eventually. The small things that I have done I feel very at home with, and my brain works that way so I can’t wait for that moment.
At the heart of The Purge is the story of a family uniting, and as a mother of a young child, is that something that also attracted you to the role?
Yeah, when you have a kid you give birth to many other things besides them and you explore that, so when there is a mother, especially a mother whose children are in danger, then yes, I think there is some sub-conscious attraction there for me, it’s definitey part of it.
Can you see yourself taking on different roles now you have a new member of the family?
Yes absolutely. I just offered to present the word of the day on Sesame Street, so that says it all really. I’m serious about that though – very excited. But yes, I think as you grow in your life and experience different things you are attracted to different things, so I think it dictates what you do, for sure.
Finally, we have the return of 300 coming up soon, can you tell us about that and revisiting the character or Queen Gorgo?
Yeah it was fun, it was good fun. I got to hold a sword, which I’m quite fond of.