Sure, seven years have passed since the first “300” film and the specter of Gerard Butler’s King Leonidas is still looming large. But if anybody has fears that such a larger-than-life screen persona can’t be replicated, they’re sure to be knocked on their asses with Eva Green’s stunning portrayal of Artemisia in “300: Rise of an Empire.”
Beautiful, charismatic, ruthless and sexy as hell, Green’s Artemisia commands your attention every second she’s on-screen. The great thing is, while Green possesses all the physical attributes to make the character work, you can also see the wheels spinning behind her piercing eyes because Artemisia is also wrought with inner turmoil. The character is filled with all sorts of complexities, and Green said she reveled in every single one of them.
“Thank God there’s the back story, otherwise, she would just be a one-dimensional killing machine,” Green observed. “Instead, we find out that she was traumatized as a child and had to build this sort of inner armor to survive. Her heart is so hard and there’s almost nothing left.”
Nothing, except a passion ignited by her enemy, the Greek General Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton); an adversary she doesn’t necessarily loathe — but admires — because he’s equal to her in skill and stature. They go toe-to-toe and them some throughout “300: Rise of an Empire,” and in one of the film’s wildest scenes, Artemisia tries to seduce Themistokles in what may is destined to be one of the most-talked about sex scenes in years to come.
“It is kind of interesting when Themistokles shows up and it’s like, ‘Whoa,'” Green said with a laugh. “He might have awakened something in her, or not, because she’s completely mad. That childhood trauma made her blind and so full of vengeance. Her mission in life is ‘War, war and war.'”
Opening in theaters Friday in 2D, 3D and on IMAX screens, “300: Rise of an Empire” is based on the graphic novel “Xerxes” by “300” author Frank Miller. Directed by Noam Murro and produced and co-written by “300” helmer Zack Snyder, the story not only recalls the origins of the mortal-turned-god Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), it effectively runs parallel to the fateful journey of the 300 Spartans who march into battle against the Persian Army.
The crux of the story, though, is Themistokles’ battle against the massive invading Persian forces, ruled by Xerxes and led by Artemisia, who is the vengeful commander of the Persian Navy.
Admittedly shy in real life, Green loves roles like Artemisia because they give her an opportunity to blow off steam in ways she never otherwise dream of doing. After all, the soft-spoken yet engaging French-born actress clearly isn’t the sort of person who you’d imagine decapitating a person and kissing their disembodied head on the lips. She’ll leave that up to somebody as insane as Artemisia.
“To be irreverent, not polite and have no respect is fun because it’s so big. It’s fun to go so extreme,” Green, 33, enthused. “I think it’s important to have fun with it instead of being so serious and doing it with butterflies in your stomach.”
Adding to the fun for Green on “300: Rise of an Empire” was to get trained in the ways of the warrior. Not only did Green dive into an intense regimen to not only be fit physically to do all her own stunts, she also became very proficient with knives, swords and a bow and arrow.
“I’m action hero now,” Green said, laughing. “It was one of the things that I found appealing about the role. I was so excited to learn for a couple months how to play with double swords. It ended up being like a dance, in a way. But you still have to learn how to train to get stronger to do the fight scenes. You have to lift weights, and do lunges and squats so you can go low in your stances.”
Green said the idea of doing so much training was daunting at first, but it didn’t take long for the jitters to go away.
“I really got a kick out of it. I’m not really physical, usually, so it was like, ‘Whoa. This is a challenge,’ but it turned out to be great. I felt so much stronger. Now, I’ve lost everything I gained, of course,” she lamented.
Effectively, Green got the entire package playing Artemisia in “300: Rise of an Empire,” and to top it all off, she got to wear some pretty wicked wardrobe, too.
“The costumes were beautiful. Very regal, yet rock ‘n’ roll,” Green said. “They were very cool.”
Green is teaming up with Miller again in August in the “Sin City” sequel “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.” Before that, she’ll be starring in the new Showtime series “Penny Dreadful,” which is described by the cable network as a psycho-sexual thriller.