Actress Isabel Lucas talks about portraying Athena, researching the character, working with Tarsem, and more
Australian actress Isabel Lucas broke onto the American scene in 2009 with roles in the blockbuster sequel Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, and in the underrated vampire drama Daybreakers. This weekend, audiences get to see Isabel Lucas in a whole new light as Athena, the Goddess of War, in Immortals, which opens in theaters nationwide November 11. I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Isabel Lucas to discuss taking on this character, working with visionary director Tarsem Singh, and much more. Here's what she had to say below.
I have always been interested in mythology, and I enjoyed that this world of Immortals had these gods and goddesses from the myths, but with a new and original story. Did you actually dig into the mythology at all for research?
Isabel Lucas: Yeah, I did. It wasn't necessary for me, though, because it was an original concept. That was one of the things that drew me to the project. I think it's exciting that we're still creating stories from the oldest characters we know. It's really special. It's where storytelling first came from, these great mythologies. Like I said, it wasn't really necessary to do a lot of studying on the actual mythological story, but it was important to learn about the archetype of Athena. Growing up, I did know a lot about the stories, because my mom would read to my sister and I. I have vague memories of that, but not a lot of specifics, so revisiting that was very interesting for me. Learning about Athena, I really love what she stands for and her energy and the archetype of her character. That was very interesting.
We watched some of the things Henry (Cavill) had to go through for his fight training. How much of that did you have to go through?
Isabel Lucas: Well, I know that the men all had to do a lot more than I did. Tarsem didn't want Athena to be muscular or anything like that. It was really just the training for the fight sequence, which was a choreographed martial arts fight. I hadn't done anything like that, so it was an introduction to that world. I have done some weapons training for a film, but nothing like this. Training was about an hour a day for a few weeks, and it was quite intimidating at the beginning, because I had no idea how to grapple it all. I was very physical growing up, and I grew up riding horses. I'm not too delicate like that, even though I know I don't look too tough, but the actual sequence was intimidating. It was great working with the stunt crew, because they were very encouraging, and I actually felt really good about it.
I was really taken by the costumes here. They were just amazing. When you first read the script, were the costumes that detailed?
Isabel Lucas: No, none of it was in the script when I first read it. It was pretty much when I got to Montreal and met with the costume designer. She just showed us all the pictures for my character's outfits, and they were just unbelievable and beautiful and gruesome, and just so creative. They were very impractical, physically, to wear, with the corsets and the chain-link skirt was nearly 20 kilograms. It was heavy, and the crown as well, but it was certainly encouraging to embody the character, once you put it all on. It makes you feel very regal.
Were those tough to fight in the costume, with the weight of all that?
Isabel Lucas: I didn't have to wear the skirt for the fight scene. I had a different thing, but yeah, it was hard. The training was to know how to move.
I was really impressed with the scope of this. It seemed like it was all practical, with CGI set extensions. Did you really feel how huge this would look when you got on the set?
Isabel Lucas: I think, being there, I did get a sense of how big it was going to be. The sets just blew me out of the water, they were just incredible. We had so many sets and, with the heaven sets, we didn't know what they were going to look like. We just had an idea. Tarsem was showing us Renoir paintings and it was so beautiful, and that was what he had in mind, visually, to create the sets. It was really inspiring. The heaven sets really look quite beautiful and he really pulled it off. The weight of the production and everything that was involved, it did feel like a big-budget film, for sure, but it was also very harmonious, for this kind of a big film. Everyone was very easy to work with and there was a lot of humility on the set. I really loved it.
Can you talk a bit about working with Tarsem? His first two films are so visually distinct. What would you say stands out about his style as a director?
Isabel Lucas: Yeah, I think you just said it, his visual style. He has a very artistic vision, and it's extremely visual. The colors that he uses, maybe it's an Indian influence, and he has a very philosophical approach to his films. I think he really, deeply tries to dissect and analyze and have everyone come on board with his approach. I think those are the main things, and that he's just so full of life and full of passion. When a director comes on board with that kind of energy and focus, you do find yourself emulating that and rising to the occasion, trying to do even more than possible. It's a good energy to have around. It's wonderful.
Is there anything that you're looking to sign on for in the near future that you can talk about?
Isabel Lucas: Well, there is a lot to talk about, but I'm not allowed yet. There is one I did called Loft, and it's an American remake of a Belgian film. It's a very heady, cerebral murder mystery. It was filmed in New Orleans and in Brussels. It's the same director who did the original. I play Sarah, and, I think I'm allowed to say this, because it's a remake, but she's the girl who gets murdered (Laughs).
Are there plans in place for the release of Loft? Are they taking it on the festival circuit?
Isabel Lucas: Yeah, that one comes out, I think, early next year. It's with James Marsden, Eric Stonestreet, Wentworth Miller. It's a great cast. I saw the original before I read the script, and I was really drawn to it. When I met Erik (Van Looy), the director, that's when I was really certain I wanted to do it, because he was just wonderful.
On all the posters and TV spots, you see the comparisons to 300, but I thought it was quite different. What would you like to say to those who only think of Immortals as another 300, about why they should check it out in theaters?
Isabel Lucas: Well, I feel one of the things that's special about it is it's a Greek mythology epic, with an original concept, and it bleeds into many genres. It's a love story, and the mythology and fantasy with the Gods, and there's definitely action and war, and it's, visually, just Tarsem in a nutshell, and his vision. It's just beautiful and original, and I think it's very breathtaking.