“There’s nothing sexy about my character.” – Abbey Lee
Mad Max: Fury Road introduces a gang of new female characters into the Mad Max world. Charlize Theron’s character Furiosa is rescuing the five wives of warlord Immortan Joe when Max (Tom Hardy) gets mixed up in it. One of those women is played by acting newcomer Abbey Lee, and I got to interview Lee for Mad Max: Fury Road.
Lee plays The Dag, who stands out from the other other refugees with her bright white hair and wide-eyed reactions. There are few words at all in Mad Max: Fury Road but The Dag shares many with a gang of desert women named the Vuvalini. During the press conference, Lee’s costars revealed that director George Miller hired Eve Ensler to work with them on their characters. Mad Max: Fury Road opens Friday, May 15 with early shows Thursday at 7.
Nerd Report: Mad Max: Fury Road is your first movie. How did this happen for you?
Abbey Lee: I believe George had been searching for my role within the acting industry and he couldn’t find it, so he branched out to modeling agents which is where I got the call to do a self tape. I didn’t even know what a self tape was at that time. I hadn’t pursued film previously so I was pretty raw to it all. But yeah, I got asked to self tape and I booked it off that.
Nerd Report: We see a lot in your eyes, like The Dag is seeing things she’d never seen before. Is that because you were seeing things you’d never seen before too?
Abbey Lee: Yes and no. My character is interesting. She’s a very observant human being and sort of like an otherworldly creature who seems to be tapped into things before they’re even happening. So I think that’s where she gets the wide eyed look from. I think that George was looking for a piece of the characters in the actual people that he cast, so he must’ve seen a piece of me in that too.
Nerd Report: She just throws that horrible belt away, doesn’t she?
Abbey Lee: Yeah, which is a strong scene, that one.
Nerd Report: It was. Was that your moment that you added, or something George directed you?
Abbey Lee: That was in the script. It’s a symbol of freedom to cut the chastity belt like that.
Nerd Report: Was biting Nicholas Hoult in the script too?
Abbey Lee: I invented that. A lot of the script was laid out as “this is what’s happening” but actually the details of what were happening in those scenes were left up to our imagination. Biting Nic, I don’t know where that came from. I guess he looked tasty.
Nerd Report: And a little primal.
Abbey Lee: Yeah, which these girls are.
Nerd Report: I had no idea the five of you worked with Eve Ensler on your characters. What specifically did you get for The Dag from Ensler?
Abbey Lee: Us girls are fortunate that in our lives that we haven’t had the harm that our characters have endured. So it was difficult to try and go there emotionally and mentally. To have Eve come in and tell us stories about women in the Congo who’d gone through similar experiences as our characters, it was really touching. It helped a lot, but just being around Eve feels good.
Nerd Report: Was it comfortable sleeping in the backseat of the big rig with all of your costars tangled up?
Abbey Lee: There was a lot of steel, a lot of hard steel so I wouldn’t say that it was overly comfortable, but there were certainly people on set who did their best to make it comfortable. I was comfortable with the other girls. We were all really tight by that point so we were certainly comfortable with each other.
Nerd Report: Would you have to sit in the big rig for most of the shoot just to be in the background?
Abbey Lee: Yeah, they had a second unit for a lot of wide angle shots where we had doubles in there, but for the most part we were in the rig. It was so difficult to get in an out of the rig that we just stayed in there for a lot of the time.
Nerd Report: But when we see through the windshield, that’s really you.
Abbey Lee: Yeah, we’re in there.
Nerd Report: What was it like shooting the scenes with the Vuvalini women in the desert at night?
Abbey Lee: Interestingly enough, those were day for night shoots so it was actually in the middle of the day. Us girls were all together for so long and to have new cast members come on board halfway through and add a different dynamic, it was exciting for us to have new people on set. They’re all awesome. To have these awesome really strong women, a lot of whom were theater actors as well, they were cool to be around.
Nerd Report: Was any of it night for night in Namibia?
Abbey Lee: I can’t remember. I think there were a couple of nights where we shot night for night, but a lot of the time it was day for night. It’s just easier to do it that way. The Namibian desert at night is very quiet and very cold, a little bit eerie sometimes I suppose.
Nerd Report: Was it very loud when all the cars and trucks were going?
Abbey Lee: Oh, incredibly loud. I mean, George had to use a megaphone to communicate with us. Very loud.
Nerd Report: Did you have to redo any of your dialogue because of that?
Abbey Lee: Yeah, all of it. Pretty much everything I say is ADR.
Nerd Report: Being your first movie, was that a weird process?
Abbey Lee: It’s exhausting. I found it really exhausting. You spend hours and hours and hours in a dark room going through all the emotions of your character that you went through over a six month period, so it’s very bizarre but I didn’t find it difficult. I think ADR is all about rhythm and timing which is something that I’m comfortable with.
Nerd Report: Did Charlize Theron become sort of a protective den mother to all the women Furiosa was rescuing?
Abbey Lee: Yeah, she was like having a big sister on set. She’s a tough woman who’s also really open, so we all got really close to her in a very sisterly way. So yeah, she was there to hang out with.
Nerd Report: Were the costume fittings anything like modeling?
Abbey Lee: Modeling, no one cares what you have to say about how you look so it was a new experience of going to the costume department and have George there with you and him be free reign for you. “This is the room, this is what you have to choose from. Just be free with your character and find what you thing you’d wear.” So that was an enjoyable process.
Nerd Report: Was there a selection of white raggy wardrobe and you picked the one The Dag wears?
Abbey Lee: Yeah, essentially. Racks and racks of bandages.
Nerd Report: So what spoke to you about the one you chose?
Abbey Lee: Just that there’s nothing sexy about my character. She’s a bit of a tomboy and she’s a bit sloppy, a bit messy so I didn’t want to have anything that was too structured. It had to feel like a girl who’s a tomboy chose it. As non sexy as possible I went for basically.
Nerd Report: What will we see you play in Gods of Egypt?
Abbey Lee: I play a giant albino assassin.
Nerd Report: Is that a special effect?
Abbey Lee: Unlike Mad Max, that was all very CGI. It’s a small part, but it’s a good one.
Nerd Report: Do you have the acting bug now?
Abbey Lee: Yeah, I gave up everything else for it. I shot three films since Mad Max. I’m shooting one right now. I wouldn’t give it up for anything really.
Nerd Report: What are the other roles you played?
Abbey Lee: I shot a movie last year called Ruben Guthrie which is an Australian dark comedy. I played a girl from the Czech Republic in that and that just got asked to open the Sydney Film Festival. I did Gods of Egypt and currently I’m shooting Neon Demon which is a Nicolas Winding Refn film.
Nerd Report: What is your character in Neon Demon?
Abbey Lee: I’m not sure how much I can reveal about it right now to be honest. She’s a very ballsy young woman who’s most likely gonna surprise a lot of people.