At its core, Fighting With My Family is a tale about survival, equal parts heartwarming and heartbreaking. It celebrates the enduring generosity, strength, and spirit of a family weathering tough times, urging us to not only consider what it means to live for oneself, but also how to properly live for others too.
The Knockturnal sat down with actress Lena Headey to talk about her nerve-wracking foray into comedy, the best of her childhood memories, and why we should all aspire to be like the Bevis family.
Fighting With My Family opens in Los Angeles and New York on February 14, 2019 and everywhere on February 22, 2019.
The Knockturnal: I’m curious–– were you a wrestling fan before this film?
Lena Headey: I wasn’t a fan, but my dad would take me to janky, little wrestling matches. Well, they weren’t little, but like in comparison to the shiny mecca of the WWE. It was mostly chunky, British men in unitards who would drink pints and smoke cigarettes and go “Arrgghhh!” and kind of body slam each other. So I grew up watching that ringside thing where you are on plastic chairs and the nannies are up with their handbags and cheering.
The Knockturnal: What a scene!
Lena Headey: Yeah, it was amazing. But my brother loved WWE, so…
The Knockturnal: It was a residual sort of thing.
Lena Headey: Yep!
The Knockturnal: In preparation of this role, did you familiarize yourself with the WWE to get a sense of its culture and ethos?
Lena Headey: No, because I think it permeates everything, right? It is so huge you can’t avoid that, and I think what this did was make me understand the storytelling of it and how passionate the fans are about it and why it is that way.
The Knockturnal: I watched the documentary on Paige and her family…
Lena Headey: It is amazing!
The Knockturnal: Yeah, I know! Did you happen to see it beforehand?
Lena Headey: Yes, I’m a documentary whore, and so I watched it ten years ago, and was like, “This is amazing. This family is amazing.” And then the script arrived, and I was like, “Oh, It’s the Knights!”
The Knockturnal: So you already had an affinity for this project?
Lena Headey: Total love for the family, and for Julia. I have to make this work somehow.
The Knockturnal: Have you met the mother yet?
Lena Headey: I’m going to meet her today.
The Knockturnal: Really? Oh my gosh, wow!
Lena Headey: Hopefully, she is happy.
The Knockturnal: I think she will be.
Lena Headey: We have been texting, and I was like, “Ahh, is it ok?!” She has been cool actually.
The Knockturnal: Amazing! I mean, she has this intensity that is larger-than-life–– what parts of her do you identify with the most?
Lena Headey: That thing about the Knights that I love and that I identify with is that they are who they are and there is no bullshit. There is no pretense. They are committed to their family; they fuck up sometimes. But there is no, like, behind closed doors, “Oh, we shouldn’t do that for the kids.” It’s like, “C’mon, kids! Fucking hell! Get in there.” They all want to make it, and Julia is a survivor, and when you look into her past, she has come from…
The Knockturnal: A really grueling experience.
Lena Headey: Yeah, and she is here, and she loves Ricky and has these kids, and they discover wrestling; they say it in the documentary that wrestling was their salvation. It becomes their religion. I love that, that’s it. They all live and work together–– no one leaves the house to go off and do something. They travel in the van they wrestle at home; they wrestle at work. Their love is just tangible.
The Knockturnal: It is immeasurable. They really are a unit, and I think that is something anyone can admire.
Lena Headey: Exactly.
The Knockturnal: Compared to your other roles, what did you have to bring to the table this time around that was different and/or proved a challenge?
Lena Headey: The comedic element, which, I am really funny…I’m joking! But the comedic element was probably the most intimidating because you are with Stephen Merchant and Nick Frost, and they are both hilarious. He (Nick) can’t walk or open his mouth without being hysterical. It is just in him, and that was really terrifying. And Stephen would say, “That wasn’t funny,” and you’re like, “Ok, uhh, I’ll try that again then.” So he is brutal, but that is his timing and his projection of that sense, but I got on really well with Nick, and our dynamic was pretty easy from the get-go. And that dinner scene with Stephen, Nick Frost, Julia Davis, who is my comedy heroine–– I love her, and it was my first day meeting her and I was like, “Hah, now I have to sit here and do that funny thing with the three of you.” And at one point, I was literally losing the will, and I was, like, “Fuck,” and then I thought to myself, “Fucking, step it up Headey.” It was a throw down, and it was really a great day.
The Knockturnal: If you were to articulate the difference between comedy and drama, what is comedy specifically demanding of you?
Lena Headey: The Knights are funny, and they are larger-than-life; everything is on the outside of them. So when you are doing a film representing them, you don’t want people to laugh at them. You want people to fall in love with them, and Julia is very funny and raucous, but her truth beneath that is that she lives for this family and keeps them all together. She loves her daughter; there is a bit of projection of Paige going on with her and a bit of vicarious living. Ricky is her…she orbits around him, so I hung onto that, and then the humor came naturally from that truth, trust, and connection.
The Knockturnal: In the beginning of the film, we see you fighting in the ring–– did you have combat experience beforehand, or was it more of a learning curve?
Lena Headey: I mean, I like physical stuff. I love it when there is a stunt involved, or they’re like, “You have to train.” I’m like, “Yesss! Forget that one, forget the Shakespeare. Let’s get in there.” Nick, Jack, and Florence did the majority of the wrestling, which kind of amazing to watch while we were filming. But we did…I think we rehearsed for two days or something–– we did the whole fight.
The Knockturnal: That must have been a lot of work.
Lena Headey: My god, I loved it. But then, when you come to filming it, you realize you have three days of it. You forget that on day one, so they are like, “Ok, action,” and you just go for it. I couldn’t walk after, and then they said, “We will see you tomorrow for close-ups.” You’re like, “Oh, we were tense all day. No one said to relax, you know what I mean?” But I love it, I love that. We just–– obviously–– giggled every time we were in the ring.
The Knockturnal: It seems like that physicality was a really fun component of the filmmaking process–– what was the funniest moment on set? Was it in the ring, in another scene?
Lena Headey: Really anytime Nick was around. He is just gifted in that department, so anything he did. He improvises all time, and he loves it.
The Knockturnal: I could feel that everyone was feeding off of each other’s energy, and that made for a beautiful portrait and really added to the authenticity of the film. If there is one, grand lesson to be learned from Fighting With My Family, what is that? What do you think it is?
Lena Headey: Well, Paige has said it really beautifully before, but I think it was the Rock or her coach who said, “Your superpower is being yourself,” and that’s what they (the Knights) represent as a family. There is no pretense; they are very authentic. It’s like, “You love us as we are, or you can fuck off.” That is how they feel, and I think Paige loses that for a minute in her journey of like, “I need to be something else than I am to fit in and succeed,” and she finally realizes that “I am enough. I have got it in me–– I am resilient, and I can do it.”