New Zealander Lucy Lawless became an international television icon in the
1990s as the apparently fearless star of Xena: Warrior Princess. The part seemed
tailor made for the athletic actress whod originally intended to be an opera
singer (until shed discovered that opera singers follow a strict diet and cant
stay out all night), yet after 134 episodes Lawless called it a day and has
spent most of the last few years raising her three children: Daisy, 19; Julius,
9; and Judah, 6. Now my kids are relinquishing me and Im ready to go back to
work, Lawless says with a laugh. The actress dipped her toe in the water with a
guest starring part in the last two seasons of Battlestar Galactica and has now
been cast in her first major film role in recent years. Bedtime Stories is a
Disney family comedy starring Adam Sandler and, alongside Lawless, a cast which
also includes Courtney Cox, Keri Russell, fast-rising British comic Russell
Brand, Richard Griffiths, and Australian actor Guy Pearce. Adam Sandler plays
Skeeter, a downtrodden hotel handyman who tells his niece and nephew elaborate
stories, full of knights in armor and damsels in distress, that suddenly start
to come true. The likable and witty Lawless, sporting a severe black bob that
made her virtually unrecognizable, talked to us on the set of Bedtime Stories
and told us about her role in the film, why she loves wigs, and how she got used
to the Los Angeles smog.
Q. So Adam Sandler is the put-upon hotel handyman. Who do you play?
A. Guy Pearce is the hotel manager and I play his wicked and twisted girlfriend,
whos also the hotel concierge. Hes putty in her deviant hands of course
[laughs]. The original brief description of the character was that she was a
40-ish ex-model, which I changed to bitter 40-ish ex-model because she never
saw herself as ending up as a concierge in a bloody hotel and her way of
managing her disappointment is to sink her hooks into some eligible male, in
this case Guy Pearce, who is wonderfully smooth and effete in the role.
Q: And how about the jet black hair? Was that your idea?
A: Well, its all about the wig! And it evolved, because I had something like a
flower pot on my head at one point, but once I put on this particular wig we all
said, Oh thats the one! And personally, the moment I put on a wig I feel
different, like Im Jim Carrey in the Mask. Its very fun!
Q. What was it about Bedtime Stories that made you want to get back to work?
A. Part of it was just about getting out of the house. I think its what the
kids wanted [laughs]. I was in my middle childs room the other night,
irritating him with all these facts about chameleons, and he just asked me to
leave the room. And the youngest one has repeatedly begged me to go back to work
because hes quite interested in television and films and thinks I might be able
to introduce me to someone famous.
Q. So any film would have done?
A. [Laughs] No! But who wouldnt want to work with Adam Sandler? Ive always
thought hes a very solid actor, three-dimensional and just real. Its not a
coincidence that hes this multi-million-dollar man. The film has also got this
great cast and its a big Disney production. Im just thrilled to be included!
Q. Did you have to audition?
A. Yes, of course, and Adam Sandler in particular had to strongly say, I want
Lucy Lawless, because I would not have been on the list of the top 50 actresses,
not even the top 100 actresses, that Disney would have thought of.
Q. Is that because youve havent worked much in recent years?
A. Partly that, and that people tell me its going to be hard to get over the
Xena stigma, though I cant say I have really given that much credence. Its not
like I could do anything about it anyway and, you know, Xena was a really great
experience and I really lived a lot doing it and Im grateful for everything it
Q. Do you ever miss it?
A. Xena was a lot of fun, but it was also hard work and I had the pressure of
being the star. But I love making films and television, I love the process, I
love being on set and I never complain about being here, particularly not on
this film. This really is the best time I have ever had in my life.
Q. Whys that?
A. I think it really does come down to Adam Sandler and the director [Adam
Shankman]. Its like having two really benevolent dictators, because they know
how they want things to go and theyre here to get the job done, but they want
it to be enjoyable too. So I think a lot of their casting is based on not
wanting to work with anyone whos a pain.
Q. Now youre planning to work more, does that mean spending more time in the
A. Its where the business is, yes. Ive tried to divide my time between the US
and New Zealand, but its difficult, and I suddenly realized that I like it here
in Los Angeles anyway. Because when you first come here; especially from New
Zealand, you go, This is the ugliest, nastiest, grayest, smoggiest town in the
world, and then your scale of beauty adjusts and suddenly you think, Oh, isnt
it beautiful, not too much smog today! [Laughs]
Q. And do you have any other films or television in the offing?
A. The oddest thing is that Court TV wanted me to go and fly a jet fighter
and have a duel with Muhammed Alis daughter. You know, a girl fight in the air!
I had to tell them I couldnt do it for insurance reasons but when I first heard
about it, I was like, Yes, Ill do that, because its one of those once in a
lifetime things and I tend to jump at those opportunities. Other than that, Im
talking to people about some interesting television pilots. Well see! I have to
say that Bedtime Stories may have spoiled me a bit though because it has been
such a fantastic experience. I mean, the thing is, once youve had a taste of
Camp Sandler, I think its hard to sign on anywhere else.