No more catwalks, no more pouts, this former model is giving film all she’s got.
Abbey Lee is in a bathtub in Los Angeles, soaking out some anger. “I had a car accident about two hours ago. It was bullshit,” she says. “Me and a lady both reversed at the same time out of these diagonal car spots and she went ballistic as if it was my fault, I was like, ‘Listen mate, that was a mutual collision, I am not going to listen to your shit.’ And she just went on. That made me pretty furious.” It’s a short bridge between Lee’s mouth and her emotions. Her default setting is raw, Daria-toned honesty, and whether in real life or on screen her words come out easily and with conviction – her latest film Ruben Guthrie is testament. Directed by Brendan Cowell and adapted from his original stage play, Lee plays the Czech model girlfriend of an advertising wunderkind who is trying to deal with his alcohol issues. “I was in Africa at the time shooting Mad Max and I got an email from my agent who said [Cowell] was interested in seeing a self-tape. I hesitated at first, mainly because it was playing a model, I had a bit of a problem with that, because I am, you know – I was very cautious. But after I read the script I realised that it was actually a lot more than that, [I realised] how fucking good it was.”
In the film, Ruben Guthrie tries to give up alcohol for love. What would Abbey Lee be willing to give up for the same thing? “I don’t know. To be honest it’s been quite a number of years since I’ve felt that way about somebody so right now I don’t feel like giving up anything.”
Lee has shot four films in the last three years, among them Mad Max and blockbuster Gods of Egypt (2016) where she plays an “albino serpent-riding assassin – you know, the usual,” she jokes. As a kid, she was obsessed with fairies and mermaids, so it’s no surprise to her that the fantasy epics are attractive to her. “I’m very interested in other realms, but also really emotionally driven characters, like the one that I play in Ruben Guthrie, they’re the two sides of what I like to do, so far.”
“What I love about [acting] is there’s so much more respect in the film industry, I get treated really well and I have an opinion and I really feel respected – and I struggled with that as a model, the treatment is just not the same, and I really love that about acting. It’s nice to be respected.” If we’ve learnt one thing, it’s that Abbey Lee is not to be underestimated. Or reversed into.
Ruben Guthrie is in cinemas from 16 July, 2015.