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Daily Mirror

4 March 2005

Boogey Frights



The tiny leather mini-skirt that Lucy Lawless wore in her signature role as Xena: Warrior Princess got all her fans very hot under the collar, but she claims it also stopped her from getting any ideas of being a prima donna on set. “It’s impossible to play the big star when you’re dressed in a leather mini-skirt, lashed by freezing rain and caked in mud,” laughs Lucy, 36.

It was the character of Xena which brought Lucy world-wide fame, but this week she has a starring role in the new horror film Boogeyman, which is released today. It tells the tale of a guy who is traumatised by the memories of terrible events he experienced in his childhood bedroom and is forced to return home several years later to face his fears.

Boogeyman is sure to give another boost to the career of the New Zealand-born actress who, at the last count, had 192 websites dedicated to her. She even has her own £6m theme park attraction at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida. But it was only by chance that the former Miss New Zealand landed the swashbuckling part which was to transform her life – because she wasn’t even on the initial shortlist to play Xena.

“Legend has it that the original actress didn’t make it because she was having a wonderful fling in London with Richard Gere,” laughs Lucy. “So, thank you London.”

Walking onto the set of the show, Lucy had very little experience of the martial arts needed to convince as a sword-wielding heroine. Luckily, filming took place in her own backyard of Auckland, so she launched herself into an intense training regime.

“I learned most of it through a series of short, sharp shocks,” she says. “In the beginning I had plenty of little mementoes to take home – black eyes, torn ligaments, loosened teeth and a bad back. I even smashed my pelvis while riding a horse onto a parking lot on the Tonight show in LA. I pulled the horse to a stop and his feet skidded from under him. I will never forget the sound of hooves scraping on the pavement as I fell off. It took me a long time to get my confidence back.”

Lucy, a towering 5ft 10ins tall, did all the fight scenes in the TV series, which finished its six-year run back in 2001. But there are limits to her abilities. “I didn’t do the flips,” she admits. “They were done by a girl who’s only 5ft 2ins and who wore fibreglass underpants with wires attached.”

Aside from her all-action acting ability, it was her sexy leather costumes which brought Lucy a considerable amount of attention. And her fans were not just impressionable teenagers.

“I got a lot of mail from judges who wanted to be spanked,” she confesses. “Or they’d want me to walk all over them in my boots. But I also got a lot of letters from women who have been inspired to re-enter the workforce, take charge of their lives or get out of an abusive relationship.”

Indeed, Xena has been heralded as a lesbian icon. But Lawless has turned down a £250,000 offer from Playboy magazine to run naked through hot springs. Instead, she spends most of her time with her husband Rob Tapert, 44 – the executive producer on Xena – and their children Julius, five, Judah, two, and daughter Daisy, 13, from her first marriage to Garth Lawless.

“I love motherhood,” says Lucy. “I can’t wait to have two more children. When I had Daisy I was a full-time mum, but now I’m in a position where I not only take my kids to work with me but can also afford some help as well.”

Lawless managed to work through the early months when she was pregnant with Julius, but the leather skirts were not that forgiving and a solution had to be sought.

“I was fine for the first four months, but the skirt doesn’t leave much to the imagination, so they gave me a cloak,” explains Lucy. “It was great. For the first time in five years I was actually warm while we were filming.”

Lawless and her husband divide their time between New Zealand – where Daisy lives with her father – and Los Angeles. The early months of their relationship, however, were not quite as calm, as dating the boss raised eyebrows. At first, they were reduced to seeing each other secretly.

“It was fun,” smiles Lucy.

“Very wild and very exciting. If something happened tomorrow to Rob, I don’t think I would ever be able to find a situation that would be more electric than that.”

Robert also helped Lucy land a part in Boogeyman, on which he is the producer. “I was working on another project over in Europe,” she says, “and my husband rang up and asked if I wanted to play this part in his next movie.

“I play a drug-addled mother who gives up custody of her son. And I’m all up for playing those small gems of parts which are attention-grabbing, really colourful roles, rather than having to carry a whole movie. And this was one of those perfect little parts. I grabbed it.”

The fact that it was a horror film also appealed because Lucy’s childhood was steeped in chilling tales.

“I grew up a Catholic,” she explains, “and in our family there were always stories of vampires. You were really glad you were a Catholic when there were vampires around because you knew what to do.

“I lived and breathed them for a long time. I would sneak in to see Psycho and Friday The 13th because I was underage. But, actually, now that I’m a mother I can’t bear them!”

Boogeyman is released today.