A former model turned actor, Melbourne-born Abbey Lee made her feature film debut in George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), as one of Immortan Joe’s brides, and has since starred in Alex Proyas’ Gods of Egypt (2016), Nicolas Winding Refn’s transgressive fashion-house horror The Neon Demon (2016), and Stephen McCallum’s Aussie biker drama 1% (2017).
“Acting has totally changed my life,” says Lee, who readily gave up the big cheques she was used to bringing home from the fashion houses and catwalks. “My life took a 360 degree turn from the moment I landed on the set of Mad Max. I had no experience or knowledge of what was needed of me. I only had my instincts and a very open heart and mind. The minute that I landed there, I realised what this experience meant to me and how it was what I had been looking for my whole life.”
Working with George Miller in Africa was of course was an amazing experience, but Lee says she learned to really grow as an actor while shooting 1% for two months in Perth. “Acting was not an ambition of mine early on and it fell into my lap by accident at the age of 25, so now I’m catching up.”
Lee can be seen this month – with her usually blonde hair dyed a deep orange – in Sebastian Gutierrez’s gothic science fiction thriller Elizabeth Harvest (2018). Inspired by the French folk tale Bluebeard and with a chilly vibe that recalls Alex Garland’s Ex Machina, the film is a literal ‘locked room mystery’. Lee plays the enigmatic new bride of a wealthy scientist (Ciarán Hinds) and has the run of his isolated home, barring one room that is strictly off limits. But of course curiosity gets the better of her and what she discovers inside will change her life forever…
The role required Lee to adopt a British accent and represented the challenge of playing a woman who is essentially a blank slate when first introduced. “It’s like a newborn baby, there’s this woman who’s been infused with intelligence of some sort with memories and ideas, but in terms of being out in the world you’d be fascinated by everything. I just tried to make her really young at heart and really curious,” she told UK magazine BALANCE.
Lee has since landed a plum role in the HBO series Lovecraft Country, due to premiere this year. Based on the novel by Matt Ruff and executive produced by Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams, it’s the story of a young African American man’s journey through Jim Crow America in the 1950s, where racism and horrors from the pages of H.P. Lovecraft await. Lee plays Christina Braithwhite, the ambitious daughter of the leader of a secret order called the Sons of Adam.