Blithe Spirit

Actress Lena Headey brings her irrepressible charm to a romantic comedy with a twist.

After four hours of modeling “frock coats and frilly dresses” for a photo shoot, the British actress Lena Headey has returned to her natural state — torn jeans, striped tee, and pigtails — and is working through a piece of chocolate cake with disarming abandon.

“I look like Oliver Twist,” she says, laughing. The 32-year-old Headey, who was plucked from a London theater stage by a casting agent at seventeen, has produced an eclectic series of widely admired performances without losing her Yorkshire lack of pretension. In 2000’s “Aberdeen,” she was blistering as Kaisa, a troubled London woman who must shepherd her alcoholic father to a last meeting with her dying mother. Last summer, in Terry Gilliam’s “The Brothers Grimm,” she guided Matt Damon and Heath Ledger through an enchanted forest, gamely fending off a few oaks herself.

In her latest, British director Ol Parker’s romantic comedy “Imagine Me & You,” Headey plays Luce, a lesbian who falls in love with a straight married woman. Because Luce initially keeps her feelings secret, Headey must convey her emotions mostly through restraint.

“The whole thing’s about love and timing, when desire can’t be played out to the full,” she said. “You’re much more alive as an actor when you’re allowed to be free. But to get that you have to hold back. You have to be completely open and vulnerable, with full concentration, and allow people in. That’s the weird joy of this job — the complete catharsis.”

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