Two things you notice about Gemma Arterton the moment she walks into the room. One, she’s really, really tall. Two, although she’s not quite stunningly gorgeous, she still has that classical beauty – the English Rose quality – about her, but yet, she’s not your typical wallflower and is pretty down-to-earth.
In fact, she’s the kind of person you wouldn’t mind hanging out with at a bar. As the English put it, she’d be a great mate. (In the mate=pal sense of the word, although, I know tons of blokes who’d probably like the other meaning of the word. But you know, she’s no pushover and can really whup your butt big time.) Still, the important thing is that we had a great time chatting about what it means to be a star in a Disney tentpole flick.
Do you think you’d change anything if you could go back in time? I’m a strong believer that things happen for a reason, and lots of bad things and good things have happened to be. But I think the good things would not have happened if the bad things didn’t happen. I mean, it informs your personality, who you are. There’s nothing I regret. Even shoe purchases.
This role is a bit different from some other roles you’ve done. It’s exciting. I always say that nobody ever knows what you can do until you show that you can do it. So it’s exciting that this film has come out now that shows a different aspect to me as an actress. People will go, that’s all she can do, so I’m always going to be Bond Girl Gemma Arterton in every interview. But until I show people that there are other things I can do, of course, they’re going to think that.
It’s also weird because there’s three films in the cinemas that I’m in (Alice Creed, Clash Of The Titans, Prince Of Persia). I went to cinema with my sister the other day and there were all these posters of me. And my sister punched a cutout of me, and I said, “Stop drawing attention!” I was very embarrassed.
So you’re not used to the stardom? It’s quite surreal I suppose. I’m sort of a normal person, and then all of a sudden it sets in. I think it’s because I don’t live that life, except for when I’m working, and I forget that people have seen clash of the titans. The other day, I was supermarket and these guys were looking round the shelves at me and giggling, and one of them came up and said, “I’ve got a bet with my mate, are you the girl from Clash Of The Titans?” And I said, “Yeah.” And he screamed, “Oh I knew it! You owe me 10 pounds!” And I was really embarrassed. I thought, “Gawd, it’s starting to happen” But I don’t really believe any of this rubbish that’s written and the hype. I don’t think I’ve caught the celebrity thing. I mean you have to do a certain amount of the stuff and that’s fine, but…
I’ve spoken to Keira Knightley about it, but hers was much more sudden and there was a frenzy for her, especially over here. But I think people are quite sick of me here. I’ve been around for a few years and people have seen me out and about and it’s not like I’m this unobtainable object. I have however, bought a house that’s off-road and no one can see into. No, it’s not a fortress. But even if it doesn’t happen and people aren’t bothered.
You’re quite fit, but much more did you have to train for Prince Of Persia? Well, I had to get fit because there’s a lot of running around. I was in the gym six days a week. Then I was learning to horse ride – really loved it, I even learnt how to stunt horse ride. I learnt how to fight. But the main thing was the horse riding.
There was this stunt where you jump up on a horse… It’s really me! I just said, “I’m going to do it”. I practised for two weeks to do that. It’s a basic stunt if you’re a horse rider, but I’m not. So I practised and practised and when it came to the day, the producers said, “We can’t let you do it”. But I said, “Oh please! I’ve been training for two weeks!” and they said alright. And that’s me in the film. And I made sure I looked over my shoulder so everyone knew.
What’s it like going from Bond girl to Persian princess? They’re completely different people. The James Bond film was good because it set me up for working in a big budget movie, because it’s quite intimidating. And I had never worked like that before Bond. But a lot of the Prince Of Persia crew were from James Bond, so it was easier. But Prince is such a different film and it’s a big role for me, whereas in James Bond, I had more of a supporting role and I didn’t feel the pressure of being the main girl.
Did you play the video game? I wasn’t a gamer when I was growing up. I was reading books. But I’d heard about it. Because it’s quite a famous game apparently. When I went for the audition, my friend was like “Prince of Persia, it’s brilliant, I used to play it….” And then I did some research and realised there’s a whole plethora of Prince Of Persia games. And my character, in the game, is more sex bomb and less Disney, so they toned her down.
What do you think of people always commenting about your beauty? I think it’s boring of me to constantly go on about how I don’t think I’m beautiful. But in other people, I always think the most beautiful people aren’t necessarily the people that others think are beautiful. You know, seeing imperfection is beautiful. Beauty is something that cannot be described. A lot of it is – it sounds cheesy – but it’s down to the person. You can meet some and not know why you think they’re beautiful. And that’s true beauty I think.
Jerry Bruckheimer has a habit of making stars out of relative unknowns – like Keira Knightley. Did you get any tips from her? Did you talk to her before filming started? I only met her recently when I worked with her boyfriend on a play. I suppose it’s a trend with Bruckheimer. He likes to cast unknown or relatively unknown British actresses like Rachel Weisz or Kate Beckinsale. But what happens to one person isn’t necessarily going to happen to another. Keira is very different from me, we’re very different people.
You’re quite tall, so is there a problem working with leading men, as most seem shorter than you. They’re usually a bit short, aren’t they? They always seem so big and strong onscreen. There was this thing in Britain for the actors to be very scrawny and a little boyish, which was a bad thing for me, because I just looked like their big sister than their girlfriend or whatever and I could never work with them. But now, I’ve found this guy, who’s amazing, who’ll you here about in two years’ time because he’s doing all these films, he’s my new leading man. His name is Luke Evans.
Your roles in Quantum Of Solace, Clash Of The Titans, Alice Creed and now Prince Of Persia aren’t exactly the wallflower types. Do you think producers see you as that sort of character? I think I do project that feeling when people meet me and that’s why I’ve been cast in those parts. I’ve always played heroines apart from the odd sort of thing I did at the beginning of my career and I like to play good role models. What I mean is that I would rather play a princess that kicks butt than a princess that just stands there in a dress going, (sighs). But I want to play baddies and victims and interesting roles. I just find it boring to be token characters or just a bit of skirt.
Are you similar to your characters? I think I’m quite close. Each character has got a little aspect of me that I’m similar to. Tamina’s like me in that she’s quite feisty and sharp and she doesn’t let anyone push her about.
What would you say to your sex symbol status? Are you serious? I wonder what my dad would say. Maybe he’d be really proud! Haha! I don’t see myself in that way, so I find it funny. You’ve met me, you can understand why I would not see myself in that way.
Why not? Because I’m such an idiot in real life!
You’ve said you like Lars Von Trier movies. Would you like to work with him? Reluctantly, I say yes, because I know what he does. He puts his actresses through hell but he gives them the performances of their careers. Like Emily Watson, I think that’s the best performance of her career, ever. I would love to work with him, but I’m scared to as well, but maybe that’s why I ought to work with him, because it’s good to do scary things.
Between Daniel Craig and Jake Gyllenhaal: Who’s more the gentleman? I was only on Bond for a couple of weeks so I didn’t really get to know Daniel too well, but we got on really well, considering. I worked with Jake for longer. Jake’s younger and – Daniel will hate me for saying that! – he’s fun, really good fun. Generally, I’ve been well treated and respected and well regarded. Jake was very much helping me and guiding me through this because it was a scary role. And he was very supportive.