Interview by Sally A. Edwards
This feature first appeared in the print edition of BLAG Vol.2 Nø 10, 2008
Gemma Arterton as many know is one to watch and rightly so. She’s gone from head girl in St. Trinian’s to a Liverpudlian in the controversial Three and Out. She’ll soon be seen in Guy Ritchie’s RocknRolla and as the new Bond Girl in Quantum of Solace. All this and she’s been the subject of an onslaught of press coverage and interest. We first meet Gemma when she arrives at The Gore for our shoot. She bowls in full of energy and confidence with a warm and very down-to-earth attitude. Not afraid to show her feelings, Gemma recalls stories with verve and laces them with the odd ‘Fackin’ ‘ell!’ shaken but not stirred by her infectious giggle.
Please introduce yourself including name, occupation and the three words your friends say would sum up your character and style.
"Gemma Arterton, Actress. Friends would describe me as: crumpled, prim and sunny."
You left school and went straight into performing arts college. For anyone wanting to take that route, how would you advise them – from picking where to go, to making the right impact? "I took at chance and left school at 16 after my GCSE’s to pursue an acting career. I went to drama school at 18 and it was one of the best things I’ve ever done. If you don’t have connections, or just simply don’t know where to start with it all, my best advice is drama school because it gets you ready for the big wide world of acting. It means that you have skills and more strings to your bow when you eventually do get an agent and start working. It trains you to be versatile and open to all the different challenges that being an actor throws at you. Nowadays, anyone has the chance to audition for drama school, what with government grants and funding. Drama school’s not for everyone, but I had a fantastic time and strongly recommend it."
Can you tell us in a nutshell how you went from there to RADA, to being in theatre and now very much in front of the camera? "At 16, I left school and went to a performing arts college nearby. Although I enjoyed school, it didn’t really suit me as I hated sitting at desks and doing homework. So I decided to take a practical course in acting and physical theatre, which pretty much primes you for drama school. When I was 17 I auditioned at every major drama school in the country, which I loved as for the first time, I was travelling all over the country on my own, meeting new people and learning so much. I got into a few drama schools, but eventually chose RADA for many reasons. I originally turned the offer down – as I was intimidated by the place – but that was just my own stereotype of ‘the posh drama schools.’ I didn’t think I’d fit in there, but they talked me round and I realized that it’s recognised as the most famous drama school in the world for a reason! It was an incredible time. The training is so intense, but so rewarding. I was eager and open so I got on well there – it’s hard if you resist things. I was known as a complete workaholic, I didn’t stop the whole time I was there! In the final year, you put your training into practice and put on shows to the public, including casting directors and agents. I was lucky to get my agent really soon (Who’s amazing - Sally Long-Innes!) and start auditioning very quickly. Half way through my third year I left to film ‘St Trinians’, and then work at the Globe Theatre which was the happiest experience of my life. Since then, it hasn’t really stopped!"
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What valuable experiences have you gathered along the way? "The last few years have been such a learning curve for me. I went to drama school at 18 and am now a working actress, which I still can’t really believe. I suppose the most valuable thing I’ve learnt is to not take yourself too seriously, and be grateful for absolutely everything."
You’ve got some big and very different films coming up including: RocknRolla and Quantum of Solace. Can you tell us about each of your characters and a very quick story line?
"Rocknrolla: A Russian mobster orchestrates a crooked land deal, putting up millions of dollars for grabs and attracting all of London’s criminal underworld. It’s got a fantastic cast. I play June, the secretary of a record label. She stands out from the tough guys as she’s fluffy, funny and charming.
"Quantum of Solace: I can’t reveal too much about this one! It’s a direct follow on from Casino Royale, taking place about half an hour after the film ended. I play Agent Fields, who works for MI6 and she’s a very refreshing, real and funny character.
"Tess of the D’Urbervilles: I recently filmed Tess... for the BBC, which was my biggest challenge yet. It’s such a fantastic character – I’m playing Tess and still can’t get over it! Again it’s very different from anything I’ve ever done – I love challenges, as it requires me to be totally vulnerable most of the time. It’s also got an incredible cast – Eddie Redmayne, Hans Matheson, Jodie Whittaker and Ruth Jones to name a few as well as a brilliant director – David Blair. So far it’s been incredible. I keep having these funny feelings that it’s going to be really something. I think it’s coming out at some point in the autumn."
How are you finding the attention with all the press you’ve gathered at such a fast rate? "The attention from the press is strange. I’m especially surprised at how interested they are, when most of my work hasn’t been seen yet. It’s difficult because you have to be careful and protect yourself, but at the same time be sincere and open. I’m learning. I never ever get recognised out on the street, which is great, so I don’t have to deal with the paparazzi or anything. I like having that independence."
You’ve got loads of films ahead of you. If you could choose an ideal film, what genre would it be, where would it be filmed and what would your character be like - personality and style-wise? "If I could do an ideal film... Well I never think too far ahead - but I’d love to do a musical, or a film about music. I love singing and music is my first passion. My main interest is to keep my work varied and choose fully rounded and interesting roles. So far I’m pleased with the variation, both in terms of character and genre."
What are you listening to at the moment? "I’m always, always listening to music. At the moment I’m really into Camera Obscura, The Concretes, Joanna Newsom, always Bjork (my favorite ever), Talking Heads, Billy Bragg, Rolling Stones... I go through phases all the time."