Capone talks to the lovely Gemma Arterton about THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ALICE CREED, CLASH OF THE TITANS 2, and Bond girls!!!
Published at: Aug. 8, 2010, 1:15 a.m. CST by Capone
Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.
The lovely British actress Gemma Arterton has only been making films about four years to date, but in that short time, she has been cast in some of the highest-profile roles imaginable in big-budget extravaganzas such as the last James Bond film THE QUANTUM OF SOLACE (as Agent Strawberry Fields, who dies by oil), CLASH OF THE TITANS (playing Perseus' guardian angel Io), and in the only major female character in PRINCE OF PERSIA. The smaller films she's been in have been solid, but her supporting roles didn't make much of an impact (PIRATE RADIO, ROCKNROLLA).
But with the three-person kidnapping drama THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ALICE CREED (which opened in limited U.S. markets this weekend), Arterton--who really hasn't been called upon to tap into her years of dramatic training in any size movie or role--is given the most challenging role she's tackled to date, since she spends most of the film tied down to a bed and under a hood. Written and directed by J Blakeson and co-starring Martin Compston and Eddie Marsan, the film is wonderfully tense and surprisingly layered and complex considering the synopsis might make it appear to be a simple story of a ransom situation gone horribly wrong.
I'm always interested to talk to new actors because I like to assess their potential for longevity. Arterton comes from a solidly blue-color background, and talking to her on the phone, her working-class accent came through quite clearly, making me realize that her more posh voice in some of her films is part of the performance. She came across during as open and honest during our talk about ALICE CREED and her upcoming Stephen Freers-directed provincial comedy TAMARA DREWE. And since the DVD for CLASH OF THE TITANS had just come out, I took the opportunity to grill her a bit about 3D and the critical reaction to the shoddy look of TITANS' 3D. Gemma Arterton was really fun to interview, and I hope you enjoy…
Gemma Arterton: Hi there.
Capone: Gemma, how are you?
GA: I’m well. How are you?
Capone: Good. Did you have a good lunch?
GA: [Laughs] Yes, I did. It was lovely, thank you.
Capone: Good. First of all, the film is remarkable in its simplicity. It’s rare that I ever watch a movie going into it knowing nothing about it, but this was one of those cases, and I think that really benefited the whole experience, because it’s quite a remarkable little story.
GA: Yeah, when you're talking about it, it’s quite hard to publicize it. Honestly it is and, as you know, the joy of watching the movie is not knowing anything about it, being taken on this nuts journey and, yeah, it’s really hard, because people always want to know the details.
Capone: I’m not going to be asking any spoilerish questions, but considering some of the other, much larger films that you've done in the last couple of years, your memories of playing Alice Creed must be very different and more intimate. When you recall making this film, what sticks out in your mind about it being different from everything else you’ve been up to lately?
GA: It was so much more focused. It was focused on the story and the acting. There were only 30 people on the crew and three actors, so you know everybody that was involved in the film was pretty much on set in one room, and you could talk to everybody. There was no hierarchy in this film; there was no ego. It was everybody collaborating together to make this movie, so anybody that was making it weren’t getting paid very much, so they were doing it out of the real passion for the film. That’s what I remember from it, this real focus and real determination to get it right in time with the restrictions that we had, because of that and a real collaboration as well. It just felt like everybody was valued and it was one of the most satisfying jobs I have ever worked on. It was grueling, but satisfying because of that. I really felt like I was actually working.
Capone: It feels like we;re watching a filmed play.
Capone: Did spending that much time just sort of restrained like that make you feel particularly vulnerable? Was that always you under the hood?
GA: It was always me, yeah. There was never anybody else. There was one stuntwoman that did only one thing, which was right at the top of the movie when I get taken out of the cab. They were just worried about me kicking my legs into the car, but everything else is me. It all informed the acting--the restraints and claustrophobia. It made me tense. It made me nervous. It made me angsty, and it all informed it, and even when we were shooting, even though I was tied to the bed for the main part of the movie, it wasn’t like really tight restraints, but it helped sort of just living that for the day. You go home rather than keep breaking up the day by going to get a coffee or whatever it is. It was just very, as I have said, focused.
Capone: It also limits the tools that you have as an actor, without being able to use your hands and by not having a lot of motion you are sort of forced to act with just your face.
GA: Yes, that’s right. It’s actually quite good, because I over gesticulate. It’s one of my things with acting, so with my hands being tied, that was great. It’s like when actors always put their hands in their pocket. They don’t know what to do with their hands, so me not being able to do anything was kind of in the face and the eyes and that was really great. That was a learning process for me for sure. I’d say it’s great to be tied up for that reason. [laughs]
Capone: It sounds like an acting class, yeah?
Capone: Most actors start out making these smaller films and graduate to the larger ones. Was this sort of a nice break in terms of just the scale of things?
GA: Yeah. I’ve been quite overwhelmed actually. I had just come off PRINCE OF PERSIA, which was just the absolute pinnacle of Hollywood filmmaking and the money that goes into making a film like that. I don’t think you get any more than that and I was quite overwhelmed by it, because I'd always imagine myself in these small films or on stage. So I felt like I needed to get back to that, just as an actor to remind myself of what it is to be an actor quite purely and work on something, and it was really refreshing, as I said, just having three actors to work with. You can properly get a relationship going and talk about things. On big movies I think sometimes you can get so caught up in the spectacle of what we are trying to make and sometimes when it’s like a long, long shoot you will film the beginning or the middle of the film right at the beginning and you have forgotten about that scene. [Laughs] You know, whereas with this it was shot in sequence pretty much and in four weeks, so I remembered the feeling of doing each scene very vividly, so it informed the next scene. It was so much more like a play.
Capone: Yeah. Considering how you are still relatively new in the acting game and your career has sort of taken off so quickly, are you in a position where you can seek out specific acting challenges with each script and just sort of test what you are capable of and try different things?
GA: Yeah. I find that really exciting, I think. For example, my next project is a play, and I am absolutely petrified, because I don’t know whether or not I can do it. It’s really complex, but I wanted to do it for that reason. The reason I wanted to be an actress in the first place is because I wanted to do something that was different everyday, so I was a bit worried after being in a couple of blockbusters that I would maybe do one more blockbuster and that be the end of my career you know, and I wanted to challenge myself and also challenge the audience.
The best example of that is when I read the script [for ALICE CREED]. The casting director sent me the script, and I loved it and I said I would love to meet with J [Blakeson], the writer-director for it and that I was interested. He was doubtful. He told me this later, he said that “I don’t think that Gemma is the right person for this.” He had just seen me in the Bond film. So I came in and I did the readings, then he changed his mind and that was the best example of what I was worried about. I would never get the opportunity to be in the sort of movies that I would go to see. This is the sort of movie that I would see, and I always like those sort of darker, more twisted like Lars Von Trier movies or Michael Haneke, and I never thought I would ever get to be in anything like that at this rate, you know, and so I needed to do something like that.
Capone: I have a feeling a lot of people who see you in this who have only seen you in other films will change their minds as well, the same way J did.
GA: I hope so [laughs].
Capone: It just occurred to me that a couple of years ago I was on a press junket for QUANTUM OF SOLACE, they were taking us through Pinewood Studios, and they were building some of the PRINCE OF PERSIA sets at Pinewood. Those sets were massive.
GA: Yeah, it's nuts. Even on Bond, it wasn’t to the scale of PRINCE OF PERSIA. It was just nuts, as I said it was sort of pinnacle, even for scenes that might have been completely cut, they built a whole world. It’s just crazy, and then with ALICE CREED we had A room. It was done on the cheap you know? [Laughs] I don’t know, you can remake amazing films with loads of money, but you can make amazing films with no money as well. It just goes to show that it’s not really down to that.
Capone: Being in QUANTUM OF SOLACE sent you down a path in many ways. What do you remember about that selection process and the reaction people had to you as a result of that?
GA: No. I had just left drama school, so I was quite naive and didn’t really know anything about being in the series and the scale of these things and I also didn’t ever think I’d get it, so I was quite cocky and silly, and I went into the meeting and didn’t ever think I was going to get it. So I just played about and then I got called in again and again and then I did the screen test and then I got it. It was just bonkers. I couldn’t get my head around it.
Even when we were shooting it, even when it was coming out, I still couldn’t get my head around it. It was quite weird for me, just because my own perception of my casting, which I think is more of an ALICE CREED sort of thing and still felt like that when I got the Bond role I was quite shocked that I had actually gotten that role. I thought “That’s not what I imagined myself ever doing,” and then I got it and then PRINCE OF PERSIA and CLASH OF THE TITANS--these big movies. I feel like I’m more of the raggedy old raw smudged makeup type, and so I couldn’t get my head around it and then there was a strange reaction to that [Gemma is referring to the fact that many in the foolish British press said she wasn't attractive enough to be a Bond girl].
And I remember when I got and everybody always says it: the curse of the Bond girl where you would always be seen as the Bond girl and I really didn’t believe it. I said, “No, that’s not going to happen,” but having looked back on it, to some extent, it’s not so much what my career… It’s more of what other people have been thinking, like the audiences have always thought that you would be a Bond girl. My career hasn’t necessarily been like that, and I’ve done not big movies that are different that people would expect from a Bond girl. But I will forever be “Gemma Arterton: Bond Girl” forever and ever. [Laughs]
Capone: I think maybe audiences loved in as a Bond girl because you died such a marvelous death.
GA: [laughs] Yeah, I know. The death was amazing. I’m glad I died in an iconic way. Brilliant.
Capone: I think the Bond girl curse only applies to the ones who live until the end, so maybe you got lucky.
GA: Oh, okay. That’s it. [laughs]
Capone: When CLASH OF THE TITANS came out, so much was written about that film in terms of the 3D conversion and the many story changes and reshoots. Were there any surprises for you when you saw what the finished film was?
GA: [laughs] Well I’m making the second one, so I have to be careful…
Capone: Ah, okay.
GA: …but it was a completely different movie to the movie that I read originally.
Capone: Well what’s interesting is that the DVD has just come out and people are watching it going “Wow, this movie actually looks pretty good when it’s not in 3D."
GA: Yeah, it was brilliantly shot. We had a great cinematographer, and I remember seeing bits and bobs and thinking “Wow, it’s beautifully shot” and then I just thought “Why are we putting it in 3D?” But then you know… It kind of lent itself… When I saw it in 3D I thought, “Well, actually I kind of get why they are doing it, and also, people won’t be able to pirate it,” and I get that, but I think if we make the second, it will be shot in 3D.
Capone: That seems to be the way that people are going these days.
GA: Yeah, I think especially with that type of fantasy epic action movie, I think it kind of lends itself to that.
Capone: In many cases, a career trajectory like yours makes the actor, particularly for women, a sort of target for tabloids, and a lot of times the actors start making poor choices because they become aware of their own image, and career comes before bold acting choices. What are the things in your life that are grounding you and help you stay away from all of these horrible things?
GA: I’ve just got an amazing group of friends and family, and I don’t really hang around with people that work in the industry that much really. I don’t really have that many actor friends and even if I do hang around with actors, the last thing we do is talk about it. "Let's talk about something else." I think it’s really important. I go home after work and I just don’t talk about it. It’s work, and I think that’s really important to make sure that you stay in contact with reality, because that’s what we are supposed to be portraying and often you meet actors who are in a bubble. Then I think, “Well how can you play somebody that’s not living in a bubble?”
And that’s what it is that keeps me really really together. I don’t court celebrity stuff, and people don’t recognize me as well, which is just a blessing, because I think I do look quite different in movies, and people don’t just think when I’m walking down the street, people don’t say anything, and I think that’s great as well. You can just continue as you would like to, and sometimes, yeah, it can get completely out of control for some actors, and some people don’t even court it and it gets out of control. For me, people still don’t really know who I am and that suits me fine. [laughs]
Capone: It’s interesting, every role that you have done, at least in my mind, looks like a different person is in each movie. You have this real sort of transformative quality that maybe makes it a little easier to stay hidden.
GA: Yeah! It’s great. I love it. [laughs]
Capone: Before the end of the year, we are going to see you in Steven Frears’ next film TAMARA DREWE, and that looks again like you are tackling comedy and some romance. We haven’t really seen you do too much of that yet.
GA: No, it’s a black comedy. Even though it’s a comedy, my character is probably the least funny character in it, and she’s quite sort of lost and quite a sad character actually, but it’s brilliant. I love the film. I’m really proud of it, and Steven Frears is genius. He really is an amazing guy, and there are some amazing performances in it, and I’m just really thrilled with the movie.
Capone: So you mentioned you're going to be in a play. Has the play been announced? Can you say what it is?
GA: Yeah, I’m doing "The Master Builder" by Ibsen [Travis Preston directs from Kenneth McLeish’s translation], with Stephen Dillane playing the lead role and I’m playing Hilda Wangel and I am really kind of petrified actually a bit. It’s just such a nuts play and it’s very complex and deep and it’s one of the best female roles written for a women since Shakespeare, so I’ve got to try and nail it, really.
Capone: Have rehearsals started on that?
GA: I did a workshop for it last week, but rehearsals don’t start until October. I think it opens in November and finishes in January in London, so I can’t wait. I think it’s going to be a real learning curve for me, but I think it will be great.
Capone: Well it sounds like most things are for you, at this point at least, which is good.
GA: Yeah. I think that’s the best way to view everything, as well. Even if you have a bad experience on something, you have to see it’s a learning process.
Capone: Let me ask you one more thing. Are you having fun? Are you enjoying this?
GA: Yeah! [laughs]
Capone: I know you keep saying you just keep going from job to job, but are you actually able to sit back and go “This is kind of fun”?
GA: Yeah. I can honestly tell you that I am one of the happiest actors that I know. [laughs] And I love it, I really do. I love my job. You know when you hear people whinge [I had to look this word up, but it's the Brit equivalent of "to bitch"] about their job, especially actors? I always think, “But you are so lucky!” [laughs] But I do, I love it. I love it so much. I love the traveling and the people that I work with and everything and I am so lucky to work with such varied people as well, and now the really cool jobs are starting to come my way, and it’s just getting better and better and, yeah, so I am having the time of my life.
Capone: Great. That’s good to hear. It was a real treat talking to you. Thank you so much, Gemma.
GA: And you. Thank you.
Capone: And you just got married, right? Congratulations on that.
GA: I did, yeah! Thank you so much. Take care, bye.
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