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Gemma Arterton is the beautiful, British actress currently making big waves within the movie industry with her roles in St. Trinians, The Clash of The Titans and Prince of Persia. Dubbed 'This Years Girl' on her glorious cover of GQ, Gema is a commercial entity of the finest standard with her English rose features and kissable lips, but Gemma has a edge underneath her glamorous curves, proven with her latest role in The Disappearance of Alice Creed.
Gemma Arterton's West End theatre dressing room is full of fluffy fairy lights, photos of her fella and family in kitschy frames, sweets, make-up and a giant sack bulging with fan mail. "That's just this week's," Gemma says, looking a little flummoxed. "And it's just the stuff that has come to the theatre. I get at least the same again to my management offices." Gemma spends her time beavering her way through the mounds of correspondence in one of her windows of downtime at Hollywood socialite in Douglas Carter Beane's The Little Dog Laughed. She tries her uttmost to keep up with her ardent admirers, but then there's no pleasing everyone. "I was accosted the other day by someone who'd writtent to me asking for a signed photo," she announces with crisp, trained punctuation. "They said I'd sent them fakes, that I'd get my secretary to sign them. The cheek, I couldn't believe it. I said, 'You're so ungrateful.. Give me them back and I'll give them to someone who wants them.' They were so annoyed, we had to call security!" On thee cork board by her door, next to thee postcard displaying the road sign for New York's 'Gay Street' (bought for her by her 'gay boyfriend', actor Harry Llyod, currently playing with her other half in the production) is a letter from an older lady who witnessed the whole sorry confrontation and felt compelled to write to inform her that she'd dealt with it in a very dignified way. We sit with a mug of tea for an hour or so and natter on about her family, popcorn culture, and her ability to wet herself on demand.
You may recognised Gemma as Strawberry Fields, the alluring Bond girl, secret agent that met with an oily demise in 2008's Quantum of Solace. Or maybe as Kelly Jones, the head girl of St. Trinians, in two helpings of British cinema's most notorious sass-trash. You might recognise her as princess lo in the Number 1 Hollywood-brain-buster Clash of The Titans. Or maybe you peered over a jumbo sized carton of salty cornels as she battled her way through ancient Iran as Princess Tamina, in disney's Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. If Gemma's honest though, none of those guises are how she'd ideally want you remembering her. "I'm more into European than American cinema," she says, her legs bouncing over one side of her wheeling chair. She lists her favourite directors of the moment as Lars Von Trier, Andrea Arnold and Jacques Audiard, but she's all too aware of her chronic case of indie cred deficiency. But securing bums on seats is something the Arterton brand is becoming increasingly powerful at, as she's more than discovered. At the time of being interviewed, she nods to the following fourteen days as, "The fortnight when my life will go truly mental", with three of her most anticipated films hitting screens. Two of them are the aforementioned blockbusters, the third Gemma's boldest careet move to date, by some considerable distance. "It was totally gut wrenchging, a horrible shoot," she recalls of her first curve-balling stride into the world of indie cinema with micro-budget The Disappearance of Alice Creed. The film is a three cast member story about a daughter of a rich businessman who's kidnapped and tortured in a woodland safe house by two ex-convicts. "For four weeks I was beaten, stripped naked, crying every day. In one scene one of the men makes me go to the toilet in front of him whilst tied-up; it was humiliating. But it was a good story that I believed in and that I wanted to tell." Unsurprisingly, as she notes, her managment were somewhat hesitant about the move. "Especially as the previous week I'd been a Disney Princess!"
Gemma's career curveball already appears to ahve hit a homerun, scoring an immense spread of positive reviews at screenings across the Toronto, London and Tribeca film festivals. "Alice Creed is doing me more favors than anything else right now," she ponders. "A lot of directors and producers that I really respect and would love to work with saw and loved it. Hopefully it will lead me down a cooler direction. Ultimately, aside from being able to clothe and feed yourself, you want to work on the kind of things that you'd be interested in seeing yourself." Whilst it may appear a sensationally incongruous career move at first, the commercial vs. independent axis forms a rather double-edged sword. "If I hadn't gone all the blockbusters, I doubt very much the producers of Alice Creed would have been nearly as keen for me to be in their film," she shrugs, "But I've had a huge amount of fun, and I'm excited at how things are taking shape." The air of anticipation in the film world around Alice Creed is unsurprisingly high as jumps like this are not the kind of thing such a commercial starlet makes every day, if every lifetime. "I love the idea of people being shocked, that's part of the whole reason I wanted to do it," she beams, flashing giant, perfect teeth. "People get fixed ideas of what you can do because they've seen you in certain contexts and until you prove yourself capable, why should they think anything else? Those who've seen me at the theatre will understand it more. I think it's definitely a statement of sorts, showing the people who've only seen my commercial side exactly what I'm capable of. It might be a challenge for them to see me in a role like that, but personally I found St. Trinians more challenging."
Raised on benefits by a single mother in Maidstone,Kent, Gemma's childhood was anything but the heriditary showbiz path. "Being an actor wasn't something I'd dreamed of all my life at all," she says, shrugging. "I left school at 16 and fell into a performing arts college, just as something to do. I didn't start thinking about it as a potential job until I was advised to do the RADA auditions and somehow was accepted." All feline features, delicate angles and preposterously svelte limbs, Gemma inhabits that rare and hallowed turf between the gorgeous girl next door and the unearthly model of the Victoria's Secret mold, the kind of girl that striaght boys the world over dream and lust over. She's preparing a new beginning of her own, with her forthcoming art house dalliance being a sign of things to come. "I went to talk at the school where my friend works the other day and all they wanted to know as whether I was doing the new St. Trinians, I had to grit my teeth and smile," Gemma says. "Who knows what the future holds? But I've said goodbye to the school uniform, that's for certain."
source: my scans from i-D Summer 2010