You might have first noticed beautiful British brunette actress Gemma Arterton as Kelly, a feisty student with a pert black bob hairdo in the 2007 girls’ school comedy St. Trinians, but it was her role as sexy, redhead Bond babe Strawberry Fields in Quantum of Solace that cemented 24-year-old Gemma Arterton into the collective consciousness of every red-blooded male moviegoer! Her first day on set was her love scene with hot Daniel Craig!
Since Quantum, Gemma has gone very “retro” as a Greek priestess opposite hunky Sam Worthington in the Clash of the Titans remake and she’s donned exotic make-up and long robes for her role as a fantasy princess opposite a very buff Jake Gyllenhaal in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.
Currently, audiences are enjoying Arterton back in modern day dress (and some very sexy Daisy Duke short-shorts) in the Stephen Frears ensemble comedy Tamara Drewe, loosely based on the Thomas Hardy novel Far From the Madding Crowd.
Gemma is Tamara, the once ugly ducking living in the bucolic English countryside who has gone to the big city, gotten a nose job and returned a bombshell wreaking havoc on locals. She’s courting men at a writers’ retreat and snaring a popular rock star. It’s the ultimate make-over revenge piece!
SheKnows chatted with affable Gemma in Beverly Hills recently and instantly loved her. She’s very down-to-earth, looks gorgeous without a trace of make-up and sits cross-legged and shoeless, girlchat-like on a sofa. We kick off our shoes too and we’re off….
SheKnows: This movie really made me want to visit the pretty English countryside.
Gemma Arterton: You’ve got to. You’re a writer! You should go to a writers’ retreat (like in the film).
SheKnows: Love to! Tamara changes a physical attribute and it ends up changing her personality. When you change your hair or style, does it change the way you feel about yourself?
Gemma Arterton: I always change my hair for parts and I always feel the same but it’s the way people relate to you that’s different. That’s what it’s all about, this movie, the cosmetic surgery stuff. It’s about you actually doing something (inside). You’re the one that’s living it. You don’t see yourself or relate to yourself. It’s the way people react.
SheKnows: You got a pretty strong reaction as a redhead.
Gemma Arterton: I really loved it. I feel like I should be one. I’ve got auburn hair and I loved it, but my boyfriend at the time was “I don’t know how I feel about you being a redhead.” It’s funny and in Tamara Drewe she deals with the nose job thing fine when she’s in London. But, when she goes home, they react to it a totally different way. You can’t hide. They know (your past). They remember.
SheKnows: Tamara finally has got to decide between the cute rocker and the cute farmer in the film. Which would Gemma have gone for?
Gemma Arterton: The cute farmer all the way! I love working men, proper men, strong, supportive, loving men — someone that can hang some shelves for you and change a light bulb. I don’t think Ben (Dominic Cooper’s rocker character) would ever be able to do that. [In her Ben accent] “Wha?? Change what?”
Tamara Drewe: Female appeal?
SheKnows: What do you hope that modern women take away from Tamara’s journey?
Gemma Arterton: I don’t think it all really sorts itself out with Tamara. Even at the end, I feel like she still has this facade. What I would like people to get is you can do anything you want to change the way you look, the way you come across to people, you have control of that. But, if you don’t change your opinion of yourself, there’s no way you’re going to be happy. I don’t think she ever changes her opinion of herself so she may never be happy. No one else can be responsible for changing you. You have to do it yourself.
SheKnows: So true. So, as a teen, Tamara had a big, pointy “beak” nose. What did you think when you looked at yourself with the fake nose on? “Hey, now I could play Elphaba in Wicked?”
Gemma Arterton: [Laughs] Yeah, it was that big a nose, just like the wicked witch. I love all the stuff like that. I don’t get to do it as much as I’d like. I love dressing up and transforming. It was a relief actually, I could muck about and be not polished.
SheKnows: Later, after her return home, Tamara wears some super short shorts (Daisy Dukes) in the film. Did you feel sexy in them or were you sort of embarrassed?
Gemma Arterton: I was embarrassed. They were not sexy in my opinion (the entire male population would disagree with her). They were just too much. I think sexiness is Catherine Deneuve. She would never be seen in a pair of those. It’s desperate, that kind of attire — I think — but that’s why they’re completely appropriate because Tamara’s desperately trying to get (that kind of) attention. So it’s too much. They were necessary but, personally, I wouldn’t wear them.
The Drewe dish
SheKnows: You had read the Thomas Hardy book Far From the Madding Crowd that Tamara is loosely based on, but had you seen the 1960’s film starring Julie Christie in the part?
Gemma Arterton: I had seen that. I’m a big Julie Christie fan. I think her character is much more petulant and young. I decided that Tamara is more like 29 or 30 (Gemma is only 24). Bathsheba, the Julie Christie character, was early 20’s and a spoilt brat. Even though Tamara is a brat, she covers it up better. She’s more sophisticated. But, I really do think that the two characters are very similar.
SheKnows: What about Tamara can you identify with?
Gemma Arterton: You always have to find something you can bring to the character. I suppose the reason (director) Stephen Frears cast me in it, or he says, is he thought I was witty and had the same sort of temperament as Tamara, the rhythm. I don’t know, her motivation thing, I couldn’t relate to. We have very different backgrounds. She’s middle class, privately educated, horse riding on the weekends whereas I was not that at all [laughs]. We’ve very different.
SheKnows: Tamara falls for a rocker that some local teen girls are mad about. Was there a rocker or musician you thought was hot as a teen?
Gemma Arterton: I was into old rock. I had pictures on the wall of the Beatles and Led Zeppelin and stuff. But, it’s weird when you fancy Paul McCartney when he was 20 when he’s really in his 60’s [we laugh]. I fancied him as he was 30 years ago.
SheKnows: You and Tamara Drewe co-stars Dominic Cooper and Luke Evans are all classically trained actors with stage work on your resumes. Does that make a difference in a film when you are working with actors with that similar theater background?
Gemma Arterton: I think it really depends on the individual, but, coming from a theater background, you really do have a good work ethic. It’s very much about the collective when you are working in theater. That’s why I think in this film, every actor in it is a great actor and it works nicely. It’s more about (the ensemble of actors).
SheKnows: So, fewer ego clashes among theater folk?
Gemma Arterton: Anyone that’s in theater doesn’t have any ambitions to be a celebrity. The egos are all on the same plane. But it does depend on the individual, of course. There’s a rehearsal process in theater and often, in film, you just turn up and do it. It’s a completely different skill. I think it’s important that theater actors do film as well. It internalizes your performance.
SheKnows: Which real-life person or character in literature would you love to play some day?
Gemma Arterton: I’m just about to do an Ibsen play (The Master Builder) but I’ve always loved Hedda Gabler. It’s a cracking character. But there’s loads of actresses that I think are fascinating — Elizabeth Taylor.