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HB Forman Talks to
Gemma Arterton
of
Tamara Drew


Regency Hotel New York
September 27, 2010

Tamara Drew Opens
Friday, October 8, 2010



“Gemma Arterton – A Beautiful Swan”

Selecting Gemma Arterton to portray a swan was a brilliant decision; it was the ugly duckling portion of her latest movie that was more of a stretch.

The tall, beautiful, energetic, 23-year-old Gemma has the leading role in the new Sony Classics movie Tamara Drew which opens Friday, October 8, a charming, funny, sexy, modern tale about a writer’s retreat in the romantic English countryside – stocked with a cast of inviting characters, including pompous writers, rich weekenders, bourgeois bohemians, a horny rock star, chickens, cows, rolling meadows, and much, much more.

Tamara Drew is a contemporary comedy of manners using the oldest magic in the book – sex appeal. Arterton’s character Tamara Drewe, the heroine of the film, returns to Dorset in the English countryside after the death of her mother to renovate and sell the family home. Soon after she becomes the pebble that goes into the pond and everything radiates from her arrival.

The film’s director, Stephen Frears, said it was crucial to find the perfect actress for this role. “When I met Gemma she immediately reminded me of the drawings (from the graphic novel that the movie is based on) because she is so curvy,” Frears said. “She’s warm and funny, and I thought, ‘Oh, I’d like to watch her for 90 minutes. It’s as simple as that.”

Tamara Drewe left home at 18 an awkward, plain, angry girl, and has returned in her mid-20s as a beautiful woman, a swan (after some plastic surgery) that no one quite recognizes. Despite her success as a journalist and the fact that all the men around her, young and old, are obviously smitten, in her heart she is still that plain, awkward and angry girl. She believed that if she changed her outward appearance, including her large nose, everything inside would change, too. But beauty, she learns is not quite enough.

Perhaps, Arterton could relate to Tamara’s plight as an ugly duckling since she had her own physical difficulties as a young girl. She was born with a crumpled ear, and six fingers on each hand, which was surgically corrected when she was a child.

But that is ancient history. Now things couldn’t be more charmed for her. Arterton was featured in Empire Magazine's "The Hot List" as one of the biggest upcoming stars in the 2010's. Other people on the list were Channing Tatum, Zoe Saldana, Marion Cotillard and Mia Wasikowska. She is considered for the same roles as Keira Knightly and Carey Mullgan.

She has quickly become one of Britain’s most promising rising young stars. Within months of graduating from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in 2007, she made her mark on the stage, TV and film. She worked her way through school selling make-up in London. She has starred in several major BCC productions, including a heart-rending portray of Tess in Thomas Hardy’s classic novel.

She made her film debut in the remake of the classic St. Trinian’s, became an iconic Bond girl in the 2008 film Quantum of Solace, beating out 1500 other actresses for her role. The first scene she shot for in the Bond film was the love scene with Daniel Craig. She also starred in Guy Ritchie’s RocknRolla.

This year has seen a major surge in her career with her roles in Prince of Persia, Clash of the Titans, and more major stage roles in London opposite Rupert Friend.

She has been happily married since June to stunt man and body double Stefano Catelli. The two have been together since the spring of 2009.

During a recent cool fall day at a posh hotel in Manhattan, Arterton was animated, open and eager to talk about life. With her fresh outlook, it was easy to see why her star continues to rise. And why we will enjoy this film and her others to come.


Dominic Cooper and Gemma Arterton in Tamara Drew

 

HB Forman: So, have you always been so witty?

Gemma Arterton: Ha! No! Although, yeah. I suppose the only similarity between Tamara and I - apart from our physical appearance - is our wit. And also the fact that we were real losers when we were younger!

HB Forman: You were a loser?

Gemma Arterton: Yes! I wasn't popular, or anything like that. I was quite bookish and geeky. And it's funny, when I was younger, I don't think I was witty. I never really knew what to say.

HB Forman: When did that change, which it obviously has?

Gemma Arterton: It was only when I left home and fended for myself, that I kind of developed my wit. I had to because London is a big bad wolf place! Thank you for saying I'm witty. I love that!

HB Forman: Exactly what kind of bookworm were you?

Gemma Arterton: Well, my favorite book when I was little was The Alchemist. But do you know, it's so funny because that's one of those books that like everyone reads five times in their life. I read it first when I was eight years old. And it really made an impression on me. I think I was quite advanced in my thinking for an eight year old, in terms of spirituality, and all that.

HB Forman: Has your taste in books changed? What is by your bedside now?

Gemma Arterton: Now, what am I reading? Well, I'm just about to start a play, so I'm reading about dreams. I'm reading Freud's dream psychology at the moment. Which is really strange.

Because I'm just about to do this Ibsen play. And it's about that time. So I'm reading lots of literature from around that time. But it's an awful shame. Because I read a lot of stories, but they're always in script form, rather than in a novel! And it's never the same thing. And I can't wait to actually be in the middle of a job. So I can read a novel again!

HB Forman: Will your upcoming play be performed in the West End?

Gemma Arterton: Yeah, it's in London. I start next week. And I feel like I haven't done enough work for it, even though I have. I've been working on it for three months! Reading everything. And trying to understand this play. Apparently it's one of the problematic plays. But it's wonderful. It's The Master Builder. So it's one of his later plays. And it's a mixture. It's not literal; it's impressionism. So, that's what I'm reading!

HB Forman: And what did you think when you were reading the book for Tamara Drewe?

Gemma Arterton: I was entertained and intrigued. And charmed. But also baffled, because I didn't know what it was. I just knew that I liked it. And I was actually quite apprehensive about doing it at the beginning.

HB Forman: That’s a little surprising because you were so perfect for the role. Can you tell me why you were not sure about doing it?

Gemma Arterton: Sure, because it could have been awful, if it was in the wrong hands. Yeah, it could have just been god-awful. And it was like Stephen was spinning plates when he was directing it. So when I read it, me not being [the director] Stephen Frears I thought, ‘oh no. It's going to end up being a bad TV film’. But they love it in France, more than they do in England. And I don't know why. Nobody knew. But I love that about Tamara. That somebody had the balls to write a character who is not explainable. And that's exciting. Because you think as an actress, I'm the one who is going to be able to understand her. And that's hard.

HB Forman: What about donning that big nose for Tamara Drewe?

Gemma Arterton: Well, nobody knew who I was. And when I went to make myself a cup of tea, I was told no, it's only for people working on the set!

HB Forman: Was it really strange switching it up and doing the ugly duckling thing?

Gemma Arterton: Yes, it was quite different. I was the most unappealing, un-sexy girl. And because, you know, actresses are always being pampered on set. And like, I pounced on the Alice Creed role. And the director thought he'd never find anybody to do it. Because it wasn't about being beautiful and polished. I can just do the performance, and not have people judge me like that.

HB Forman: But you could relate to her. How so?

Gemma Arterton: I know a girl who is just like Tamara Drewe, and I've always been intrigued by her. She has no friends. Apart from me! Because I'm using her as a character study!

HB Forman: She lets you do that?

Gemma Arterton: No, she doesn't know it! But I was always interested in her. Because I thought, why, why do you always do these things? There must be something inside you. And I've always felt very sorry for her. And I suppose that's why I've always remained friends with her. Because I know she's not that person inside. But as I said, somebody had the balls to just commit to something. You know, I've worked on films where they screen test them, whatever they do, ‘what the fuck.’ But they do that. And then they'll go ‘oh, the audience wants them to kiss. So we'd better change that relationship. Or, they don't like it when her hair is down. So we'd better put her hair up.’

HB Forman: How does that happen?

Gemma Arterton: I think it's a lack of confidence in the material. But this is not that film, where we do that. We went, this is what it is, and if you don't get that character, that's fine. You know, that's life.

HB Forman: Do you read your reviews or other press? A lot of actors don’t.

Gemma Arterton: The only article I read about this movie - and I never read reviews, but it was out on the table – and it was an interview. And they wrote about my arse practically the whole interview. And it was frustrating for me. Because if you actually watch the movie, my ass is a device. You know, she does it for a reason. But that's what happens, people talk about things like that. And you have to accept it. You can't complain about it. And it's on the poster too. But I guess at least it gets people interested! You know, it's not just about a bum. It's about characters, and lives. And what matters to me is the internal bit.

HB Forman: How about the cows, did you feel comfortable now around them?

Gemma Arterton: Well, I didn't grow up in the world of Tamara Drewe. My world was very much the opposite. But I love that area of Dorset. Although I'm a city girl, I do miss it.

HB Forman: What do you miss about life in the British countryside?

Gemma Arterton: The mud! No, that gets a bit annoying. But that part of the world is just beautiful. And it rained a lot there, which made it look gorgeous and glowy. And I always fancy myself as someone who will move there one day. But I know I never will. I'll just be in the city.

HB Forman: Were you ever a rock band groupie like those little girls in the movie who longed to be with Dominic Cooper’s character?

Gemma Arterton: I was never a groupie. But I did have my crush! My first crush was Leonardo DiCaprio. I was 12 or 13, and had a poster of him on my wall. Titanic was out then, and it was huge. And it seems so funny now. But I never had a rock band crush. I think if I was a bit older then, maybe Kurt Cobain. But, no.

HB Forman: Does Leonardo know about your crush?

Gemma Arterton: I don't know! He probably doesn't know who I am! But god, it would be awful if he found out. Or if I met him.

HB Forman: Would you like to meet him?

Gemma Arterton: Yeah! I'd probably drool or something! Oh, I wish I hadn't told you that now! I'm going to get found out. Just say that I admire him. I'm married; my husband would be really upset!

HB Forman: What was it like working with Dominic Cooper?

Gemma Arterton: This is my favorite performance of his. But he's so neurotic. He's always like, am I doing it right, am I doing it right. And he was freaking out. Stephen was telling him; ‘will you stop doing the flicking the hair thing.’ But I think Dominic managed to create this pathetic, idiotic, egocentric character. That you love! He did a very good job of making himself pitiful! But charming at the same time. You had to understand why those girls were obsessed with him. He had to have some sort of sex appeal, and suave. But he is a loser, and sort of 10 years behind Tamara in the mind!

HB Forman: So would you want to be a writer like Tamara, or a blogger?

Gemma Arterton: I'd get in trouble. Because I always try to fight battles that I can't win. And get in trouble for it. So maybe not! I think I'd end my career maybe, if I said what I felt! And nobody would ever cast me in anything!

HB Forman:No, I always struggle with writing -- because I admire writers and journalists.

Well, thank you.

Gemma Arterton: I can't believe I just said that! No, but I don't have the confidence to say, ‘here is what I want to say. And everyone here, read it!’ But when I was playing Tamara, I did write articles like she writes. And I wrote five chapters of a book like Tamara. And it was my way of getting into character every day. And when I was writing as Tamara, I was like yeah. This is good stuff. It's funny, it's witty, it's inventive.

That’s impressive.

Gemma Arterton: But when I write myself, it's awful! I kind of like hiding behind a character. So maybe I should have a pseudonym!

HB Forman: What do you see in your future?

Gemma Arterton: I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing! Even yesterday I was freaking out. Because I was like, I've got to do this play! And I haven't acted for a year. ‘Oh my god, I might be awful.’

HB Forman: I doubt it.

Gemma Arterton: You know; I'm like every other actor in the world who's neurotic, and doesn't think they're any good. That’s nothing new there. But after doing this movie, I felt, why am I not like Stephen and only doing work that I want to. And just go with my instinct. And like read a script and go, I don't know what it is, but it's good. And I'm going to do it. Why am I listening to all these other people talking about things like great strategy? Well, I didn't get into acting to have a strategy, I just like doing it.

HB Forman: No set plans or time schedule for anything.

Gemma Arterton: No. I don't have a plan, or anything. I'm interested in whatever interests me. Um...And then the films I'm doing next year are hopefully so different. And that's exciting for me. I hope it continues like that. And if you really love acting and it excites you, then you should do that. And it can be scary. But I feel like comedy is my forte. Maybe because my mind is like that, and the rhythm of my speech and everything. So that's why I probably shouldn't do stuff like that for a while. I should do stuff that's scary! Very dark and intense.

 

 

 



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