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
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
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
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
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
So, have you always been so witty?
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
You were a loser?
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.
When did that change, which it obviously
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
Exactly what kind of bookworm were you?
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.
Has your taste in books changed? What is
by your bedside now?
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!
Will your upcoming play be performed in the West
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!
And what did you think when you were reading the
book for Tamara Drewe?
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.
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?
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.
What about donning that big nose for Tamara
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
Was it really strange switching it up and doing
the ugly duckling thing?
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
But you could relate to her. How so?
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!
She lets you do that?
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.’
How does that happen?
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.
Do you read your reviews or other press? A lot
of actors don’t.
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
How about the cows, did you feel comfortable now
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.
What do you miss about life in the British countryside?
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.
Were you ever a rock band groupie like those little
girls in the movie who longed to be with Dominic
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.
Does Leonardo know about your crush?
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.
Would you like to meet him?
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!
What was it like working with Dominic Cooper?
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!
So would you want to be a writer like Tamara,
or a blogger?
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!
I always struggle with writing -- because I admire
writers and journalists.
Well, thank you.
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.
Arterton: But when I write myself, it's
awful! I kind of like hiding behind a character.
So maybe I should have a pseudonym!
What do you see in your future?
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.’
I doubt it.
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
No set plans or time schedule for anything.
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.