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A Turtle's Tale - Gemma Arterton interview

Gemma Arterton

Interview by Rob Carnevale

GEMMA Arterton talks about lending her voice to Shelly in A Turtle’s Tale and why she loves animation and has now fulfilled another of her ambitions.

She also talks about her career to date, her passion for theatre and why she’ll never leave it behind and the forthcoming Hansel & Gretel movie.

Q. Could you identify with your character Shelly’s taste for adventure?
Gemma Arterton: Absolutely. If I was a turtle I’d be like Shelly. Literally, when I filmed this I was doing a play, which was the complete opposite of this so it was nice to be able to do something that came quite naturally. It’s really sweet because Dominic Cooper, who does the voice of Sammy, is a friend of mine… we obviously worked together on Tamara Drewe. But he recommended me for the role and I was really grateful to him because I’ve always wanted to do an animation. And he’s basically Sammy as well so for us it was Dominic and Gemma swimming in the ocean!

Q. This was filmed first before the voices were added, so did that help you?
Gemma Arterton: I did see it first and it is really unusual but it’s really great because you obviously get a feel for the character. It’s been done in French and with American accents and each version is very, very different. It has the feel of each nation, so ours is a bit more dry and silly. So, I was very lucky otherwise you can go into the booth worrying about where to start. With this, I had an idea of the world and I fell in love with it after seeing the French version.

Q. There’s also a strong environmental message…
Gemma Arterton: That was one of the reasons I wanted to do it as well. There’s another film called Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs, which I really love, because that has a really good message but in a clever way… it’s not ramming it down your throat. It’s just saying: “Think about it.” It’s the same with A Turtle’s Tale. It’s saying this is what is happening to these poor animals that we care about, who are really cute and lovely, so I think it’s a good way of educating the children.

Q. Were you surprised by how animated you got in the recording booth?
Gemma Arterton: I really let go, especially when you have to do the things like the screaming and going crazy. I also had to do a lot of flapping of fins to get the movement right, so at first you’re a bit like: “I look like an idiot!” But then you think: “Oh sod it!” And you just go for it. But it’s really good fun doing this sort of thing. Obviously, when you do movies you have to do a lot of ADR and things all the time, so I’ve been in the booth quite a lot doing stuff like that so it wasn’t completely alien to me.

Q. But is animation harder because you’re not working with someone directly?
Gemma Arterton: It is a bit and I suppose it’s harder to be spontaneous. But luckily for me I already had a relationship going with Dominic in that we’d worked together, we were friends and we had good banter. He’d already recorded the part, so I could visualise him in it, which made it quite cute. I could see what he was trying to say. Most of my scenes are with him. But it can be quite isolating and I’m very much someone who needs other actors there… I very much bounce off other actors. Sometimes I get stuck when it’s just me. I start getting self conscious. But because it was so quick-fire with this, I did it in a day and so I didn’t really have time to think about it.

Q. The 3D in this looks great, but are you a fan of 3D in general? Do you go and see them?
Gemma Arterton: Not particularly. I do like just watching a movie as a movie. However, having said that – and I’ve even been in 3D movies where it hasn’t particularly worked – with this one I saw it for the first time this morning in 3D and I thought it really worked. I think with the animated films lend themselves to it more because it is heightened and it’s a cartoon. It is a bit odd when you see my face in 3D… it’s a bit strange but when it’s a little cute turtle it’s fine. I also think it’s getting better and better and when it’s done for the right reasons it’s great fun. Kids love it, too, which is the main thing. It’s for children, so it makes it much more of an event for them.

Q. Have you picked up on any interesting turtle facts?
Gemma Arterton: Not really [laughs]. I mean, I’d heard that they mate for life but it wasn’t until I made this movie that they really hammered it home and I think that’s really sweet. I like the idea that animals have that sensibility… that they do want to stay with the same one. I think it’s adorable. I love that scene with the old couple covered in barnacles on their shells. One of my favourite things in life is when you see an old couple walking down the street hand in hand – I just think it’s so gorgeous. But I’m an old softy really.

A Turtle's Tale

Q. Did you do any research? Or have you seen turtles hatch?
Gemma Arterton: No, but I wish I did because then I would have been able to go to some tropical locations! I was on holiday in The Maldives and I know they do nest there but we just missed it and I was gutted because it’s meant to be just spectacular when you see them all going.

Q. Now that you’ve done animation, theatre, TV and mixed indie movies with blockbusters how would you say they compare and do you have a preference?
Gemma Arterton: My preference will always be theatre because it’s where my heart lies and it’s what I started with and eventually I want to direct it. It’s where my real interest is. But I just love trying out new stuff. Acting for me isn’t just for me about being in front of a camera… it’s so much more than that. It’s always about telling a story and there are so many ways of doing that, so I’ll always want to try something else. Animation was the one that I hadn’t done yet and I’ve only just touched on it really.

Q. How hard is it to keep making time for yourself to go back to theatre given that you’re increasingly in demand from Hollywood?
Gemma Arterton: Well, because my passion is theatre I see it as when I do a film I’m taking time out from my theatre career. So, I’m desperate to get back into the theatre. So, I have to make sure that I put my foot down, especially with the agents and stuff, and say: “Hey no, I’m doing some theatre!” I’ve been lucky. Last year, I didn’t do any films and did theatre all year. So, I’ve sort of had my little fill of it. Now, I’ve promised myself that I’ll do some films this year and then I’ll do a play at the end of the year hopefully. It is hard but it matters so much to me that it’s just something that’s going to be necessary and people will have to deal with it.

Q. What else is on the horizon for you, movie-wise?
Gemma Arterton: I’m just about to start filming Hansel & Gretel, which is a very, very dark version of Hansel & Gretel. I play Gretel and Jeremy Renner is Hansel and it’s when they’re 15 years older. I’m really excited about it because it’s quite a big role for me and quite a departure from anything I’ve done before, so watch this space!

Q. Are you doing Wrath of the Titans?
Gemma Arterton: I’m not in Wrath of the Titans!

A Turtle's Tale

Q. Joan Collins has said that she thinks you would make a great Alexis Carrington… Do you take that as a compliment?
Gemma Arterton: Absolutely! I mean she said I look clever as well, which I thought was very nice of her to say. But mainly I was just very happy that Joan Collins knew I existed! She’s such a diva and such an icon. It’s funny because my mum loved Dynasty, so when she found out that Joan Collins had said that she was more excited than she’s ever been about any job prospect even though I’ve never been approached. It’s just her saying it. So, it’s quite funny really… quite fabulous in a camp way [laughs].

Q. The job keeps you very active and abroad a lot. When you are back in England are you able to relax and go home?
Gemma Arterton: Here in London, absolutely! And I’m here most of the time. I’d say about 80% of my time is spent here. I’m out and about all the time. I walk everywhere, I’m on the bus, so people do recognise me and they’ve probably seen me before so they’re not bothered anymore. But I think that’s a good thing because if you try and remain mysterious people are surprised when they see you. With me, I think they’re just bored of seeing me – but that suits me just fine because I like to live as much of a normal life as I can. That’s why I love living in London. People are very respectful of your privacy. If they see you having a coffee in a coffee shop, they’re not going to interrupt you. I’ve never had that.

Q. You’ve done some modelling recently. How does that compare to acting?
Gemma Arterton: I was really lucky that I worked with Anton [Corbijn] and he’s such an amazing director. I was in awe of him, to be honest. But he directed me like he would an actor, so I didn’t feel it was about: “Make your body do this…” And: “Give me that look baby….” It was none of that. It was just have fun and have this attitude. But I’m used to doing photo shoots because you have to do them all the time for promotion and what not.

It used to be something that really freaked me out, so I suppose it’s become part of my job and I’m used to it. That said, I do still have to adopt a type of character and even when I was doing the shoot, and I’ve seen it in magazines and stuff since, it says my name under it and I find that weird. My friends tell me they’ve seen it too and they’re like: “It’s weird because it’s still not you. It’s still not Gemma, my friend.” But it can be good fun. And Anton was incredible. The people he’s shot in his career are the people that I’m obsessed with in the world. But he’s so down to earth that we had a real laugh.

Tamara Drewe

Q. You’ve got to indulge so many of your passions, so what is the fondest memory you have from either a movie set or on stage?
Gemma Arterton: OK, so the best time I’ve had was on stage recently where I just felt I didn’t know what I was doing and it was just like flying. When you act, that’s what you want – the time just goes and you’ve done something and you don’t know what it was. And that was in The Master Builder with Stephen Dillane. But my fondest memories are probably when I filmed Tess of the D’Urbervilles because I just love that kind of material. I made the best friends on it and I didn’t want it to end. Even though it was a very harrowing story and it was really hard to film, I just loved it.

I think, for me, I’m always more interested in the process of making the movie than the movie itself. So, the experience of making Tamara Drewe was also really fun. It was really great British actors, a great director and a great crew and we just had a real laugh in the British countryside. So, I’ve had some really great times. Actually, in Alice Creed I had a bit of movie magic as well with Eddie Marsan. He just completely frightened the living daylights out of me and I didn’t know whether he was acting or not and it’s one of the only times where I wasn’t sure if I was acting either. I didn’t know if it was real or not and that’s magic… that’s what you aspire to.

Read our review of A Turtle’s Tale

Read our interview with Dominic Cooper