The Disappearance of Alice Creed - Gemma Arterton interview
Interview by Rob Carnevale
GEMMA Arterton talks about getting into character and coping with gags and being tied up for The Disappearance of Alice Creed, as well as why she prefers independent movies to some of her blockbuster work.
She also gives us a little insight into what to expect from forthcoming movie Tamara Drewe, which is due at Cannes.
Q. Being a three-hander between yourself, Eddie Marsan and Martin Compston, and stuck filming on the Isle of Man, I would imagine you all had to get on as a cast?
Gemma Arterton: Yeah, I think that element of it really helped. We all had such a short amount of time to achieve what we wanted to achieve, and we had an extreme scenario, so if it weren’t in a trusting environment… there was no real ego. It was people really feeling passionate about the script and wanting to achieve the story, so we just got on with it and everyone was really supportive. Another thing that was unusual was that I’ve worked on jobs where there are almost 200 people on set… you always make an effort to have a relationship but you can’t really when there’s 200. So, you’re still seen as ‘the actress’ or ‘the director’. On this, there was mutual respect for everybody. It was a really lovely working environment.
Q. How demanding was it?
Gemma Arterton: For me, obviously, it was demanding stuff and there weren’t many girls on set, either. It could have felt really awkward. But there was so much attention on making me feel OK that it felt like I was in control that day. I was actually going: “It’s alright everyone, I’m fine!” I was trying to make people laugh and trying to defuse the situation. J [Blakeson, director] kept apologising because he’d written the part, so felt responsible on the toughest days… but when I was cast in this, that’s what I agreed to do, so I just did it. You don’t want to cause a fuss.
Q. But spending hours with that gag in your mouth must have been awful?
Gemma Arterton: Well, you don’t spend hours in it… you take it out between takes. There were times when it did get a bit much. The mummification scene was hardcore, because I also had the gag in. It felt weird. But it was a really trustworthy situation. I never felt at any point like I was being taken advantage of. I was in such good hands. I could also spit the gag out whenever I wanted to. On the first couple of days, I remember saying: “Yeah, put the gag on tight!” But then I was: “Actually, no…” It tasted horrible as well… of Listerine or something weird. It’s quite funny, though, because I’m kind of a chatty person and the props guys would have to handcuff me and tie me up and sometimes I’d just be chatting and they’d just pop it back in… like: “OK now, shut up!” [Laughs]
Q. How did you handle the time constraints of filming?
Gemma Arterton: To be under pressure on films like this is probably the best way you can do it, because these characters are in a state of tension the whole time, they’re thinking on their feet, and we were all like that. We were all going: “F**k, what are we going to do now, we’ve got to work this scene out and we’ve got to get it right because we’ve only got this much time.”
Q. How easy is it to shake off the character?
Gemma Arterton: Generally, I’m not somebody who likes to take it home. I respect my life too much. But, having said that, I think there’s something to be said that if you are in a state of anguish or hysterics… there was one day where I had to be hysterical all day, then of course it’s going to affect you. You’re going to go home and feel drained, or feel like you need to let off steam. More than anything, we’d all go home and sleep on this one. But we were all staying on the Isle of Man, we were all in the same hotel, so on a Friday or Saturday night we’d all go out for a drink and that was really great. For me, after I did it, I came home to London and felt really exhausted. I think then it all caught up with me. But everyone worked so hard.
Q. Did you create a back-story for Alice Creed? We don’t find out that much about her during the film?
Gemma Arterton: I did actually. We were going to do this little kind of documentary thing… a missing person campaign thing for her. I did a little talk about who I was and where I came from. But I had to do that, personally, for myself, even though you don’t find out that much about her in the film. But I actually quite like the idea that you don’t know anything about these characters, and you don’t need to. You seem them for 90 minutes or so, and you see this world, and because it’s such an extreme circumstance it’s not like their back-story makes a massive difference to what goes on in the film. When you’re in an extreme circumstance, your mother’s maiden name doesn’t matter.
Q. How did you handle yourself physically.. I mean you have to act while being tied up for a lot of the time? What kind of challenge did that represent?
Gemma Arterton: I think you just have to do what you would do, but then you can’t because you’re restrained. I’m quite a physical person and I gesticulate a lot, which can be a problem when you’re in Hollywood and they do everything in a minimalist way… but it was nice, actually, because being restrained and not being able to express myself added to the tension and frustration in the character. She’s helpless physically, but her mind is racing and she tries to work out a way out of this.
And when I read the script, I thought she was a really brilliant character to play. I get to lie, to be restrained… it was a really massive challenge for me. When I read it, I thought I could do it. But nobody else did because they’d seen me in Bond [Quantum of Solace] and Tess Of The D’ Urbervilles. But it’s actually the kind of stuff that I like to do because I’m quite fiery. I actually find the other stuff harder. In Clash of the Titans, lines like: “This is your destiny [in posh accent]”… I find those really hard.
Q. You mention Hollywood, and have a career there, but you do still seem attracted to roles with a smaller budget, such as this. What is the appeal? And are you aware of your profile in helping to get films like this made?
Gemma Arterton: Yeah, if I’m really honest I never imagined myself in those kind of Hollywood movies. In fact, I never imagined myself in these kinds of movies because I never thought I would ever get work. So, I got offered these Hollywood movies and thought I’d better do them then because they’re big opportunities and they’re great fun. So, I did and I rode the wave.
But my heart… the films that I go to see at the cinema are not Hollywood blockbusters particularly. I’ve not got anything against them… I’m in them! But I don’t go and spend my money on them. I’d much rather go and see a [Michael] Haneke film, or this film. This kind of movie is in my DVD collection. I’d just finished Prince of Persia and really wanted to do something that was stripped… not stripped bare because the detail in this is meticulous and really high quality. It’s just got a millionth less of the budget. We shot this in four weeks and Prince of Persia was shot in six months. Sometimes, we’d do a scene a week, whereas on this we were doing three scenes a day. For me, that’s like: “Yes!” Because I get so bored otherwise.
It’s like: “I’ve said this 90 times now and it’s not even usable anymore because I’ve lost any emotion or sparkle in the eye.” With this, we only had one chance. They’re different things and I think I lend myself better to this raw, on your toes kind of filmmaking rather than the luxury of having time. That said, you get really nice trailers on the big ones and better food!
Q. Do you wish the headlines would come up with a better prefix for you than ‘Bond girl Gemma Arterton’?
Gemma Arterton: [Smiles] Yeah, that would be great!
Q. Can you tell us a little bit about Tamara Drewe, which will be at Cannes?
Gemma Arterton: Yeah, that’s right. It’s directed by Stephen Frears, I play Tamara Drewe and it’s a black comedy. I haven’t see it yet, so it’s hard to say, but it’s based on Posey Simmons’ book, Tamara Drewe, which is based on Far From The Madding Crowd. But it’s got a fantastic cast and it’s quite weird… it’s very, very British [laughs]. She’s very, very posh.
The Disappearance of Alice Creed is released in cinemas on Friday, April 30, 2010.
- Buy it on DVD (Amazon)
- Buy it on Blu-ray (Amazon)
- Read our review
- Gemma Arterton interview
- J Blakeson interview
- Alice Creed Photo Gallery