Gemma Arterton isn't a household name. Not in the United States. But the British actress, just three years out of drama school, is bound to gain street cred with "The Disappearance of Alice Creed," a riveting, if small (only three actors) film about a kidnapping that opened earlier this month in Manhattan (coming to Long Island soon).
She's been attracting attention at home in part due to strong performances (onstage with Maggie Smith in "Love's Labour's Lost," as Tess in the BBC's "Tess of the D'Urbervilles," and as Agent Strawberry Fields in the recent James Bond-er, "Quantum of Solace"). Then, there's her interview mentioning she was born with polydactyly - having two extra fingers (one on each hand), which were removed after birth. The tabloids and talk shows went nuts.
This year's been busy - in addition to playing the kidnap victim in "Alice," she has co-starred in "Clash of the Titans," with Liam Neeson and "Prince of Persia," with Jake Gyllenhaal, and she got married in June (to an Italian businessman). She sat down at the Crosby Hotel in SoHo to chat with Newsday contributor Joseph V. Amodio.
Watching "Alice" was intense. Playing her must've been even tougher.
Certain scenes were hard. Like when I try to get the gun. We ended up shooting that for like . . . two days. I had to cry from 8 in the morning till 8 at night. I don't think anyone is supposed to cry that much. Your body can't take it. I'd go home like a zombie. My eyes never recovered for, like, four days. [She laughs.] So that puffy-eyed thing I have in the film is for real.
I heard you sometimes asked to be tied up, even for shots that didn't require it.
It felt . . . right. The ball-gag was choky and horrible. And the handcuffs were painful - I was pulling a lot, like that - - so I had all these bruises up my arm.
Guess it was good you shot the film in sequence, instead of out of order, like most films.
That was brilliant. After the first few days, I knew what it was like. . . .
To be grabbed off the street, pulled into a van?
All those horrible things that happen in the first few scenes - I remembered it, and that informed the rest of the film. Of course, sometimes they'd call a 10-minute break and I'd say . . . "Ohhh, just leave me here, cuffed." [She laughs.] It takes so long to get undone, I couldn't be bothered. And it was sort of nice, lying on a bed.
I Googled your name and up popped a weird subhead - "Gemma Arterton . . . fingers."
Yeah. That amuses me. It runs in my family, and we're all a bit proud of it. I'm an advocate for abnormality, and freakishness. Not in a weirdo way but, y'know, I think imperfection is beautiful. So I think it's good to talk about imperfection.
Congrats, by the way, on your wedding. How did you possibly plan a wedding while on two publicity tours?
Three! It was insane. We had a wedding planner - it was the only way, because I'm really, really disorganized. Ohhh . . . it was a shining light at the end of all that work. It was the best day of my life, for sure. Absolutely thrilling.
My parents are traveling around the UK now . . .
. . . London, Stonehenge - but I don't think they hit your hometown.
Gravesend? It's close to London . . . but so far. Kind of like Jersey. [She giggles.] Very suburban. Mum's a cleaner, dad's a welder. Mum was a single parent. It wasn't a privileged upbringing. Nobody in the family was a performer. But I was lucky enough to get scholarships to places I applied to - like RADA . And now my sister is there, as well.
Is it hard being with drama school friends after all this good fortune?
Yes. And no. Generally, we don't talk about work. We talk about . . . the world. I've met so many actors who are living in a bubble. They don't go into the real world because they're famous, and they can't. And I think, "How can you play Mr. Joe Blogs down the road if you don't meet Mr. Joe Blogs?"
Joe . . . Blogs?
It's a very English term for any ole person.
Oh, like "Joe Schmo." Why is it always "Joe?"
Yeah. [She smiles.] Sorry. Any Tom, Dick or Harry.
I like that better.
I'm lucky because people don't really recognize me. Although in "Tamara Drewe," my next film, I really look like myself. The other week, in London, somebody went, "Tamara!!" I was like, oh, God.
Because it's . . . fake. Look, it's part of the job, I can't really complain. It just makes me feel uncomfortable. I get shy in that situation. It's weird. [She laughs.] I'd prefer if you just didn't recognize me.