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On her accent: It would be easy to write off Arterton as a modern-day Eliza Doolittle – the beguiling girl from the grubby council estate whose raw talent was her ticket out, the rough diamond who made it to theatre school, then RADA and got poshed up by elocution coaches and Oxbridge classmates. But that would be the Hollywood version, a simple 2D trajectory. The reality is more multicoloured than that and Arterton was never anybody’s project. ‘People make a big deal out of my accent,’ she shrugs. ‘I think they bang on about it because they assume I’m posh and then they hear me and I’m clearly not.’

On her relationship: Arterton is honest and welcoming, but is also so guarded about her private life that, in June 2010, she got married without anyone knowing much about it. The press only snatched some long-lens snaps of her looking radiant during an outdoor ceremony in Andalucia, Spain. Laughing opposite her was her seldom-talked-of groom, Stefano Catelli, who she’d kept so secret that, for a time, the press believed he was a Bond stuntman, but is actually an Italian businessman who works in the fashion industry. Then, in February, the press was playing catch-up again. Set against less-smiling pictures of her heading to a party alone came the headlines that she and Catelli had separated. She was, reportedly, devastated. I know she is discreet but, since it’s out there, I say it would be weird if I didn’t ask. She manages some answers without being prickly or overly evasive. ‘Ummm,’ she thinks. ‘It was a wonderful time and I have nothing bad to say about it. [Even if they don't last] relationships can enrich your life in some way and then you move on to the next part – it’s all part of the process of living.”

On marriage: ‘I don’t know how I feel about marriage; whether it’s really necessary,’ she says. ‘If you are not religious, what does it mean? I’d always thought that – then I got married. And now I still believe in what I believed in when I was a child.

On soulmates: Does she subscribe to the soulmate theory? She smiles and shakes her head. ‘I look at certain couples and they’re soulmates, you can just see it,’ she says. ‘I like the idea that there is a soulmate out there and that you’ve known each other before, like in a past life you were brother and sister or something. I’ve yet to meet that person.”

Her unconventional upbringing: Her mum was a bit left field and bohemian. ‘We would always be painting or doing crafty things with Mum, and she’s inspired us to be musical.’ Sally took her girls to Glastonbury and, at home, they’d have family jam sessions. ‘My mum isn’t a typical mum. She’s individual. At the moment, she’s into clubbing. Last weekend, she went to Area [a superclub in London's Vauxhall]. I haven’t even been to Area! So when you’re a kid, you’re like, “You’re so embarrassing. Why couldn’t you just be like everyone else’s mum and sit at home and drink tea?”

Her new film: I spent this morning in a screening room downstairs watching her latest ‘little’ film, Byzantium, a gloriously dark, intense thriller where she plays Clara, a vampire prostitute and mother who’s so protective of her daughter – played by Saoirse Ronan – she will happily garrotte anyone who poses a threat. In real life, there’s less than ten years between the actresses, but the age difference makes sense when you see the film. ‘I’m just so maternal, it’s a bit weird,’ she laughs. ‘I’m the mother figure in our family in the typical way that I look after everybody and make sure everybody’s OK. I’ve been like that since I was very small, especially with my sister. I have to reign it in a bit, because I’m not her mum.’

GALLERY LINK:
- Photoshoots > Marie Claire UK (2013)

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