METRO.US – With “Gemma Bovery,” Gemma Arterton joins Kristin Scott Thomas on the list of English actors who can speak French in French movies. In the film, she plays an Englishwoman who moves to the south of France and attracts the attention of an academic-turned-baker (Fabrice Luchini), who thinks she’s reminiscent of the hero of Flaubert’s “Madame Bovary.” Arterton herself fared better on her trip to France, which is also a country that offers better roles for women than the fare she was being offered in Hollywood. Indeed, after breaking through with roles in “Quantum of Solace,” “Clash of the Titans” and “Prince of Persia,” she has segued into almost exclusively smaller and more challenging films.
Had you been looking to do a film in France?
No, it just came by chance. It really changed my life, this film. I didn’t speak French before, and I was seduced by the fact that I’d have to learn French in a very short amount of time. So I learned French and now I speak fluent French. I moved over to Paris, and now I live between London and Paris. And I met my boyfriend, who’s French. The whole thing is because of this movie. [Laughs] Now I have a French agent, and I and I’m starting to work in France in French-language movies, which is a dream for me. They make many more movies in France than in the U.K., and many more of my type of movies. This whole new door is open. I wasn’t looking for it to open.
What method did you use to learn French so quickly?
I did this intensive two-week, really hardcore French course, where you stay in a family’s house. I would have breakfast and dinner with them, and then do eight hours of one-on-one French lessons. When I went there I didn’t speak any French. When I left I had enough in me to start speaking French to people.
It must be strange, at first, to act in a language you’re new to.
At the point of shooting I was only six months into learning French. I wanted to be able to improvise between the lines. I was working with an actor who was incredibly erudite and lingual: Fabrice Luchini, who is known for going off on massive tangents about literature. I wanted to have a modicum of comprehension with him, even though most of the time I couldn’t understand what he was saying. I would just nod and smile. When you learn another language you have to learn it physically rather than mentally. When you speak in a language or an accent that you’re not completely secure with, you often to it in a different voice. I know that when I speak French I speak a little higher. The director, Anne Fontaine, has had experience with American actors who had to learn French. They had to learn it phonetically and rhythmically. She said you need to walk around with the text, to do something physical, like washing up, while you’re learning it, so you can be comfortable with it on the day.
Have you gotten to the point where you can read “Madame Bovary” in French, which is often said, more than other translated novels, to be the ideal way to read it?
I haven’t! Maybe I should now. My reading is pretty bad. All I read in French is magazines and newspapers. Newspapers are good because you learn new vocabulary. But I haven’t read a proper French novel. Maybe I’ll start with “Madame Bovary.” [Laughs]
This is your second film based on a work by Posy Simmonds, who also did a twist on “Far from the Madding Crowd” called “Tamara Drewe.” Both lead characters in “Madding” and “Bovary” are proto-feminist icons too.
I think Madame Bovary is much more provincial. She’s definitely not as confident as Bathsheba [Everdene, “Madding”’s protagonist]. She is rather banal, Madame Bovary. Towards the end she finds who she is and who she wants to be. She goes on many adventures to try and find that. That happens with a lot of young women. Do not get married young! [Laughs]
France seems to be much more open than most national cinemas at depicting women as having healthy sexual appetites.
I think it’s dodgy ground to walk on. Depicting a woman as sexually promiscuous is not the way that people want to depict women, generally. I think we want to make sure women are in check. Women aren’t like that. In France there are so many movies with women in it, doing things their own way. That’s very French. The idea of mistresses and lovers is much more regular in France. In the U.K. we tend to be a little bit more conservative. [Laughs] We’d rather not talk about that kind of thing. Even when I did “Tamara Drewe,” which is a similar vibe, I didn’t even know if I liked her when I first read it. I was like, “This is a woman who sleeps around with all these different guys.” But then, all the guys are also sleeping around. All the guys she sleeps with are also shagging other people. But no one ever talks about that. They always talk about the woman like she was a slut. That’s funny and strange.
You’ve done your share of big Hollywood films, though over the last couple years you’ve done smaller, artier fare. It doesn’t seem like there are too many interesting roles for women in Hollywood.
No, there’s not. I mean, it’s sad. And if there are it’s always going to go to the Oscar winner or the very, very famous person. But even those parts aren’t that interesting. [Laughs] The woman is usually the accessory. That’s why I started my production company. I have this list of all these amazing women that no one’s ever heard about. I think it’s the beginning of a new era for women in cinema. Every interview you read with a female director or a female actor, they’re talking about that. It’s only a matter of time before people put things into their own hands and do it themselves. Personally, I can get the most interesting part in the theater. Why can’t I do that in film? In Ibsen and Shakespeare, most of the interesting parts are for women in their 40s. Why isn’t that translating in cinema, in Hollywood?
I feel like every time I talk to a female director or female actor I’m always asking about this, especially since Patricia Arquette’s Oscar speech.
It’s great, though. It’s such a movement now. It’s exciting now because there’s new producers — women who are producing and even men who are saying they want to tell [women’s stories]. A producer I’ve worked with a lot [Stephen Wooley], who just produced “Carol,” most of his films are about women. He develops scripts with strong women. That’s what he does. I think that’s brilliant. We need more people like that.
“The little English lady couldn’t speak a word of French. ‘I settled in Paris for several months, next to the Buttes-Chaumont'”, tells the actress, who was lodged by a French family. Anne Fontaine advised her to learn her text while doing an activity, doing the dishes or in the shower, to avoid stiffness. “My linguistic fluctuation suited the role: Gemma (Bovery) looks for the words like she looks for herself, she’s not sure of herself, she’s a stranger, who doesn’t dare to say things.” Regarding the lack of self-assurance, she admits the difference: “I have a huge self confidence. I constantly need novelty, it’s perfect being an actress. I get bored quickly.”
She knew Luchini as much as she knew the language of Molière. “The family who lodged me, they said: ‘You’ll see, he’s insane.’ I didn’t think he was such a big star in your country. I watched a TV show: ‘wow, he’s really talkative! He talks like a crazy train thrown into the night!'” Did he recite her all of Flaubert? “He knew I understood nothing. So, he refrained.”
“It’s my body, I tried to conceal it, in vain. When I’ll be in my thirties, I’ll have my body roles too.”
“When you’re busty, people want you to play sexy. Well, I’m not a prude, but I don’t want everything to become sexual.”
– Photo Gallery > Magazine Scans > Scans from 2014 > Le Point (France) – September 4, 2014
An English girl — From Tamara Drewe to Gemma Bovery, by Anne Fontaine, former Bond girl Gemma Arterton is building herself the destiny of a carnal icon much like Brigitte Bardot, capable of spellbinding the camera with a simple shoulder movement and of monopolizing a whole film.
“I don’t find myself very interesting but, in the same manner as Gemma (Bovery), my character, I’m fascinated by other people.”
– Photo Gallery > Magazine Scans > Scans from 2014 > Premiere (France) – September 2014
Gemma Arterton has joked she is “bit of a klept” as she can’t help stealing strange objects.
The actress has a habit of taking things from hotel rooms. Gemma confessed being light-fingered on the set of her movies too, with her best memento a prosthetic feature she sported on her face for a role.
“My nose! My nose from Tamara Drewe. I actually have it framed, in my downstairs loo,” Gemma joked to Empire magazine.
“Well, you know, I’m a bit of a klept actually… I stole a teapot [from a hotel]. It was a silver one, a proper nice one. I also stole a tea strainer to go with it – I’ve got the whole set. The teapot’s in my house, I use it often. Right now, it’s about three metres from my fake nose.”
The feisty British star has appeared in a string of action movies such as fantasy Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters and Bond film Quantum of Solace in 2008. The 27-year-old is a tough girl in real life too.
“I don’t know if I’d have punched him, but I might have given him a little slap,” she laughed when asked if she’s ever been tempted to hit a director. “And I’m so not going to tell you who, but there have been moments of angst between a certain director and me for sure. [The one film I’ve seen more than others is] Home Alone, because I have a thing for physical violence – also because it’s a brilliant film.”
Gravesend girl Gemma Arterton is back in fine butt-kicking form as witch killer Gretel in Hansel And Gretel: Witch Hunters. The Bafta-nominated actress talks about playing a feisty female, working with co-star Jeremy Renner and being a former Bond girl.
If you go down to the woods today, you’re in for a big surprise… because instead of teddy bears having a picnic, nasty witches have set up home in the depths of the dark forests, waiting to steal innocent youngsters.
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, written and directed by Tommy Wirkola, is inspired by the Brothers Grimm fairytale – but with a new twist in the tale.
Following their escape from a cannibalistic witch when they were little, 15 years later brother and sister Hansel and Gretel (Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton) have conquered their fears to become witch killers. They’re fierce, formidably-skilled bounty hunters with a taste for blood and murder, and hell-bent on retribution.
“I love the original fairytale and this starts there, then makes a real departure,” says Arterton. “The film joins up with Hansel and Gretel in the midst of their fame as witch hunters.
“But it’s also a time when they’re starting to wonder who they are and why these terrible things happened to them – which leads them into a very tense situation. It’s really about the two of them and it’s original, a brother and sister bad-ass team.”
After being abandoned by their parents, the siblings have to work together to bring down a coven of witches who are planning the ultimate revenge against humankind – and to gain immortality.
“The sibling relationship is such a great one to explore. Hansel and Gretel have this unstoppable bond but they’re also so different from each other,” explains the actress. “She’s the brains of the operation, he’s the brawn. He’s the joker and the show-off. She’s more the watcher, the researcher, the one who tries to really understand witchcraft. They have to each play to their strengths.”
The 27-year-old, who graduated from RADA in 2007, enjoyed working with Renner, who was nominated for an Oscar for his performance in Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker in 2010.
“Jeremy is so amazing at action, but he also has a lot of sensitivity when needed. He brings a lot of fun to their relationship,” she says. “He’s become a really good friend. We just have a very natural connection, very open-hearted and we trusted each other instantaneously. It was so important for us to get that brother and sister relationship right.”
Discussing who he has most liked dressing, Jean Paul Gaultier reveals British actress Gemma Arterton has been amongst his most favourite.
He said: ”Gemma Arterton is fabulous. I met her at Elton John’s winter ball. She’s great and I loved the Stephen Frears movie she was in, ‘Tamara Drewe”.
I’ve just added brand new scans from a Belgian magazine from 2010, Le Vif Weekend, that features a very interesting new old interview with Ms Arterton and also an unseen before outtake from her Observer photoshoot.
– Scans from 2010 > Le Vif Weekend (Belgium) – August 13-19, 2010