Saturday, August 07, 2010

The Emergence of Gemma Arterton

An Interview with Gemma Arterton

There is something particularly surreal about the first half hour of J Blakeson’s indie genre pic, THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ALICE CREED.  Not only do we get to see an incredibly lean and plainly put preparatory period for the brutal abduction that is about to take place, but we also get to see something else entirely unexpected.  We get to see a blockbuster darling in the making explode as a serious actress.  Gemma Arterton may disappear as Alice Creed but by doing so, she emerges as herself.

Arterton, a 24-year-old actress from England is a natural beauty and a genuinely pleasant person to sit across a table from.  She was thrust on to the scene after appearing as Strawberry Fields in the most recent (and hopefully not last) James Bond film, QUANTUM OF SOLACE.  Prominent parts in CLASH OF THE TITANS and PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME followed.  All of these roles would be considered prime exposure for a fresh face but all of these films have one other thing in common.  Critics and fans alike have also almost universally dismissed them.  If not careful, Arterton could find herself banished to the land of bad movies for eternity.

“I was worried I was getting typecast, always being in these big, fantasy movies.  It was really important at this time in my career to do this.  I actually jumped on this movie.”

Typecasting is death for an actor so it is no wonder that Arterton wanted the part of Alice Creed, the daughter of a successful businessman who is kidnapped and held for ransom.  That said, what exactly was Arterton jumping on here?  The role of Alice Creed required Arterton to be forcefully handcuffed and tied to a bed with a bag over her head and a gag in her mouth and having her clothes cut off of her body, leaving her naked and vulnerable on camera.  She even had to urinate into a bottle while she was still bound and gagged and with other people in the room watching her.  I don’t know about you but this doesn’t sound to me like something anyone in their right mind would jump at.

“I didn’t feel like I had flexed my acting muscles in that way in a long time.  I wanted something that was kinda raw and scary.  I wanted to scare myself.”

And what about those pesky restraints?  They had to hurt.

“The physical restraint was kinda the easy bit.  It actually formed the basis of the acting for me.  We filmed in sequence and did all the brutal stuff in the first week.  It was horrid but it kinda set me up for the rest of the movie.  I remembered it all in my body.”

Whatever her motivation, her mission was certainly accomplished.  THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ALICE CREED is a bare bones depiction of a plight we have seen on film countless times before.  The best thing about though it is that, despite this, it actually feels fresh and inspires some very real fear in the viewer.  That fear stems not only from the tense confinement created by Blakeson but also very much from the chemistry from the three-piece ensemble.  Eddie Marsan and Martin Compston join Arterton on screen as her inexperienced but determined captors.  Despite the tension on screen, everything was decidedly less so when the cameras weren’t rolling.

“That’s such a wanky thing to do,” Arterton says in regards to the methodology in which actors do not speak in between takes to maintain the tension.  “As soon as ‘Cut!’ was yelled, everyone was making jokes and being silly.  It was necessary to do that.  I mean, it was too much already.”

Meanwhile, that’s not what everyone has heard.  Arterton, naturally fidgety it would seem from the amount of times she played with her face during our brief interview, has already had to dispute charges to the contrary.

“Someone said to me the other day that they heard that I wanted to be tied up for the whole movie.  Yeah, but just so I could fall asleep on the bed in between takes without having to waste so much time untying me.”

You’ve got to love a girl who so innocently wants to stay bound to a bed just so she can catch a quick catnap.  And after people see her in THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ALICE CREED, there is no question that many more will be loving this girl for a number of other reasons.  And, given that Arterton has had enough nap time to figure out where to go from here, we should have plenty more opportunities to enjoy her.

“At the beginning of my career, I just jumped on everything, thinking I’d never work again. A couple of years on, I understand a little bit more about what I do want out of it and that I can make choices.  I feel like I’m just opening the door to the rest of my career because of this movie.”

The door is definitely open and now all Arterton has to do is walk through it.

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