Gemma Arterton, who plays Prince of Persia‘s Princess Tamina, is certainly one of Britain’s up and coming actresses, having played a small but memorable role as Agent Strawberry Fields in the last James Bond movie Quantum of Solace. In the year since that movie came out (and we did the following interview), she’s been super busy to the point where she followed “Prince of Persia” with the equally large-scale epic Clash of the Titans will be coming out just two months before this movie, which she filmed six months earlier.
During this set visit, ComingSoon.net had a chance to sit down with Gemma on Day One, well before the rest of the cast and before we had a good idea what the movie was about.
CS: How is it going from being a Bond girl to doing this back-to-back? Gemma Arterton: I did a job in between which was completely detached from anything that was action or “fairy taley” which was nice and then I went back into it, but in Bond, my part it doesn’t really have any action, whereas in this, I have a lot. It’s sort of a full-on action role, although she’s a high priestess so she’s not a typical kind of gun-wielding knife… she’s very spiritual, so it’s an interesting take to have someone that’s action-driven but has got religious beliefs, it was an interesting character.
CS: You look so different now than you did in the Bond movie, so which is closer to your actual look? Arterton: Well who knows? It’s all a front. No… probably this is (closer). I’m not as tanned as this usually, but I’m dark naturally. With the Bond film, they made me look completely different. (laughs) I don’t even recognize myself in it but yeah, ’cause the other day I was looking at a kind of line-up of all of the roles I’ve played and I just don’t recognize myself in any of them, which is great.
CS: Is it inspiring or intimidating to work with so many experienced actors like Daniel Craig and now Ben Kingsley? Arterton: Absolutely inspiring. I tend to go into things head first, not really thinking about what I’m doing, which is sometimes better, then going, “Oh My God, I’m about to act with Ben Kingsley!” because then you’re all yourself, and that’s what they want ultimately anyway, and you’re just another actor working with them on this film ultimately, so that is brilliant, but I don’t really get to worry about it. I probably should. (laughs) I probably should when I’m being all cheeky and campy with Sir Ben Kingsley, but no, it’s brilliant and an honor.
CS: We heard how hot it was when you were shooting in Morocco. Can you even describe it? Arterton: Well, it got sort of progressively hotter as the shoot went on and we got further into the desert. At one point, it was 58 degrees, which is 100 odd, something like that but I was alright because I’m wearing clothes that were suitable but the boys were all wearing… you’ve seen some of the costumes. Leather and loads of black, and it was unbelievably hot, but alright. I quite like the heat, so I was okay. We were really sort of grateful to come home and be in a kind of controlled environment again, because we were also filming when Ramadan was on so all of the poor Moroccans that were working on the film, not being able to drink water in that heat and stuff. So it’s incredible but it was an experience. (laughs)
CS: To prepare for this, did you play the computer game at all or read a lot of Persian fairytales? What did you do to prepare for this role? Arterton: (laughs) I didn’t play the computer game. I’ve done sort of research on where it came from, but the story’s quite different to the computer game. The character’s a little bit different as well. I’d sort of read up on Persia and the history, but this film is completely sort of fantasy. You can’t really place it I don’t think or compare it to anything else, so I thought the best thing to do was just to approach it with a fresh mind and just your own intuition, and so that’s what I did.
CS: Were there any particular kind of skills you had to learn for this film, like any type of fighting? Arterton: Yeah, I, well I had to learn how to horse ride ’cause I’d never done it before in my life, and it’s kind of become a real new sort of passion for me. Pretty much the whole cast went to Spain and learned to horse ride for 2 weeks, which was incredible to have that opportunity and then we all kind of continued it. Then I have to do loads of fighting but there isn’t a particular style to my fighting. It’s quite wild ’cause she’s never really been trained to fight so it’s just kind of go “aaaagh!” like that, but just doing it with some sort of skill. Where I went to drama school I trained in stage combat quite heavily so I had quite a bit of experience before.
CS: What’s been your favorite part of shooting the film so far? Arterton: Oh, God… I love all the action stuff. I think I should have really been a stuntwoman. I really enjoy it even though sometimes you think, “Oh, God, there are actually people that are trained to do this and they’re trained to get battered and bruised” but I’ve loved doing all of that and the fighting. It’s gobsmacking the sets and the costume and the sheer scale of this film and then you’re kind of put into into this completely different world and that is really, really fantastic. You don’t have to really imagine much ’cause it’s there designed right in front of you, and so that’s been brilliant as well.
CS: Can you talk about the relationship between your character and Jake’s character? Arterton: Yeah, so I play Tamina, who’s the princess of Alamut, which is a city that the Persians invade. I’m kind of kidnapped so I hate the Persians, although my character doesn’t really feel hate. She’s very spiritual so she just dislikes them (laughs) and they have this real kind of love-hate kind of relationship. It’s very full of banter and I like to compare it to Beatrice and Benedict in “Much Ado about Nothing.” Obviously, they fancy each other but they don’t show it. They find out all this stuff about the bad things that are happening in Persia, and so they kind of join forces and learn from each other and the film kind of like a journey. It follows them a lot, mainly Dastan, but she’s kind of like his right-hand girl and they have their own journeys which is to find themselves in a new light through each other’s upbringings. So there’s a lot of wit and banter, there’s also a romance there, there’s a lot of comedy but also a real seriousness as well, which is a really great thing about this film. It’s not just an action-adventure, it’s not just a romance, it’s not just this or that. There’s loads of drama, and it takes you in loads of different directions all the time. You think it’s gonna be like this and then it completely changes and becomes really dark or really light. So the relationship between Dastan and Tamina has got all of that.
CS: Do your powers involve a lot of FX and did they have to explain to you what they would look like later? Arterton: Well, the main power I suppose is the Dagger of Time, which is kind of what we’re all fighting over in this film and it has the ability to turn back time, so that’s the kind of main thing, but nobody apart from Dastan really has this kind of aura of magic about him. Nobody really has magical powers. You’ll see when the film comes out that all of the magic comes from the Dagger of Time.
CS: Were you conscious of the stigma that’s attached to movie adaptations of video games? Do you think this is gonna be the one that finally kind of breaks that cycle? Arterton: I don’t know. I think they have got huge stigmas attached to them, haven’t they? Who knows? I don’t think so. Again, I think this one it’s loosely based. The idea and the kind of characters and the ideas are from the computer game, but it’s got such brilliant actors in it and it’s brilliantly directed and it’s got a brilliant team behind it that I think we kind of can make it into something really brilliant. But it’s one of things, you have to wait to and see. For me, I’ve been on this film and I kind of doing it and sometimes it’s so huge I don’t really know what I’m doing but that’s quite exciting and just to kind of wait and see what happens, but yeah, well I think it’s got something else to it but we’ll see.
CS: It seems like there might be some political undertones to the story, because there’s an invasion, which might be suspect. Can you talk about that? Arterton: Yeah, there’s kind of a looking for weapons that don’t exist kind of thing. (laughs) With the target audience, it’s not to make that a huge thing, but it’s definitely there which makes it an interesting tale to tell and I think it’s fairly relevant for the times that we’re living in now, but there are lots of things like that so I think it’s interesting for many, many different sorts of audiences.
CS: Do you feel that everything is going very fast for you right now? Arterton: Yeah, absolutely. Actually the Bond film came out last week and everything’s kind of happened very quickly now. I’m really starting to feel it. Things have changed very quickly. Usually, I can kind of get on with my work and not think about it but it’s actually having an effect on my life now and that’s fine. I just have to kind of get used to it I suppose but it has been really, really quick and hey, why not, you know? If it’s gonna happen, it’s gonna happen and just deal with it, but yeah, it’s mad what’s happened. In a year, I think I’ve done eight films or something. I don’t know how I’ve done it. (laughs) I don’t know how I have the energy but I do somehow.
CS: What has been the biggest thing to get used to with the fame you’ve now got compared to a year ago? Arterton: I think it’s people thinking they know who you are when they don’t but that’s fine because of course they’re gonna think that because you’re in their world all the time and you’re in their living room every week and I’ve been on British TV a lot. But yeah I think that’s it, just people thinking that they know you and they don’t.
CS: Do you know what you’re gonna do next? Arterton: Well… at the moment, I feel like I wanna go and do some theatre, because I’ve been doing quite a lot of film work and big films as well, but there’s lots of new doors that have opened, which is very exciting so we’ll see but I wanna do something completely different ’cause I try and do that with every part, do something completely different so maybe I’ll play some fat old drug addict or something next. (laughs)