koff film for the BBC. In 2008, then still 20, Arterton was cast as Strawberry Fields in the Bond film Quantum of Solace and as the lead in a TV adaptation of
Tess of the d’Urbervilles. The “Bond Girl” tag can be a bit of an albatross. Many are the actors who fail to capitalise on that supposed big break. But Arterton dug in. We shall say as little as necessary about the St Trinian’s revival. She had better luck with Stephen Frears’s Gemma
Bovery and the excellent horror The Girl With All the Gifts. Meanwhile, Arterton was consolidating a formidable reputation on stage. In the past year alone, she has played Saint Joan and Nell Gwynn. She also excelled in the musical version of Made in Dagenham.
“The theatre has always been my first love,” she says. “I just love it. I love to be able to go out and just do a play. I like to be able to tell a whole story and have it be a little different every night. I love that challenge. I love to take on something really difficult and work at it. That’s why I became an actor.”
She’s been through the wringer in her personal life. A marriage to Stefano Catelli ended in 2010 after five years. Other relationships have sparked and then fizzled. But, still just 31, she has shown a commendable determination to control her own destiny. Rebel Park, an all-woman production company she helped establish, is pushing ahead with comedy, TV series and film. She is set to play Vita Sackville-West, writer, garden designer and romantic partner of Virginia Woolf, in a film produced by the Irish company Blinder Films.
“Yes. She is a huge character. I don’t want to do her a disservice and she’s never been properly depicted,” she says. “Eileen Atkins wrote the screenplay and she’s not posh either, let me tell you. From East London, not that you’d know it. She saw me in a play and thought I could do it. I was very touched because she has played Woolf many times and it’s part of her life.”
The British film industry needs afew more like Gemma Arterton. She has movie-star presence and the wit to shape the medium to her needs. Not that she sees it that way. She still sees herself as being buffeted by the winds.
“Oh, I don’t know. I’m a coaster,” she laughs. “If it hadn’t worked I’d have found something else to do. It’s so precarious. Things fall apart. It’s mad. It’s not a job for anybody who wants to plan.” ■ Their Finest is out now and is reviewed on page 10-11