Gemma Arterton reads a lot of scripts that don’t quite cut it. “Loads of stuff is really rubbish. I’d say about 80 percent, 90 percent [of the time] you read it and you’re like, ‘Aw, I wish that was good, but it’s not,’” the actress said Sunday afternoon in Marrakesh, where she’s serving as a jury member at the Marrakesh International Film Festival.
Then there are all the ways a movie can go wrong after filming. “Usually it isn’t as good as it could have been in my mind—something terrible happens in post-production or someone puts a terrible score onto it, the editor chooses to do this or whatever. That happens all the time. So the first time [I’m] always watching it with one eye closed,” Arterton, hair in a ponytail and slender frame draped in a leather jacket, explained. The only film she’s been in that she underestimated, she added, was The Disappearance of Alice Creed. “I thought that was going to be really bad, and it actually was good.”
Her enthusiasm at this point is tangible, and she has yet more reason to be optimistic these days, with Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters (finally) coming out in January. She spent four months living in Berlin—“the best city in the world”—for that one, which co-stars Jeremy Renner and was directed by Tommy Wirkola, who made the Norwegian tongue-in-cheek splatter-fest Dead Snow. “It was an absolutely brilliant process. That actually made me positive again with Hollywood, because I was very jaded,” Arterton admitted. (Being a part of big-budget duds like Prince of Persia and Clash of the Titans will do that to a stage-trained actress.) With Hansel, Arterton continued, “I didn’t know what to expect, because tonally it’s quite specific. It’s an action-horror-comedy-fairy tale. So I didn’t know how we were going to keep all those plates spinning, but we do.” (Check out the trailer here.)
It’s been awhile since Arterton—who made her entrée into international moviedom about five years ago, with Quantum of Solace—had a film out, but that will change big-time in 2013. In addition to Hansel, she’s got Song for Marion, in which she plays the director of a senior-citizen singing group. It co-stars Vanessa Redgrave and Terence Stamp, closed this year’s Toronto Film Festival, is being distributed by Harvey Weinstein, and looks like the sort of feel-good Brit flick that might, in a slow year, strike enough of a chord with older Oscar votes to get a Best Picture nom. More exciting, perhaps will be Runner, Runner, a crime thriller set in the world in offshore gaming. Even if it’s not an enormous budget, Arterton said, it “feels quite fancy”—in part, one assumes, because Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake are in it.
One key to Arterton’s success is her uncanny ability to remember and then forget lines. “I’ve had competitions with actors and we’ll sit there—we’re so boring, aren’t we?—during the play and be hearing the radio [from] the stage and I’ll be quoting the whole thing by heart,” she said. “But then within a week, it’s gone.
One thing worth remembering forever, though: her stint as a Bond girl, which she insists didn’t lead to the sort of typecasting it might have decades ago. “There have been many Bond girls—Rosamund Pike, Eva Green, Halle Berry—[that] do all different things. And Naomie Harris, she will do as well. I think it’s different now,” Arterton maintained. She said that 2013 could bring “a long stint in the theater, if everything goes to plan”—a gig that would keep her in her native England—and added that she’s hunting for a period drama, something like The Piano.
Not that Arterton has that much choice in what she’s doing. “I think it’s quite a luxury to be able to plan, but I’m not at that point in my career,” she said. To illustrate, she related a story that one of her fellow jury members in Marrakesh, the writer/director James Gray, had told her the night before, “about when he was going to work with Robert De Niro and he was trying really hard to make the dates work, and Robert De Niro was like, ‘I gotta keep the summer free for a money gig.’ They do that, they keep the summer free for a money gig. I was like, ‘Wow, that’s really a luxury, isn’t it?’” One more reason to steer clear of the rubbish.