GALLERY: Gravesend star Gemma Arterton opens up about bullying trauma ahead of Their Finest release
PUBLISHED: 16:20 18 April 2017 | UPDATED: 16:20 18 April 2017
The film hits cinemas on Friday
Gemma Arterton’s lead character in new wartime movie Their Finest is carefully-crafted and nuanced; a rarity in an industry littered with two-dimensional depictions of women.
It’s small wonder that Arterton’s grateful she was approached for the role and didn’t have to fight for it.
“I was very lucky,” remarks the 31-year-old, who’d worked with the producer Stephen Woolley previously, on Byzantium and Made In Dagenham.
“He’d been developing it for eight years and then he sent me the script and I knew Lone Scherfig, who helmed An Education, was directing it, so it was a really attractive offer,” says the Gravesend-born actress.
That said, she was perplexed by the script.
“I have to admit I was impressed by it, but I was also a little bit confused, because it was so full. You can’t really define this film in terms of genre,” she explains.
“It’s not a comedy, it’s not a romantic comedy, it’s not a drama, it’s not a war film, it’s all these things.”
It was only after Scherfig explained her vision that the actress thought, “I have to do it”.
Arterton plays Catrin Cole, a Welsh woman living in London during the Second World War, who’s employed to write female dialogue (referred to as ‘slop’ by her male co-workers) for propaganda feature films.
Her talent doesn’t go unnoticed and, along with fellow screenwriter Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin), she begins work on a patriotic tale inspired by twin sisters who set out to sea to rescue wounded soldiers in Dunkirk.
The character of Catrin, meanwhile, was inspired by Diana Morgan, a writer who worked for Ealing Studios who’s described as “a bit of an unsung hero of cinema”.
“If she wrote any dialogue in a film, she wouldn’t be credited for it. The men would take that credit,” notes Arterton, who praises Woolley and fellow producer Amanda Posey for “creating female-centric films”.
“What I liked about it though, is she is not necessarily a strong female, she’s just a woman that has opinions. She’s not necessarily a fighter from the start, she becomes that.
“I definitely wasn’t a fighter from the beginning and the experiences you get in life, they make you understand what you want, and they make you react,” reflects the actress, who’s experienced sexism first-hand.
Asked what her worst experience has been, she pauses momentarily, before saying: “Oh dear, um, bullying because I was a woman. Yeah, I was bullied on a film once. It actually did affect me really badly, but you get stronger from that and I wouldn’t allow it to happen again.
“Sometimes these moments make you stronger and you know you might get really depressed about it for a couple of years or something, but,” she says, and following another pause. clicks her fingers and adds, “I made myself stronger and it’s made me who I am.”
She believes Their Finest has “a feminist streak, but I wouldn’t say it’s a feminist movie”.
“Of course, it’s about a woman who finds her voice and becomes empowered but it’s not obvious.”
As for finding her own voice, Arterton, who received the Bafta Rising Star award in 2011, admits “it has been a challenge”.
“I didn’t really know what I wanted to say at first. It’s like anything, when you’re 20, you don’t really know who you are yet or what you want to do. It took me a while to find that.”
Reflecting on her decade-long career, Arterton remarks she’s been disappointed by the end result of certain projects, but doesn’t regret any of her career choices.
“I don’t regret them because I believe they’ve brought me to where I’m at now, which is a place of greater, creative influence,” she explains, referring to her production company.
“It’s really great, it’s really cool. I’ve got a few writers I’m friends with and we’ve started making stuff together. Last year, I made a film I co-created - an improvised film, so I wouldn’t say I wrote it, but it came from my brain.
“And I like it, that’s why I said creative influence. I have more influence and more of a voice in terms of what I want to put out.”
But that doesn’t mean she’s set to give up acting any time soon.
“Oh no, acting is my love. I love theatre, I will always be in the theatre,” exclaims Arterton, who’s received two Olivier nominations - in 2015 for Made In Dagenham, where she showed off her musical prowess, and in 2016 for Nell Gwynn.
“I love acting but it’s also cool to produce because, as I say, it’s more creative influence and it’s a different tool to add to the kit. But first and foremost, I will always be an actor.”
Arterton was studying at Rada when she was cast in the 2007 TV drama Capturing Mary. The same year she appeared in her first movie, a remake of St Trinian’s.
“I was trained in theatre to be a theatre actor and I always imagined myself being a theatre actor. The film stuff completely took me by surprise,” she remarks.
“I think it took me a few years to go, ‘Oh yeah, now I’m a film actor’. I still can’t quite comprehend that.”
While she’s appeared in big-budget movies, including Quantum Of Solace, Clash Of The Titans and Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time, smaller, independent movies, such as The Disappearance Of Alice Creed and The Voices are where her heart lies.
“I love independent film, I mean, I like the underdog,” says Arterton, who’s keen to work on both sides of the Channel after learning French for the 2014 film Gemma Bovery.
“It’s really tricky to make independent film these days, and it’s something I’m really passionate about. I go to the cinema and all I watch is independent film. I very rarely go to see big movies. That’s the sort of thing that interests me and the sort of thing I want to make.”
Their Finest is released on Friday, April 21