Gemma Arterton interview: Prince Of Persia, James Bond and CGI snakes

Ahead of the release of Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time, Gemma Arterton talks about the film, the next Bond movie, and green socks masquerading as snakes...

She’s graduated from St. Trinian’s, succumbed to the charms of 007, faced off against the Kraken, and will soon be seen, like, totally changing time in Prince Of Persia.Now, Gemma Arterton faces her greatest test yet: six minutes with Den Of Geek.

How did you get involved in the film? Because we’re going back some two years, aren’t we? You’d done Quantum Of Solace by this point?

I think I’d just finished filming Bond. And I just got a phone call saying, “They want to meet you, the casting director wants to meet you for Prince of Persia.” And I thought, ‘Oh, okay.’ Because I have to say, I didn’t know about the game. And she said, “It’s quite a big deal.”

So, I went along and I met the casting director Susie Figgis, and she had a massive list on her table of other people that they were considering. And I sort of had a sneaky peek, so I knew who else was going up for it. And I thought, ‘Ooh, this must be a big deal then.’

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And then she said,”‘Mike the director really wants to meet you.” so I came in and I did a reading. And I never really thought that I’d get it, to be honest with you, probably because I had seen that list. So, I sort of just went in there being myself, not too nervous, just being silly and funny. I had a really good meeting with Mike and he said to me later on that he knew then that he wanted me to do it, but it was just whether we can convince everybody that I’m the right girl for it.

It was exciting when I got it. I was in my little room in Bath where we were filming Tess of The D’Ubervilles, and my agent had tried to call me all night. I had, like, 25 missed calls. And I phoned her back and she said, “Why didn’t you answer your phone?  You’ve got Prince of Persia!”  And I just sat on my bed. I was in shock. Because I knew this was probably the part that was going to change things for me. And it’s weird the connotations that has on your life and your career. All of a sudden you’re given a phone call and that’s it. 

Did you grow up watching Jerry Bruckheimer films? He’s dominated each of the last few decades – Top Gun in the 80s, Con Air in the 90s, the Pirates films in the naughties.

Yeah. You don’t even realise when you’re growing up who’s the producer on each film. And then you look at their CV and you think wow, they’ve just done these huge films. 

For my generation it was the Pirates Of The Caribbean films I remember going to the cinema and seeing. The spectacle of them and how grand they were and fun. For me, it was just wow, I can’t believe it. Little old me from Gravesend in Kent is going to be in the next Pirates Of The Caribbean-style movie. It was an amazing thing to think that could that happen. [laughs]

It is a huge film but there’s a big British cast, giving it a Harry Potter feel. Or a Carry On. Did it feel like a family?

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It did. And again that’s down to the casting director Susie Figgis. She’s brilliant at getting British actors involved who wouldn’t necessarily be in a Hollywood movie, like Toby Kebbell or Steve Toussaint. Which meant that even though it was this big Hollywood movie, it had this earthiness to it.

Also, aside from all the location shoots, it was filmed in London. I’d worked with a lot of the crew on Bond, so I already had a relationship with a lot of them and it felt more familiar. It wasn’t as nerve-racking as I thought it would be. And it was nice. I was able to go home. I could have a normal life while filming this crazy film.

And when you weren’t in London you were filming in Morocco. Can you have a laugh between takes in a desert at 120 degrees Fahrenheit?

Oh, I have a laugh anywhere I go. [laughs] I refuse to be serious. It was hot, but we all knew it was going to be hot. It was full on, especially for the crew.

I mean, us actors we get it easy. We’re fed and watered all day, but they were out there in the sun. At one point it was 50-something degrees Celsius It was ridiculously hot, but it was brilliant. And it was a British crew. They like to have a muck around. They take their job seriously, but they like to have fun. I think it’s important.

Why do a job that’s hard on yourself? You’ve got to enjoy it at the same time.

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I read that there was a Snake Dude on set whose job it was to round up the snakes at the start of every day.

[Incredulously] Was there?!

He must have done his job pretty well, then. 

Yeah, I didn’t know that guy was there. [laughs] There are all these snakes in the film, but I never came into contact with one because they always used the green sock. Which is the CGI snake, which is quite funny.

In the scene where I have a snake go over my body when I’ve been knocked out, I had the giggles. Because there’s this little green sock [laughs], which was stuffed.  And they had it on an invisible green string, and there was somebody that would puppeteer it. I’m lying there and this little green sock comes up my body. It was meant to be really, really scary and it was just really comical.

You’ve just done Alice Creed, which has recently come out. Was that a deliberate reaction, to do something much smaller and intimate?

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Yeah, I think so. I never expected I’d end up in a film like this, or Bond, or Clash Of The Titans. I always imagined myself doing [Alice Creed] sort of films. 

I always want to do things that are completely the opposite of what I’ve just done. It makes my job much more enjoyable. It was kind of the polar opposite, in terms of the budget and the style. It’s still good quality work, it’s just a very different discipline. 

We had four weeks to shoot it, whereas on Prince Of Persia we had six months. So you have the luxury, or not. Sometimes having too much time and money is not a luxury in a way. But it was really interesting to go from one to another. I’m lucky I’ve been able to do both. I hope I can continue to do that.

What do you make of the Bond issue? You starred in the last one, and in Clash you starred opposite the man many are considering a potential successor to Daniel Craig. Do you think Sam Worthington would make a good Bond?

He won’t do it. He won’t do it. I know he won’t. I think he would be a great Bond, but Daniel’s still got a few left in him and I think he’s amazing as Bond.

I was talking about it with my driver earlier, who’s the biggest Bond fan ever. And he was, “Oh, what if it doesn’t get made?” It’s going to get made. It’s Bond, it’s not going to end. It’s had another peak. It was one of the biggest movies of 2008. It’s just a matter of time. 

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It’s hard to make movies at the moment. On the new Pirates the budget has been cut, so even the ones we know are going to do well at the box office are finding it hard to find the money. That’s the state of the film industry at the moment. It’s the state of the world at the moment.

It will happen, it will just be a bit later.

Gemma Arterton, thank you very much!

Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time is released on Friday.