Gemma Arterton interview

The British actress tells Time Out about hanging out with Jake Gyllenhaal in upcoming blockbuster Prince of Persia: Sands of Time

Interview, The Knowledge

How does it feel to work on a movie of this size and scope?
It’s gobsmacking! When we were in Marrakesh before we started filming, they took me to visit the set for the kingdom where my character, Tamina, lives. There were streets you could walk around and palaces and fortresses and market squares. And I was thinking, ‘I’m playing the princess of this place, just little old me!’ [Laughs].

What can you tell us about your character?
Tamina’s very interesting because she’s not just ‘the girl’. She’s a high priestess, an adventurer, a bit of a tomboy, and she even has to pretend to be a sort of fictional sixth century cocktail waitress at one point.

Do you have a favourite scene?
The stuff that comes naturally is the witty banter between Tamina and Jake’s character, Dastan. They don’t get on to begin with, but they obviously fancy each other.

How did you get your part?
It was before I’d done the Bond film, Quantum of Solace, and my agent said: ‘Go up for this film, but you probably won’t get it because it’s massive.’ So I met the casting director and she seemed really interested, and then I met [director] Mike [Newell], but you still have to do screen tests and win lots of people over and convince them that you’re right for it. I thought I was never going to get it, so I was quite blasé. There was such a long wait before I got a call that I’d pretty much forgotten about it.

At what point did you meet Jake Gyllenhaal?
It was funny because I did a screen test with Daniel [Craig] for Bond, but I didn’t meet Jake until about a month before filming began, so it was nerve-wracking. I had butterflies, but he was so sweet and said, ‘I’ve heard that you’re wonderful,’ and all sorts of nice things like that.

What do your friends think about you co-starring with him?
They’re always asking me if I kiss him. And I say, ‘Yes, I do, so there!’ They’re all wildly jealous. But the nicest thing about Jake is that he’s such a lovely, funny, kind and down-to-earth guy. In fact, that’s the great thing about this film: the whole cast and crew don’t take themselves too seriously. They take the work seriously instead, and I think that’s the best attitude to have. When you’re in the middle of a desert in Morocco in blistering heat and everyone is exhausted, it’s much easier if we can all have a joke about it.

Is there anything that’s been difficult for you making this film?
It’s been a real adventure. Going to Morocco, I got to see places I wouldn’t have seen otherwise, but I did miss home. Also, I’d never ridden a horse before, so I had to learn from scratch.

How about working with legendary actors such as Sir Ben Kingsley?
I’ve learned a lot, especially from seeing how people such as Sir Ben are always so enthusiastic about the work and always seem to enjoy what they’re doing, no matter how long we’ve been shooting or how difficult the conditions.

Any plans to move to Hollywood and live like a star?
[Laughs] I love London and I need to stay somewhere where I’m around normal people. I also need to be able to go down the pub. Do they even have pubs in Hollywood?
Prince of Persia: Sands of Time is in UAE cinemas from May 20.

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