Gemma Arterton: ‘I wasn’t posh enough for some jobs’

We shall say as little as necessary about the St Trinian’s revival. Gemma Arterton as Strawberry Fields in Quantum of-Solace (2008)

Meanwhile, Arterton was consolidating a formidable reputation on stage. “If it hadn’t worked I’d have found something else to do. People are making an effort. I love to be able to go out and just do a play. It’s not a job for anybody who wants to plan.”

Their Finest is released on April 24th. I don’t want to do her a disservice and she’s never been properly depicted,” she says. Or can we? But I am about to play Vita Sackville-West, who is the poshest person there ever was. There are great initiatives out there. The problem for me has been the lack of female screenwriters. I think maybe it is a bit of a myth. It even smelt right.”

Yes, I half expected John Mills to pop up in the studio’s water tank. From East London, not that you’d know it. But Arterton dug in. But it has been very slow until recently

A lot has changed since those times. 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. Figures suggest that the industry, over the past 70 years, has progressed painfully slowly towards gender equality. Many are the actors who fail to capitalise on that supposed big break. I love to take on something really difficult and work at it. “Eileen Atkins wrote the screenplay and she’s not posh either, let me tell you. That’s the life.”

Film career
While still at drama school, she got a role in a Stephen Poliakoff film for the BBC. Other relationships have sparked and then fizzled. A lot has not. Not that she sees it that way. I can only speak from my personal experience. To most Irish ears, Gemma Arterton, a distinguished graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, stops few glottals and drops few h’s. A marriage to Stefano Catelli ended in 2010 after five years. This is where they shot The Cruel Sea, I imagine. “Oh, I don’t know. “The technicians loved getting all the old equipment out and shooting in the old style. Things fall apart. I know that. I was very touched because she has played Woolf many times and it’s part of her life.”

The British film industry needs a few more like Gemma Arterton. Gemma Arterton: `We even shot all of the Dunkirk stuff in the oldest studio in Pinewood.   Their Finest has much to do with the role of women behind the camera. The “Bond Girl” tag can be a bit of an albatross. Their Finest may be directed by a woman, but we still have a long way to go. She is a huge character. I like to be able to tell a whole story and have it be a little different every night. She began acting at school and fought her way into Rada on a scholarship. “Yeah, yeah,” she laughs. Rebel Park, an all-woman production company she helped establish, is pushing ahead with comedy, TV series and film. The film within a film – a Dunkirk adventure concerning plucky twin sisters – looks like just such a project. Has she ever failed to get roles because she wasn’t posh enough? In the past year alone, she has played Saint Joan and Nell Gwynn. “I just love it. Would she know if that had happened? Maybe he was hiding behind one of those huge lights.”

The problem for me has been the lack of female screenwriters. I get no sense that she was ever out of work for long. I don’t know,” she says. But it has been very slow until recently.”

Working-class background
We can, at least, argue that attitudes to class have transformed since the second World War. “It’s been in the media a lot and it’s now on the agenda. There have definitely been times when I have not got jobs because it was thought I was not posh enough. We even shot all of the Dunkirk stuff in the oldest studio in Pinewood. She saw me in a play and thought I could do it. “We were so excited about that,” she says. I remember in my third year at Rada, I did a budget – about the only one I’ve done – calculating how much it would cost to live in London. What a lovely war film

In the new century, the public schools have fought back against the egalitarian gains of the 1960s. “The theatre has always been my first love,” she says. “To be honest, I don’t think it has changed much until quite recently,” Arterton says. She had better luck with Stephen Frears’s Gemma Bovery and the excellent horror The Girl With All the Gifts. That’s why I became an actor.”

She’s been through the wringer in her personal life. But specifically, a working-class actor.”

Their Finest review: Oh! Dark, nicely spoken with classic English features, Arterton could have been plucked unaltered from a picture by Michael Powell or the Boulting Brothers. I’m a coaster,” she laughs. There are great initiatives out there. It even smelt right.’ Photograph: Nicola Dove

“Yes. You are told you might work once a year. It’s hard to think of an actor better suited to the lead in Lone Scherfig’s adorable Their Finest than Gemma Arterton. There have definitely been times when I have not got jobs because it was thought I was not posh enough

“Errr… It’s so precarious. Ha ha!”

Arterton was born in Gravesend, the daughter of a cleaner and a welder. “I always thought I’d be just a jobbing actor in the theatre. It’s mad. The Kentish actor stars as a screenwriter working on a patriotic film in London during the second World War. But, still just 31, she has shown a commendable determination to control her own destiny. She also excelled in the musical version of Made in Dagenham. She has movie-star presence and the wit to shape the medium to her needs. I love that challenge. Not all actors want to play posh. She still sees herself as being buffeted by the winds. Last year, writing for The Guardian, film critic Danny Leigh described her early career as a good example “of the assault course a young British actor has to contend with. Don’t forget that actors choose. 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. But the subject of her working-class background has arisen in interviews over the years. “Roles my contemporaries got? “He was in practically every film at that time. “I never thought I’d work in film,” she remembers.