Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Sun Will Come Up, Tamara

Find Tamara Drewe on Video

The Sun Will Come Up, Tamara

(from brinkzine.com 10/1710)
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Gemma Arterton modestly thinks of herself as a theater actress who occasionally dabbles in films. But, Gemma, you can't tell that to your growing legion of movie fans who may not know you've ever stepped on to a stage. Sorry, but you are a movie star after your memorable appearances in Quantum of Solace (as the Bond girl, Strawberry Fields), Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, and Clash of the Titans. Even fans who prefer indies to big-budget studio films were impressed by your intense performance as the lone female in the nifty The Disappearance of Alice Creed. Now comes another eponymous lead, in Tamara Drewe, that will elevate you as a sex symbol (thanks to a pair of short shorts) and solidify your good standing with the arthouse crowd. Stephen Frears farce is an adaptation of Posy Simmonds' graphic novel, which is a somewhat liberal updating of Thomas Hardy's tragic Far From the Madding Crowd. The setting is the quaint village of Ewedown, where locals mingle with those who come to a writers retreat run by philandering author Nicholas Hardiment (Roger Allam) and his forgiving wife Beth (Tamsin Greig). Her handsome handyman, Andy Cobb (Luke Evans), once was close to the young Tamara, while others ignored the girl with a big nose. But he broke up with her. Years later she returns to the village after a nose job and is a beauty. Since Andy doesn't seem interested she has affairs with a young drummer (Dominic Dooper) and the older Nicholas. Tamara and two bored teenage girls stir things up in the staid town. In anticipation of today's release, I took part in the following roundtable with Arterton. I note my questions.
Danny Peary: Did you read the recent piece in the New York Times art section about you?                                                                                                                                                                Gemma Atherton: No, I dont read articles about me. Is it going to depress me for the rest of the day? Don't tell me.
DP: No, it won't, except for maybe the part that says the success of the film depends on you!
GA: Is that a good thing?
DP: It's a scary thing, but I'm sure you disagree with that statement. When you were told you got the role, did you feel you had a real burden to carry the film?
GA: Yeah, I dont agree. Actually, I've only ever carried one thing, a TV show of Tess of the Durbervilles. That was pretty scary. But with this film I knew it was an ensemble thing, even though it's called Tamara Drewe and that's my role. Tamara's the centerpiece but she's just a catalyst to everything that's going on around her. She's not necessarily the lead character or even the one you care about the most, and she's not the hero of the piece. So no I didn't feel like that at all. Anyway, I don't try to think about things too much in advance, I just try to get on with it.
Q: Were you familiar with the graphic novel by Posy Simmonds before you were cast?
GA: No, I was really ignorant and had no idea of Posy's work. Actually, until I read the graphic novel, I wasn't sold on the film. I don't come from that world, so I couldn't really relate to it when I first read the script, though I thought it was entertaining. But when I saw it visually, the way that the characters look,
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that they actually exist, and the countryside, it all comes to life. I've since read everything that Posy has done. I've now met her many times, and she's a fascinating woman. Obviously, she's got an incredible eye. She's very quiet but she observes everything and I think she could be a really good actor because of that. She just draws all the time; she even did a drawing of me as Tamara, which was amazing.
Q: Stephen Frears says he never saw you in anything and cast you because you looked so much like Tamara Drewe. How much of a resemblance do you think you have to her?
GA: I don't think I look like that character in the book, but that is what Stephen said when he first me. The cast does look ridiculously like the characters. The ones I'm most amazed with are the two girls, Charlotte Christie and Jessica Barden, who came out of nowhere to play Casey and Jody. They had this big search for these girls, and when they actually cast them, particularly Charlotte, they looked unbelievably like the characters. So we all sort of look like our characters, and all have a bit of the character within us somewhere. Even in real life, when we all met, we had the right relationships. For example, Luke Evans, who plays Tamara's friend Andy, and I became best friends and still have very protective relationship with one another. And my relationship with Roger Allam was very strange because of the content of Tamara and Nicholas's relationship with Tamara in the film. It all worked, and I'm not sure if that's not because of instinctive, thoughtful casting where actors were picked because they both were right for their roles and could work with and relate to the other actors in the right way.
Q: Was your prosthetic nose the only one that was cast in the film?
GA (laughing): I think so. It's funny that people often ask me if I have had surgery on my nose, because its quite small. Why do people ask that? I would never think to ask someone that question. It's ironic that I ended up playing someone who had a nose job. The nose I wore as the young Tamara was quite fun to come up with. It started off being quite subtle and ended up being ridiculously big. It's a joke, that's the point. I still own the nose! It's in my bathroom with a picture of me wearing it and scowling.
Q: What was it like collaborating with Stephen Frears, who makes all kinds of movies?
GA: When you meet these greats, you think they're going to be really horrid slave drivers, but Stephen is not like that at all. He cast me blind, just from instinct. He didn't even let me audition; he just met me and said, "Yes, you should do it." He's like that as a director--he trusts his intuition and works very much off that. The way that he chooses scripts is very much the same as well. He doesnt really have a game plan. He just says, "Well, I like that one, so I want to do that one." It's very simple. It inspired me, actually, the way he works, because you can get so bogged down with decision-making-- "Whats the right thing to do?" Actually it should be simple--"This feels right and this feels right." That's how Stephen works. He casts actors that he knows will do the job. He just steers them in the right direction. He's not controlling but trusts that I'm going to come up with something that's interesting--so he lets me and the rest of the cast do that. It it's not right, then he directs you, but if it is right, he doesn't. It's very refreshing when you work with Stephen because theres no fuss! It should be like that when you make a movie. It shouldn't be difficult or stressful if you get the right components and the script is good. Thats what Stephen's attitude is.
Q: Was there any particular scene in which your instinct served you well?
GA: There was the scene in which Luke discovers Tamara's been sleeping with Nicholas, and he's hammering nails into the fence and saying, "Why are you doing that?" We shot it twice, we had to redo it. He was saying "great!" and then he directed me and said, Can you cry at the end this time? I said, Okay, if you want 'Ill cry at the end. The next day he looked at the rushes and he said, "You were right the first time; I was wrong, go with your instinct." So she doesn't cry.
Q: Tamara's not an overly-sentimental person, so the crying would have been a little off.
GA: I think if she started crying, you'd just go, "Oh, shut up!" You wouldn't feel sorry if she said, "Oh, my life is a mess," because you know she's done that to herself and is responsible. There were moments where we had to make the audience aware that she is a bit of a mess, but not by shoving it in its face. There are just about three moments in the movie where you can see her inner world, in a way, because she's very false almost all the time.
DP: She does cry when she sees Andy fooling around with the barmaid. Is that the moment when she realizes she really loves him?
GA: Thats the moment she realizes nobody loves her, and that's why she cries. She just needs that all the time. She goes to see Andy because he's the one guy who has always loved her, but now she sees him with somebody else.
DP: Is that why she sleeps with Nicholas more than once?
GA: Yes. But that to me, was the big problem with Tamara.
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I didn't understand why she sleeps with Nicholas more than once. The first time, yeah, she's needy, she needs a man in her life, she needs protecting, she wants to be cherished. But why does she continue it? Then it occurred to me that she's a writer, and she writes autobiographically, about her life and I think after the first time, it was exhilarating, and really naughty being with him. There's that really nice moment after they first have sex when you see Tamara in bed going "Oh my god!" I think she gets caught up in the drama of it, she creates her own drama. For artistic reasons, I think. So she gets caught up in the relationship and then it goes out control because she's just a mess. She just hasnt any control over herself. That's why, I think, she doesn't end the relationship after the first time. It's the wanky artist inside her going, "I'm going to create my own drama." I know people who do that, manipulating and leading people astray, including one person who does it so he can write the lyrics to his album.
Q: Maybe the artistic side of her is relating to all the writers around her.
GA: A great thing about this piece is that if you watch it with a lazy eye, you'll see characters with messy lives, but if you just watch it carefully, and listen, it has so many things going on. The characters are so complicated, Tamara especially. I wasn't sure if I was going to do the project because of the character. In the book and in the screenplay, she's not likable.. She's imperfect, she never redeems herself. And you don't know why she does these things! At first, I didn't want to play her, and then I realized that I probably should play her to work out why somebody who's not me would do what she does.
Q: What did you discover?
GM: Her major motivation is that she wants to be cherished. That's it. She wants to be loved and she wants her work to be recognized. Sometimes Stephen would say to me, "I just don't get her." And I said, "Neither do I." But often, especially at certain times of the month, women dont know why on earth they're behaving the way they behave, they just dont know. [Laughing] There are times when women are irrational! Something just takes over. A woman wrote this and I think its a very accurate telling of a modern woman, with all her imperfections, and her motivations being unclear. No character is black and white. I still dont think I've completely worked out Tamara Drewe. I don't think youre supposed to.
Q: How do you develop Tamara and other characters?
GA: I take elements of my own life, things I can relate to like relationships, or I base my characters on people I've met or seen while out and about. Actually Tamara Drewe is based on a friend of mine. I didn't tell her, but she's probably seen it and thought, I bet that's based on me! She's so like that. For my characters, I write a back story. With Tamara, I wrote her autobiography--a good four chapters of her book--which was really, really helpful for me. I'm not a writer, but when I was writing as Tamara, I was actually quite good, funny and sad at the same time. I usually write some sort of journal or something, and that helps me to snap into character immediately.
DP: Do you write while you are filming?
GA: With Tamara, I started writing this journal before, and then when I was making the film, I was writing her book. It just really depends on each film.
Q: What's it like when you go back home to Gravesend, Kent, now that you have a high profile and you see the people who knew you when you were a teenager?
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GA: There are a few really successful people that came from my town, including two brilliant directors, Paul Greengrass and Andrea Arnold. People there are very proud of me, so whenever I go homeit's very sweet. It's not like I'm bombarded because I'm not very well-known and people are very respectful of your privacy in the U.K. I suppose it's kind of weird. That's where I could draw a bit on my own experience when playing Tamara returning to her village. When you go back home, you can't actually be anybody but who you really are because you'd be found out. It's quite exposing, you feel a bit like you're being watched. I think that when Tamara returns home, she brings with her the London Tamara, and people know she's being fake. She has a kind of crisis because she doesn't know what to do with herself. She's feeling the pressure of being around people who can say We know what youre really like. People from home always say, "Don't you change!" But they're looking at every little thing to see if you've become this diva or something. Of course everybody has to change at some point in their life. So when I go home, I dont go "Oh, hello darling!" and become a Cockney Queen, even though I was never like that anyway.
Q: Have any of your former teachers been in contact with you over the whirlwind year that youve had?
GA: I just get letters that are very nice and very supportive and proud.
Q: In the movie, Tamara is being impersonated in e-mails. That's an increasing problem with people in the public eye, so have you encountered anything like that?
GA: Yeah, loads. Apparently there are about twenty Gemma Artertons on Facebook. I'm not on it why do it to yourself? I don't get why youd want to give everyone access to your life. Actually, I got a letter written to me the other day from a fan that said, "Why dont you speak to me any more on Facebook?" And I was like, I never did. There was one girl who found pictures of me on holiday on somebody else's Facebook page--this was way at the beginning, before many people knew me--and put them on her page: "Look at me, I'm on holiday with my boyfriend! I'm having a great time, miss you girls, miss you guys, be back soon!" And she was pretending to be me! I thought it was silly, not worth worrying about. Again, this movie is very modern, dealing with things like that identity thief.
Q: You've had a little bit of everything this year youve starred in the big-budget action and costume movies, British independents, this county-side romance. How has your experience been moving between those worlds so quickly?
GA: Well, I actually made these movies within a three-year period, although they all came out around the same time. For me, it didnt feel that frantic. In fact, I did plays between the movies. That's where my interest lies, actually. I've had this intensive course on all these different aspects of acting, which you cant learn in theater school. Sometimes it's been really hard, and not always enjoyable, and at other times it's been amazing. I feel like I know what I want now, having experienced all these things. It's remarkable how different your job can be when all you have to do is act. This acting is exciting because you can do a massive movie and it could be like doing a small play, because it's all about the acting and relationships.
Q: You said you know what you want now--what do you want?
GA: It's quite simply to just do things I'm passionate about.
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When I first left drama school at 21, with a lot of student debt, I didn't really think about a career plan and was very grateful for anything that came my way. I thought it'd be rude to turn down parts because someone was offering me a job! So I used to take everything and not think about, and now I feel like I can actually be selective. That's important because you have to live with a project for a long time! You have to promote it for maybe half a year. So you'd better believe in it. I find it very difficult to lie, considering I'm an actress. In real life, I'm awful at acting .So if I'm not passionate or feeling good about something I've done, I find it very hard to promote it. It's kind of soul-destroying to have to lie all the time, and I hate it. So I want to do only things I'm proud of.
DP: Have you paid off your student loan?
GA (laughing): Yeah, I've paid it off! That's so amazing, because some of my friends are actors who probably earn only about two thousand pounds a year through acting, with the rest coming from temp pay for working in offices. So it's a great relief.
Q: Can you talk about your next project?
GA: I start working on a play next week [at the Almeida Theater in Islington, North London], which is hard because my head has been in this movie. It's Ibsen's The Master Builder. Stephen Dillane is playing Master Builder Solness and I'm playing Hilda. It's one of my favorite plays, and I'm playing another character that's completely mysterious and strange. I'm petrified to play her it but it's going to be a real challenge, which I need it. I actually haven't made any movies this year, just plays. I'll be interested to see how I am when I am in movies again next year. We'll see how I progress. [Laughing] Or not, as the case may be.

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