Tamara Drewe: The Gemma Arterton Interview

Tamara Drewe is a new film from director Stephen Frears (The Queen, Dangerous Liasons, High Fidelity), based on the popular English comic strip and graphic novel by Posy Simmonds, starring English actress Gemma Arterton (Prince of Persia, Clash of the Titans).  As is the graphic novel, the film is a modern reworking of Thomas Hardy’s nineteenth century novel Far from the Madding Crowd.  It is a comedy about a young journalist, once the ugly duckling of her small village town, returning as a much desired beauty, hoping to fix up and sell her old house. She attracts many of the men residing at the neighboring farm, stirring up envy, lust, and gossip amongst the small population.

I had the pleasure of attending a roundtable discussion in Los Angeles, amongst other fellow journalists, members of the cast, and director Stephen Frears.  The interviews were conducted in three parts, as Frears, Arterton, and the male leads, Dominic Cooper and Luke Evans, took turns to enter the room.  The questions presented are a combination of everyone who had a chance to ask one, as many of us obviously had similar sort of questions, with only a limited time to speak with each guest.

The final part of this discussion took place with star Gemma Arterton, who portrays Tamara Drewe, respectively.

Gemma Arterton as Tamara Drewe


I asked Luke Evans about how the producers thought that he was wonderfully rural, so I was wondering:  were you comfortable in the country side, or was that a whole new thing for you?

“I think I belong there.  Like Tamara, I think I’m actually supposed to be there, but actually I was brought up in Estuary, London, on the Thames Estuary, but in an industrial town, but all my family are fisherman and farmers.  That was the generation before so I think we are supposed to be there, but I did like it, but after about two weeks I freaked out and needed to have pollution and buses to drive by every minute. [Laughs]”


Tamara has a sort of obsession about her looks.  Do you have any sort of look you’d wish to have had?

“Well, I’ve always wanted to have a big nose… [Laughs]”


Did you keep the hooter?

“Yes, yes, actually I did.  It’s one of my most treasured possessions.  I keep it in a frame in my downstairs loo, which has a picture of me given to me by my hair and make-up artists, sort of scowling wearing it, and it says, “Gemma, darling, you’ve never looked better.” [Laughs]”


The film is full of allusions to both the source material and, to go farther back, the basis – Far From the Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy.  I was wondering – did you sort of look at that?  Did it inform your performance at all?

“Yeah, because when we were filming it, I actually think that Bathsheba in Far From the Madding Crowd is Tamara Drewe, but 200 years before.  She absolutely is.  So for me, it was really helpful to read that and, well I’ve played two Thomas Hardy heroines now and they are incredible characters because they are unbelievably advanced, and Thomas Hardy had such an insight on the complicated insight on being a woman, and the complexities, and…these characters are conundrums, you never really completely get them.  Especially Bathsheba; she’s promiscuous, she’s petulant, she’s spoiled, yet everybody loves her and she gets her own way.  Why do we like her?  We don’t know, but there’s something about her, she’s kind of like Cathy from Wuthering Heights.  So that was very helpful, but Stephen [Frears] was very much thinking about the film, and it’s Tamara Drewe, and it’s modern, but for me, it was just another thing to draw from I suppose, and it had such good source material that  I thought, why not just use that as well.”


You always seem to play characters on the verge of tears, and characters where, as with this particular character – Tamara Drewe, you seem to be ready to burst into tears, and then you do and it seems to come so easily.  Where do you go to get there?

“I don’t know.  When I was at drama school, everyone use to cry all the time, because that would show that they were a good actor, right?  And, um, I never got to do it, so I thought, “I’m never gonna act, because I can’t cry.”  But then I got to do a test, and I had to cry, and I couldn’t stop crying.  So I don’t know.  I think I just think like the character when I’m doing it.  When I was playing Tamara I would write every day, before going to set.  I was writing everyday in a little journal as Tamara, just to get in her thought pattern, and then you start thinking like the character, and when something seems like it makes you cry, it makes you cry…I don’t know, I don’t know how it happens.”


You say you start thinking like Tamara as a writer.  Are you a writer, have you ever written anything?

“No, I’ve never written anything.  I don’t have the confidence to and I’ve always admired writers and their ability to write something and say, “Here’s this,” this is what I think or this is what I’ve tried to convey.  But then I found myself…I always do it with characters to develop a sort of backstory, and with Tamara it just became this sort of autobiography, which she ends up writing about into a biography, and it was really funny.  I remember writing it and showing it to Moira Buffini, who wrote the screenplay, and she was like, “This is really good. You’re really good.”  And I said, “Well, maybe that’s because I’m writing as a character and not about my own life because it’s dull as dishwater, but with Tamara it’s sort of sassy and sparky” [laughs].  So maybe that’s what I should do, if I wanted to write, just be different characters everyday and dress up [laughs].”


What was Stephen [Frears] like on set?  What was his style as a director, since he says he doesn’t have one?

“Well, yes.  I don’t think he does, because he works differently with every single actor.  He’s just very sensitive to everything.  I suppose with me he was very intuitive.  He’s very good with intuition.  I suppose the main thing that struck me is that he spends most of his energy and time casting it correctly and really not just getting “the right person” to play that character, but getting “the right three people” to play the roles, so that the relationships work and he’s all taken care of.  And that’s genius casting.  You know, we get on set and we never rehearse ever, and we just get on set and work because all of the actors were right for it, and then he’d direct it if it needed to go a certain way, or you were overdoing it, or needed to go a certain way, but it was very sort of simple. It was straight-forward.  And if it was working he wouldn’t say anything, and if it wasn’t he would.  And it was just like that, but he spends all that time on casting the right components, so he can spend all his energy on creating the universe of the piece…he trusts everyone he works with to do their job.”


You two are obviously very fond of each other, is there any chance we’ll be seeing more future Frears/Arterton collaborations?

Um, I loved working with Stephen; I just hope he’s not pissed off and bored with me [laughs].  In a heartbeat I would work with him again.  He likes variation.  He has worked with other actors over and over again, but it is kind of exciting for him to work with new people.  I’m the same way as well, but if he’d ask me to work with him again, I would, easily.  So yeah, we’ll see.  Didn’t he work with Michelle Pfeiffer again, after like 25 years?”


How do you think Tamara felt about the different male characters?

“Well, she doesn’t really like any of them, she just wants their affection…she needs constant affection and attention…My biggest revelation when playing Tamara was how she sort of gets into these dramatic situations because she writes about them and she sort of is her own muse in a way and she sort of uses everyone around her to sort of do that…One of the reasons I wanted to play Tamara is because I see that character often and in many different ways in people I work with…I think it’s real, it’s accurate.”


Like Tamara, have you ever been in a situation where you’re at like a school reunion or something, and you say, “Yeah, look at me now.”?

“No, actually, I’ve been really supported, and coming from a town, which was a working class town, as I said, they all love it.  And when I go back there, they’re really sweet.  The only person I ever do that to, is my sister, who said I’d never work as an actress [laughs]…she’s younger, and now she’s working to become an actress, ironically.”


Any word on Prince of Persia 2?

“Not that I’m aware of.”


Thank you, and congratulations.

Check out Tamara Drewe, opening in limited release this fall in theaters.

See the review here.




Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

2 Responses to “Tamara Drewe: The Gemma Arterton Interview”

  1. Aaron Neuwirth

    To confirm the reality: Yes, Gemma Arterton is in fact very beautiful in person.

  2. Brian White

    That’s a given, huh? 🙂