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A Minute With: Gemma Arterton on choosing roles, new challenges

British actress Gemma Arterton poses for photographers at the British Academy of Film and Arts (BAFTA) awards ceremony at the Royal Opera Ho
British actress Gemma Arterton poses for photographers at the British Academy of Film and Arts (BAFTA) awards ceremony at the Royal Opera Ho

By Patricia Reaney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - British actress Gemma Arterton does not need to worry about typecasting with roles ranging from a fairy tale character and literary heroines to MI6 agent Strawberry Fields in the 2008 James Bond film "Quantum of Solace."

In "Unfinished Song," a comedy-drama that opens in U.S. theaters on Friday, Arterton, 27, stars as Elizabeth, a music teacher in a boys' school.

She also directs a choir for seniors, which includes Marion, played by Vanessa Redgrave, and forges a special friendship with her cantankerous retired husband, played by Terence Stamp.

The following week Arterton will be seen in U.S. theaters as a sexy vampire in Neil Jordan's film "Byzantium."

Arterton spoke to Reuters about her choice of characters, sharing the big screen with Redgrave and Stamp, and her first French-speaking role in the upcoming film "Gemma Bovery."

Q: You have some interesting films coming out. Two are opening in the space of a week. How did you manage that?

A: It's weird that it happened that way. I made them about three months apart. It's nice. I remember when the Bond film came out in the UK I also made the TV show called "Tess of the D'Urbervilles" and they were so different and it was really good that it happened. It's nice when people can see the range.

Q: "Unfinished Song" is a small British film that is about as far away as you can get from a Bond film. What attracted you to the role?

A: The script. I was making an action-comedy at the time and it was a long shoot, a four- or five-month shoot, and I thought I just want to do something real, something close to home. My agent sent me the script and I read it and I was crying.

Q: In the film you develop a special relationship with Terence Stamp. What was that like?

A: Everyone thinks that Terence Stamp is a very serious, stern Englishman. I was thinking he was going to be a very grumpy guy but for some reason we just got on really well and we brought out the best in each other and we're friends now ...

In the film we warmed to each other and ended up helping each other in certain ways. He is such a lovely guy. It was so lovely to see him play that kind of role. Usually he plays these gangsters or villains and for him to take on that role was a real decision because he is playing an old man. He was nervous about it but it was beautiful and he did such a good job.

Q: How intimidating was it working with Vanessa Redgrave and Terence Stamp, both highly acclaimed British actors?

A: It was incredible. Vanessa is one of my all-time theater idols. For me she just represents the ultimate in strength and dignity. She can do anything. Working with her made me quite nervous and I was fascinated by the way she was working. This film was really, really important to do. It was a love letter to her sister (Lynn Redgrave), who died of cancer. You could feel it was a special thing for her.

Q: How do you choose your roles?

A: At first I was quite mindless. I didn't really think about it. I was pleased I was being offered stuff ... And then I realized I'm not happy with what is going on and had to be a bit more thoughtful. Now I think about what I want to do in relation to what I have just done.

Q: What projects do you have coming up?

A: I am just preparing now for my next film, which is my first French film. It is called "Gemma Bovery" and Anne Fontaine is directing it. She directed "Coco Before Chanel." It is my first French-speaking movie so I am a bit nervous about it.

Q: Are you fluent in French?

A: I started learning French in January and then in February this script came through called "Gemma Bovery," based on "Madame Bovary" ... For me it's a really big challenge but I feel if I can do it then I have opened another door. I love French cinema and some of my favorite actors are French. It would be something I would really be proud of doing. I start filming that in August.

(Reporting by Patricia Reaney; Editing by Eric Kelsey and Bill Trott)

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