I’ve already put up the interviews with the Prince of Persia creator, Jordan Mechner, director Mike Newell and the legend that is Sir Ben Kingsley and we still have an interview with Jake Gyllenhaal to come.
Today we have Gemma who plays the beautiful Princess Tamina in the movie. Meeting Gemma was a privilege. And yes, she’s a beautiful lady to look at but much more importantly she’s an absolutely lovely person who loves what she does but is also very shy and insecure in a lot of ways. You’ll see some of those insecurities in the interview below.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is released in UK cinemas this Friday, 21st May and you can check out my review here.
What do you like most about Tamina?
She’s not just a princess. She’s very spiritual and a priestess really. She has real depth, a real soulful side to her. The film is very male dominated with lots of action, and a lot of the characters are quite brutal. She’s this real elegant, graceful presence, but at the same time she’s really feisty and gives the guys a run for their money. She is funny, witty and humorous too. She’s a really well rounded character and a good role model for girls.
What’s her lethal weapon?
Her lethal weapon is her wit. She doesn’t really fight unless she has to, so when she does have to fight (because she’s religious I suppose) she just hits people over the head with what’s nearby. When we were talking about the character they were like: is she a warrior? and I said no, she’s peace and love, she’s never had to fight in her life, she’s scared when she fights and she does it because she has to, not because she’s trained to. Her lethal weapon is her tongue.
Quantum of Solace, Clash of the Titans and now Prince of Persia, it seems Hollywood is knocking on your door? How does it feel?
Very strange and surreal when I see myself in those movies, especially this one I think. When I first saw this movie it took me a while to get my head around the fact that I was in it. I was a very normal girl and all of a sudden I’m there with Jake. It’s very strange for me and I always saw myself doing theatre and little jobs. I never thought I’d be in anything like this. Now that these films are coming I still find it very strange.
At the same time you’ve been in Tamara Drewe and Alice Creed so there’s these bg budget films but small stuff too. How do you decide what you’re going to do?
Well at first I didn’t really have the option of choosing because it’s hard to get work, especially as an actress, so if you get given a role you just do it. I was very grateful to get the work. Now I’m in the situation where I’m starting to be able to choose and I deliberately chose Alice Creed which is very opposite to Prince of Persia and with Tamara Drewe too. I think it’s important with those films that it’s the ones I’m more selective with. These films are what they are, they’re popcorns movies and entertainment but creatively for me, I’m very interested in challenging that. I make sure I do theatre too and I’m very fortunate in that I can do both and it helps get the smaller films made.
How did you get involved in acting?
I always enjoyed performing. I was a bit of a show off in school but I never really knew about other side of acting, the challenging and emotional side of acting. I used to watch musicals and Hollywood movies I suppose and I never really knew about anything else until I was 16 and watched Dancer in the Dark because I was a massive fan of Björk. I watched it on my own in my bedroom at 2 in the morning and was absolutely destroyed afterwards, I couldn’t sleep that night. I thought wow, there is this other side to acting and she’s a singer, how did she do that, the director must have helped. So I got into, especially European films from then on and that really excited me and inspired me to become and actress. Those are the sort of film I go and see at the cinema. I’m not the sort of actress that would let something affect me like that film did with Björk but I do like to challenge myself. I did a film that’s just come out in the UK called Alice Creed which did that for me and I’m really proud of it.
Did you ever have a plan B if acting didn’t work?
I’m so rubbish! You know I’ve never put pressure on myself. I think it’s the way I was brought up and my mum always said do whatever makes you happy and acting really made me happy. I thought if it doesn’t work then it’s not the end of the world, there are millions of other things that I can do but as of yet, I’ve not been in that situation so I’ve never really thought about it. I mean I love music and art, I paint but I’ve never really thought about it.
In Clash of the Titans and Prince of Persia, we get to see the wild side of you, does that come from true life?
Yeah! I think the reason I got Prince of Persia, because I was quite feisty in the audition. I didn’t know what Prince of Persia was. It rang a bell but I was never into computer games (surprisingly!) when I was a little girl and so I went into the audition quite blasé. I didn’t think I was going to get the part anyway so I thought I’ll just be myself. Mike Newell said to me:
“Can you do a posh accent because she’s a Princess” to which I said:
“I trained at the Royal Academy of f*cking Dramatic Arts, I can do whatever you want me to do!!”
You know, really bombastic like that and he said:
“I want YOU to play this part!!”
From that day he wanted me to play that part but I had to convince the producers then which is a whole different ball game.
So you didn’t go up to Jerry Bruckheimer and say the same thing you said to Mike?
No! Although I have been cheeky in the past and some people don’t really listen to my cheekiness! I went to drama school and you’re surrounded by actors all the time desperate to get work and they’re not themselves and I think actually people want to see personality and I tend to get these strong roles in male dominated films which may reflect a little bit of who I am!
You look so beautiful and it surprises me that you call yourself a freak in interviews?
Well I am a bit of a freak. I’m not perfect and I do talk about it! I think people think actresses are perfect and they’re not, they’re just people. I’m always very aware of the younger generation as ive done a lot of movies kids watch, and I get a lot of letters from kids saying ‘ I want to be like you’ and I want to say ‘you can’ because you don’t have to be perfect to be an actress. I was born with deformities, I’m really clumsy, I’m not what you see on the screen, there’s four hours in makeup, you’ve got to go to the gym, it’s not a given!
Did you draw inspiration from the computer game for your part in the film?
Well, luckily my part is very different from the computer game, she’s a lot more of a sex goddess in the game and this is a Disney movie so we decided not to go down that route! The idea is from the video game which is completely original so he took the idea from the video game and just elaborated it so it could be a film. We wouldn’t care about what happens to the characters; they would just be jumping off walls. There needed to be a story there needed to be emotional connection, good guys bad guys and a feisty princess in the middle.
You’re playing the video games fans fantasy girl!
Yeah, I find that really weird!
You’re the new Lara Croft!
I don’t know about that, I don’t know! Someone said to me the other day that you should play Wonder Woman. I said yeah, yeah, I’m happy with that, I don’t know about Lara Croft though, she’s far too hot!
What have the game fans been saying?
Well, when I got cast in this there was a future about me not being….. every time I get cast as a lead in a big Hollywood movie (which has been twice now actually!) there’s a been a ‘she’s not hot enough’ especially when I got the Bond Girl part. ‘oh she couldn’t play a Bond girl because she’s not hot enough’ blah blah blah, boring, boring, boring!
How do you feel when you hear that?
Well, I have to say I agree with them so I’m like yeah, I don’t know why I’m here either! I remember when I got cast in this, in the first ever meeting I went to the casting directors’ house. She sat me down, I’d never met her before and no one knew who I was, the Bond film hadn’t come out yet. Just before I went into the meeting I was in her kitchen and she’d left the names and pictures of everybody that they were seeing for Jakes part and for my part and I’m looking through and I’m like ‘I’m never gonna get it!’.
Who were the other in the list?!
(Laughs a lot!) I can’t tell you, I can’t tell you! But you can imagine, you can imagine. I remember going through it and going: ‘look at her! She’s so hot, she even looks like she could be Persian! I cant play this, I’m just some plain English girl’ and I think that really helped me get the role because I just really didn’t believe I’d get it. I remember saying to Mike when I got it, ‘why didn’t you cast Natalie Portman or Freida Pinto or whoever in the role because they probably should play it’ and he went ‘well, you’re the right actress for the role’ and I was like, ‘Oh yeah, maybe they want the right actress and not just the look’ because it’s Hollywood, they can spent a lot of money on making you look like a different race, and making you look hot if you need to be.
Were you self conscious when you’re cast in the role?
Yeah, I was self conscious because I was the only girl in it. There was Jake looking amazing in it and then there’s me and I’m meant to be the female lead draw and I feel really awkward with that. I don’t feel like that at all. I don’t know, I mean with every job I do, you always have your own insecurities. The next role I’m playing is a really fat geek. And I’m really happy about that.
Are you willing to gain a lot of weight?
Yeah, I’ve done it before. I’ve gained weight, lost weight. I think if it’s right for the role. As long as it’s not excessive, then I don’t mind doing it. I feel more comfortable with that because then I don’t hae the pressure of being really glamorous. You can have a spot or a bad hair day where as with this film every day was immaculate. You just have to get over it. I have to keep telling myself that I’m an actress, not a model and its more important that I can act than look good.
When you see yourself on screen as a Princess, what do you think of her? Can you break away from Gemma?
No, I just can’t do it. I remember at one point I said to them, don’t film this side because I’ve got a crumpled ear and they’re like ‘you haven’t got a crumpled ear’ and I’m like ‘I have!’. At one point there’s a shot in this film and my face covers the screen and that’s the side of my face and I’m like my ear is the size of that door on the screen. I’m sitting there screaming and my friends who came to see it with me says you’re being ridiculous.
I remember watching the film, I’ve only seen it once but it was so weird because everything about it is pure old-school Hollywood. It reminds me of Lawrence of Arabia meets Indiana Jones and then im in it! I just can’t get my head around it!
How does your family react?
They’re really cool actually. They’ve been broken in quite gently. The Bond film was a big deal for them being British but not they’re not so bothered. It’s great for me because when everyone’s fussing around you it’s not so helpful.
What’s it like working on a Bruckheimer movie?
Immense! I mean, I think it’s the apitamy of Hollywood film making. Even on the Bond film and Clash of the Titans, It was nothing in comparison to this in terms of scale. Even just the sets, I had this palace built for me in the film and it was immense. It was the size of the Bond stage which is huge at Pinewood Studios.
When we were in Morocco, we were taking on this tour before we started film of all the sets and one was a city with all the streets and you could walk round it in half an hour seeing things that would never get seen on camera but they’re just there incase they are. Hundreds of horses, hundreds of extras. It’s just immense and it’s quite intimidating sometimes because you think they’re spending all this money on this because it’s going to be my face and then that in the background! So I’ve gotta make it kind of look alright! It’s a different ball game working on a Bruckheimer movie.
Would you ever move and live in Hollywood?
I’ve only ever been to Hollywood once. I’ve got such a great life here in London and also lots of films come here, I’ve never had to work there. All the Hollywood movies I’ve done have been here. And Martin Scorsese is coming here this year and everyone seems to be coming here to make their movies, which is great for me!
I work very hard but I’m very lucky to have such a normal life and normal friends outside of it who don’t do what I do and that keeps me grounded. I’d find it too much to live there.
If they make a sequel, would you want to be in it?
Yes, in this movie she’s protecting herself. Maybe they’d become allies, she could open up a bit more. There’s a lot more to be found. If they did make another one it would be so different to this one. I’d love to do another but I think we’d have to see how this one does first
So you haven’t been asked to do another one?
Maybe!? (she answered this in a ‘yes they have’ kind of way!)
Prince of Persia is released in the UK May 21st. You can see interviews with all the cast on HeyUGuys so stay tuned or check out all our Prince of Persia Coverage here.
Check out Upbeat’s interview with Gemma below:
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