The actress stars alongside Sam Claflin in 'Their Finest,' a delightful WWII-set ensemble piece from 'An Education' director Lone Scherfig

By Nicole Sperling
April 07, 2017 at 11:04 AM EDT

Gemma Arterton is many things: charming, vibrant, passionate. Fresh off a run playing Joan of Arc in Saint Joan at the Donmar Warehouse in London and sporting a fresh pixie cut hairstyle, the woman formerly known as Bond girl Strawberry Field in Quantum of Solace appears to have a new sense of energy and enthusiasm to her career that at one point looked like it was going to be stuck in the unenviable girlfriend role. While 2010’s Prince of Persia forced its lead actor Jake Gyllenhaal to take stock of what kinds of choices he was making, Arterton, who costarred in that box office flop, needed a few more years to take charge of her career. She credits 2013’s Runner Runner, in which she costarred opposite Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake, as the film that did it for her.

“It made me stop wanting to be an actor,” says Arterton, 31. “The whole thing wasn’t right for me. It wasn’t the type of thing I enjoyed watching or doing. I had a moment where I thought, ‘Okay, I got into this because of Michael Haneke and Lars von Trier and now I’m making action movies.’ Not that I wouldn’t ever do [action movies] again but I realized then that it wasn’t for me and I decided to do more theater and collaborate with people.”

The change is evident in her latest film Their Finest, a delightful WWII-set ensemble piece from An Education director Lone Scherfig.

In the film Arterton plays Catrin Cole, a newly married copywriter who lands a job writing “slop” — the dialogue women say to each other — for films coming out of the London’s propaganda office. She stares opposite Sam Claflin and Bill Nighy, both of whom give career-enhancing performances. But it’s Arterton who appears revived by the project. We set down to chat with her about the movie and her career for an interview on EW Radio.

One of our first questions centered on her work with Scherfig, the Danish director who had tried multiple times to work with Arterton in the past. Scherfig says she was drawn to Arterton’s comedic timing and technical prowess. Plus, says Scherfig, “She’s a real woman. She knows how to work really hard for what she wants and she’s not spoiled in any way.”

Arterton and Claflin, who plays the curmudgeonly screen writer Tom Buckley, share an endearing banter with each other throughout the film. That was easy to master compared to Arterton’s bigger challenge, the Welsh accent.

Arterton has taken charge of her career in a refreshing manner. After Their Finest she will star in Julie Delpy’s new film My Zoe opposite Daniel Bruhl and Richard Armitage, and Vita and Virginia, which she produced and is playing Virginia Woolf’s lover, socialite and author Vita Sackville-West.

“I feel like The beginning of my career was kind of like, ‘Let’s pretend that didn’t happen,’ and now it’s really happening,” she says with a laugh. “I’m really happy with the work, and creatively, I’m buzzing with ideas.”

She also adds that she thinks the decision by BAFTA to promote gender equality is brilliant. Here she is talking about it.

Their Finest opens in New York and Los Angeles this weekend.

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