The Rake

DOWN TO A FINE ART

Had you taken a stroll on Wimbledon Common during the latest U.K. lockdown and encountered a conspicuously elegant woman muttering Gallic phrases to herself — she would have been shy of five-feet-six, with auburn hair, and dressed in a style she herself has referred to as ‘French punk’ — it’s likely the woman in question would actually have been born north of la Manche, in the Kent town of Gravesend.

“Sometimes I’ll go out on a walk and I’ll speak to myself in French, like a crazy person, just to see if I can remember certain words and things,” Gemma Arterton tells The Rake. She learned to speak the language fluently for the 2014 comedy-drama adaptation of Posy Simmonds’ graphic novel Gemma Bovery. “I’m quite lucky where I live because I’m close to a lot of green spaces,” Arterton adds. “Wimbledon Common is the biggest area of natural heathland in London, so you can get a bit lost there. It feels like you’re not in London, even when you can still hear the traffic in the distance, and planes going overhead.”

Speaking to us today, via Zoom, from the London home she shares with her husband of almost a year and a half, Rory Keenan (of Peaky Blinders fame), Arterton seems to be in an animated mood. Throughout the conversation she’s generous with her 20,000-kilowatt smile and prolific with stretchy, Hindudeity- like gestures (she’s sitting cross-legged in a chair), which are framed in perfect symmetry by the one-point perspective inherent in Zoom calls. Her accent — juxtaposing starkly, today, with the less refined phonetics of this writer, who grew up on the other side of the Thames Estuary to her — must be catnip to American casting agents.

“When you’re an actor you have periods when you don’t know when your next job is, or you’ve got five months off.”

She appears comfortable with the partial life-sabbatical imposed by lockdown, though time out is something she’s used to. “When you’re an actor

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