She was five, her younger sister, taking on the role of Donald Duck, was two, "and there's this video of us, where we're watching Mickey Mouse and I'm making my sister act it out with me. And I've really got it down! I used to do that stuff all the time, just copying. From that realisation — then on to a performance arts course, before a place at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art Rada — to here has been a dizzying climb.
Her role in 's dark indie thriller The Disappearance of Alice Creed, and her theatre work, offset some serious typecasting: Three years on, she is still referred to in newspaper pieces as "Bond girl Gemma Arterton".
But if her CV makes it look as if she was unable to say no to anything, at least it propelled her into a place from where she can pick and choose. You can say no. In the past I've done things that I've been like, 'why did I do that? In a world where many young stars have all their personalities and opinions media-trained out of them, Arterton is a rare find. In a PR office in London, I sit across from her over a huge boardroom table.
She said in one interview it was hard to be a feminist in the acting world. What did she mean by that? Actually, in the last year I've found it less, because people know I'm a feminist now. Does she wear a badge? I think a lot of it is down to that I am now choosing who I am working with. I meet somebody, and it's a two-way decision. It's not me going, 'please will you employ me? Especially on the bigger movies, it was like, 'you're lucky you're here, so don't speak up', and that was frustrating.
Does she mean her ideas weren't listened to, or there were things she didn't want to do? Or things I just don't believe in that seem important. I'm not really supposed to do big commercial movies because I don't really believe in the … " She lets the sentence hang. It's always going to be like that.
You're just going to be known as the mouthy one who gets in trouble for saying what she thinks. What's the best thing to do? And sometimes it's just not the right thing to do. You can become more known for being a spokesperson than an actor, and I don't want that to happen. But then, you look at someone like Vanessa Redgrave , and she's amazing.
She just doesn't give a fuck. I think I still care a little bit too much [about what people think] to be that person. I think people think you're going to have a big old hairy muff and be mouthy and spit on men. We are supposed to be talking about Sky Rainforest Rescue, for which Arterton is an ambassador. I got to meet farmers who have these very dedicated lives. We trekked for hours to get to them. I tried my hand at rubber tapping, which is quite hard — they produce a small amount of rubber really, if you think about the amount of time it takes.
Like anything, when you go to somewhere where they don't have what we have, you feel very grateful. It's not, 'I'm doing this. The reason they ask you is that people know who you are, and that's what you bring to it. My aunt is a lesbian and very, very feminist.
After the separation, Arterton grew up with her mother and younger sister on a council estate in Gravesend. She says drama school was "intimidating. Stephen Frears, who directed Tamara Drewe, sent Arterton to a vocal coach, as if she were Eliza Doolittle, to tone down her Kentish twang.
And so I did, but now it's just found its own 'estuarine' sound. It's funny because people do judge you by how you talk. It comes and goes.
If I have a drink it comes back. I remember my family getting all 'why are you talking like that? Does she ever feel too separated from her family and old friends' experiences? It's nice to bring my family to those kind of things because they are like, 'woah! I don't take any of this for granted.