Prince of Persia - Jake Gyllenhaal and Gemma Arterton
Prince Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton) © Disney Enterprises and Jerry Bruckheimer
Prince of Persia - Gemma Arterton
Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton) © Disney Enterprises and Jerry Bruckheimer

At the beginning of her career, Gemma Arterton has already made a name for herself playing such roles as Agent Fields in Quantum of Solace and Io in Clash of the Titans.

In her new movie Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, she portrays a mysterious princess named Tamina, who along with Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal), go on a dangerous journey to safeguard an ancient dagger which is capable of releasing the Sands of Time, giving its owner the powers to rule the world.

I spoke with Gemma about the film and her promising career at the press junket for the movie.

Clearly Tamina and Dastan don’t meet eye-to-eye at first, but eventually she comes to see him differently than she did at the beginning of the film. Can you talk about the journey that they go on, and the moment that she realizes that Dastan was different than she thought?

At the beginning, I’m captured by the Persians, so I don’t really like them. (she laughs), and Jake’s character, Dastan, is one of them. S

he’s quite snooty at the beginning and very regal and then, as the film develops, she wears him down and then realizes that there’s a lot more to him.

It’s when she sees him mourn his father, that’s when she really sees that there’s something else going on. I think they play an important role in each other’s development, she makes him realize his inner self and he softens her and opens her up.

How intense was the physical training for your fight choreography and stunts that you had to do in the film?

Prince of Persia - Alfred Molina, Jake Gyllenhaal and Gemma Arterton
Alfred Molina, Prince Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton) © Disney Enterprises and Jerry Bruckheimer

I didn’t have to go through as much as Jake and some of the other guys, but I still had quite a lot to do. More than anything, I had to train in the gym just to get my stamina up, because it was pretty full on out there and I needed to be able to get through the day without collapsing. So I was in the gym six days a week.

And then we went through fighting boot camp, where we learnt how to fight, that was pretty fun. I always saw myself as a little big of a stunt girl, but never had the opportunity to do it. And I got to do a lot of my own stunts, and that was really cool.

Can you talk to being the only girl in the movie? Was it intimidating?

Yeah, you get used to being the only girl, or one of two and usually the girls don’t work with each other in these sorts of movies. You just get used to it, and you kind of muck in.

I was intimidated, especially because the guys around me were legendary actors like Sir Ben Kingsley and Alfred Molina, and then of course Jake. You’re surrounded by all the guys on set. So you can either be a shrinking violet or you can be like me and just charge your way through.

What was it like working on such a physically demanding film shoot in Morocco, with temperatures as high as 120 degrees?

Prince of Persia - Gemma Arterton and Jake Gyllenhaal
Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton) and Prince Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal) © Disney Enterprises and Jerry Bruckheimer

It was pretty hot. But being from London you don’t really get that sort of weather ever, so I loved it. Any Brit was probably there basking in the sun. As an actor, you don’t really have to sit out in the sun for very long, there’s always someone there with an umbrella. I call them brolly bitches (she laughs).

Can you compare your experience on Prince of Persia with being a Bond girl and being in Clash of the Titans?

Well, they’re very, very different films. I’d done the Bond film before I started. Prince of Persia. I was only in it for a small amount of time, so I didn’t actually see how huge it can be to be in a movie like that. But this was even bigger, I think. With a fantasy movie you have all these huge sets and the landscapes were much more epic.

It was the first time I really felt like I was in a massive movie. And then I did Clash of the Titans afterwards, which, even though it was a big movie, it was small by comparison. This was, for me, a really big deal, because I was the only girl in the movie, so it was pretty immense.

At the age of 24, did you ever believe that you would reach this level so early in your career?

Prince of Persia - Jake Gyllenhaal and Gemma Arterton
Prince Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton) © Disney Enterprises and Jerry Bruckheimer

I never imagined myself even in a film, let alone in a movie like this.

I always thought I’d do theatre. So my career has completely taken me by surprise. Even though I’ve made some really big movies, I’m trying to make small movies as well, and do theatre. I’m in a really lucky position where I’m getting sent really cool scripts and I just want to be selective and do something that you completely wouldn’t expect.

In keeping with the theme of the Dagger of Time, if you had the power to turn back time and change something, what would you do and what would you change?

I wouldn’t change a thing in my own life, but I’d like to go back in time anyway just to some of the eras that I wish I’d lived in, like the ‘60s. I’d love to have been in London in the ‘60s partying away.

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.