Southampton University is preparing to host the UK premiere of The Disappearance of Alice Creed on Tuesday 20th April. The Wessex Scene travelled to London to see a pre-screening of the critically acclaimed film before catching up with its star and director.
Gemma Arterton, a former Bond girl and an actress with a profile that is increasing in international stature every year, looks surprisingly relaxed as she sits at the table surrounded by journalists. With the director J Blakeson next to her, there is a palpable sense of optimism about Alice Creed that is often missing from promotional interviews.
The young British actress explains that her confidence is down to her enthusiasm for the low-budget production. “My heart is in this sort of film. The Hollywood movies are great fun and I never imagined I would be in them. Really, I never thought I’d get work at all. But they’re not the sort of thing I have in my DVD collection, I prefer to watch this type of film even if it’s more low-key.”
Indeed, the CGI-less independent British film is a far cry from Gemma’s most recent release, Clash of the Titans, with its budget of 100 million pounds. Blakeson points out “there’s fewer bells and whistles in this film, we live and die on the acting.”
And the acting is intense. The film is a highly charged 90 minutes, with just three characters and a claustrophobic set. The story is a hostage-scenario and barely a scene passes without a long period of screaming, fighting, shouting and crying. So how easy is it to unwind after shooting?
“If you are in a state of hysterics for a whole day, of course it is going to affect you” admits Gemma. “But we all stayed in the same hotel and you have a drink together and try to relax. It’s absolutely exhausting though, I had to crash out when I got home.”
It’s not just the screaming that makes Gemma’s role of Alice a potentially stressful one for a 24 year old actress. For most of the film she is tied up with a ball gag in her mouth and is nude on more than one occasion.
On nudity, Gemma does not appear fazed. “You skim through the script, see you’re naked, and only start thinking about it later! When we were filming, there weren’t many girls around and it could have been awkward. But because of the nature of the harrowing scenes someone had to defuse the situation and it turned out to be me calming everyone else down!”
The gag was more of a problem. “It was important that I kept in character so I left the gag in between a lot of takes. There were times when it did get a bit much though”. Her director is unsympathetic: “But you were selling it a bit! It’s looser that it looks” he laughs. “Yes but it is quite weird when I’m talking to a props guy and he shoves a gag in my mouth mid-sentence!” points out Gemma.
We asked them what they thought of Southampton University holding the premiere. “I’m really excited about it” says Blakeson. “It’s a really clever way of promoting the movie and I think the students will appreciate it. I did a Film degree at Warwick University and wrote pretentiously about this sort of thing for three years. If we’d held a premiere it would definitely have been the highlight. Not many students will get this chance.”
The interview inevitably comes to a close, but the excitement for next Tuesday is only beginning. After taking a sneaky peak at the film, we can confirm that all the rave reviews tagging it as “twisting” and “compelling” are accurate. Though the genre is not going to appeal to everyone and some of the scenes could be disturbing for the sensitive, it is undoubtedly engaging with several big plot twists that J Blakeson urged us to keep quiet about for now. So if you want to find out what they are you can go and see it. Before anyone else.