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.”