Gemma Arterton reveals her inspiration from grandmother who took her own life

Ben Arnold
·Contributor
Gemma Arterton (Credit: PA)
Gemma Arterton (Credit: PA)

Gemma Arterton has spoken of how her grandmother, who took her own life in 2010, has continued to inspire her career.

Helen Sarfas died aged 69, and had long struggled with bipolar disorder.

“My maternal grandmother had a huge effect on me. Still does. She was a remarkable woman,” Arterton told the Daily Mirror.

“She was bipolar and committed suicide eight years ago after living a very tough, difficult life. Who she was had a deep effect on me and stayed with me and will continue to inspire me.”

Arterton added that her latest film, The Escape, filmed near where she grew up in Kent, strangely echoed her grandmother’s circumstances.

Co-starring Dominic Cooper, it tells the story of a wife and mother who, hemmed in by her domestic life, decides one day to leave for Paris.

“She had these dreams and hopes that were put on hold to raise five children whom she loved dearly but it wasn’t enough,” she adds.

“Family life, domesticity suffocated her and she gave up a lot for them. I always felt very moved by that sacrifice, a sacrifice all too common for so many people, particularly so many women.

“She was with me on set. I felt her and I thought about her so much, especially shooting in Gravesend.


“Everything was so evocative and familiar, we even shot at my mum’s house, so the smells, the air was what I knew so well.

“It’s a story with universal relatability. I think we’re all looking for an escape. My grandmother was artistic and wrote poems, some of them were published and no one in the family even knew.

“My mother would be on set with me and say, ‘You know this is your grandmother’s story.’ But it’s a universal story about a woman who’s fighting to breathe while being choked and escaping from her happy life.

“It’s a fragile subject and very personal to me. There’s so much of me in it, it really came from inside me and then shooting in Gravesend, it’s like a mirror of what my life could have been had I never left maybe?”

Arterton shot to fame playing Strawberry Fields in Bond movie Quantum of Solace, before going on to movies like Clash of the Titans, Gemma Bovery and wartime comedy-drama Their Finest.

The Escape is due out in August.

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