All action role is a hit with feisty Gemma

Gemma Arterton in Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters.  Picture: PA Photo/Paramount Pictures.
Gemma Arterton in Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. Picture: PA Photo/Paramount Pictures.
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If you go down to the woods today, you’re in for a big surprise... because instead of teddy bears having a picnic, nasty witches have set up home in the depths of the dark forests, waiting to steal innocent youngsters.

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (15), written and directed by Tommy Wirkola, is inspired by the Brothers Grimm fairytale – but with a new twist in the tale.

Following their escape from a cannibalistic witch when they were little, 15 years later brother and sister Hansel and Gretel (Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton) have conquered their fears to become witch killers. They’re fierce, formidably-skilled bounty hunters with a taste for blood and murder, and hell-bent on retribution.

“I love the original fairytale and this starts there, then makes a real departure,” says Arterton. “The film joins up with Hansel and Gretel in the midst of their fame as witch hunters.

“But it’s also a time when they’re starting to wonder who they are and why these terrible things happened to them – which leads them into a very tense situation. It’s really about the two of them and it’s original, a brother and sister bad-ass team.”

The 27-year-old, who graduated from RADA in 2007, enjoyed working with Renner, who was nominated for an Oscar for his performance in Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker in 2010.

“Jeremy is so amazing at action, but he also has a lot of sensitivity when needed. He brings a lot of fun to their relationship,” she says. “He’s become a really good friend. We just have a very natural connection, very open-hearted and we trusted each other instantaneously. It was so important for us to get that brother and sister relationship right.”

A self-confessed girly girl who admits she isn’t a ‘tough chick’, Arterton enjoyed the opportunity to play a feisty female.

“It was a real relief to play that kind of part – usually you still have to have a romantic connection with one of the characters, but in this one I don’t and it’s great,” she says.

She threw herself into the training for the role, which sees her hoisting some impressive weapons, throwing punches and kicking some serious witch butt.

“It’s one of the reasons I wanted to do the film because I’ve always wanted to punch people!” she says. “I had to do lots of training because I’d never done anything like it and I absolutely loved it.

“I came in before anybody else and worked with the stunt team in a kind of intensive boot camp. It was great because it really rooted me and made me more present in the action scenes.”

Trained singer Arterton, who indulges her passion for music in Song For Marion alongside Vanessa Redgrave and Terence Stamp, next stars in Neil Jordan’s vampire drama Byzantium, where she plays a blood-sucking mother, with The Lovely Bones’ Saoirse Ronan playing her daughter.

“It’s just the most wonderful character. She’s multi-faceted, ferocious and a merciless killer, but she’s also a maternal, loving, protective mother and I just adore playing her,” says Arterton.

The film was written by Moira Buffini, who also penned 2010’s Tamara Drewe in which Arterton starred.