N EW YORK — If Lincoln can fight vampires, and a Jane Austen heroine zombies, then why not “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters,” opening Friday?
And as the distaff half of that fairy-tale duo, Gemma Arterton — Royal Academy of Dramatic Art alumna, Tess in the BBC adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s “Tess of the D’Urbervilles” and Rosaline in Shakespeare’s “Love’s Labour’s Lost” at the Globe Theatre in London — takes out the resident evil like Milla Jovovich in “Resident Evil.” It’s like having Laurence Olivier star in “Die Hard.”
“Well, yeah, I guess. It’s very much out of my comfort zone,” Arterton, 27, says with a laugh in a phone interview from Mexico. She and co-star Jeremy Renner are there to promote the film’s international release. “I feel much more comfortable onstage — that’s where I really feel my expertise is. So for me this really feels like a big departure, even though when I was at RADA I had quite a lot of stunt training — stage-fight sort of stuff.”
Not that the English actress is unaccustomed to rock-’em-sock-’em spectacle — she was one of the two Bond Girls in “Quantum of Solace” (2008) and the female lead in both “Clash of the Titans” and “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” (both 2010). And she was considered for the part of leather-clad, butt-kicking Selina Kyle in “The Dark Knight Rises” (“I had a meeting with Chris Nolan but that was as far it went”) — although not, despite internet rumors, for the role of leather-clad, butt-kicking Natasha Romanoff in “Iron Man 2.” (“No. I was never up for that role.”)
As the leather-clad, butt-kicking Gretel, who with brother Hansel got a taste for killing witches early on, Arterton embodied her character’s tough attitude in an improvisational way that surprised her — and co-star Peter Stormare as well. In one scene his brutal village sheriff “beats me up,” she says, “and I actually spat in his face and he didn’t know I was going to do that. And that was good, that got a good reaction from him.”
Arterton, who married sales rep Stefano Catelli in June 2010, has three other films upcoming this year, including “Runner, Runner,” opposite Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake.