Entertainment & Arts

Arterton and Reynolds find the funny side to horror

The Voices Image copyright publicity
Image caption The Voices is not your conventional horror - or comedy - film

In 2008, Marjane Satrapi became the first woman to be nominated for an animation Oscar for her movie Persepolis, the story of a young girl's childhood in Iran, which was based upon Satrapi's own graphic novels.

The 45-year-old director, who left Tehran for Paris as a teenager, has now released her first English-language movie, The Voices, an offbeat horror-comedy starring Gemma Arterton and Ryan Reynolds.

Written by American crime writer Michael R Perry, the film sees Reynolds starring as Jerry, a seemingly regular guy working at the Milton Bathtub factory, with a dog, Bosco, and a cat, Mr Whiskers.

He meets an English girl, Fiona, at work - played by Arterton - and goes home to tell his pets all about her. Surprisingly, they answer him - and that's the start of a bloodbath in small-town Michigan.

"It's a bizarre and twisted tale," says Arterton, who started her film career in the St Trinian's movies, and went on to star as a Bond girl in 2008's Quantum of Solace.

"I was so desperate to do it, it's something quite different for me."

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Image caption 'I never thought I would play a damsel in distress, but I am a horror cliche in parts here,' says Gemma Arterton

Reynolds, who has starred in a string of Hollywood studio movies including The Proposal and Green Lantern, described himself also as "in hot pursuit of the part of Jerry".

"I really chased it, had to go and meet Marjane and make her believe I could do this quirky indie horror. I had to win her over, and it was a hard fought win, but I so wanted to see the script filtered through her eyes. I think she has a pretty unique vision."

"No one says Ryan Reynolds when you're bringing up the names of actors to play serial killers," says Satrapi.

"It was easy to cast Gemma, she is the new Sophia Loren, she explodes femininity and is easily the first girl in the factory that a boy would fall in love with. But Ryan? Look at that smile of his, you would forgive him anything.

"He really had to convince me to do it, but when we met, his thoughts on the movie completely corresponded with mine."

Reynolds also provides the voices of Jerry's pets, which provide good and bad advice.

Image copyright publicity
Image caption When animals talk, bad things can happen...

Arterton's opinion is that "you have to be slightly special in your head to be able to pull off a funny horror film. Michael Perry, the writer, mainly does crime, and I hope he doesn't mind me saying that he's a bit weird. So is Marjane, and actually Ryan and I are a little special too.

"It's all about the tone and getting the balance right. This one is especially tricky as it vacillates between a Disney tone and then the absolute depths of the horror genre.

"We've done okay in the UK with horror in the past, if you think of Shaun of the Dead and Ben Wheatley's Sightseers, but it's incredibly hard to do well.

"I don't actually like blood and guts, but I do like suspense and I think this has parodies of Hitchcock. I never thought I would play a damsel in distress, but I am a horror cliche in parts here - it's very Hitchcock, to be running through the woods, screaming.

"In reality, it was freezing temperatures and I was in a tiny dress. I kept telling Marjane Satrapi how very British that was."

Arterton is coming to the end of a run on the London stage of Made in Dagenham, a musical based on the movie about women's fight for equal pay.

The Voices, she said, started a year in 2013 "of just being with the girls". After filming with Satrapi, she made a French-language film, Gemma Bovery, with director and screenplay writer Anne Fontaine.

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Image caption Ryan Reynolds was happy not to be playing the immaculate heartthrob for once

"The Voices was the first time I'd worked with a woman director," says Arterton, "and it changed everything for me. It gave me a different way of working and feeling very confident about myself.

"You just feel that you can totally be yourself and it's really not like that all the time.

"It was like: 'Finally I can be quite grotesque on set around Marjane, and there's nobody there to complain that I am not being feminine.' I'm a bit of a tomboy, you see. Ironically though, I think that this is a very feminine horror film - there's even big musical numbers and sparkles and pink in there.

"Marjane told me that growing up in Iran during the Revolution in 1979 she'd seen enough horror and that she didn't want to see blood and knives on screen. She's created a way of filming horror that was sensitive. Perhaps it's the first flouncy horror film ever."

"With no pun intended, the film is a very unusual voice within the genre," says Reynolds.

"And it's very rare that this type of film even gets made and released. It's much more fun working within independent film, it's not about the financial outcome as it is within the studio system.

"I've never felt safer than within The Voices to drop all my vanity and let go.

"The films I have really been passionate about making tend to be the experimental ones that can provoke a debate in the audience. As long as they're talking about it, I don't mind if they don't like it."

The Voices is released in the UK on 20 March.

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