The former Bond girl will star in the new production of George Bernard Shaw's 1923 play Saint Joan at the Donmar Warehouse from 9 December (16) to 18 February (17).

Gemma admits she never imagined herself as the peasant girl-turned-teenage warrior and even asked director Josie Rourke why she had been cast.

"Saint Joan has got a lot of soul and it's poetic," Gemma told Britain's Daily Mail newspaper. "It's not as though I'm the obvious choice... I'm so not her; I guess because she's religious and pure, and it's not the type of thing I usually play. My characters have usually got a bit more sass...

"When Joan goes into any room, she can make people listen to her. She (Josie) said she felt that I could play her."

The star adds that after she gave it some thought, she realised she was attracted to portraying the headstrong heroine character.

Gemma has been a regular on the West End stage in recent years with starring roles in The Duchess of Malfi and musical Made in Dagenham, which earned her a Evening Standard Best Newcomer Musical Award and an Olivier Award nomination.

Most recently, she starred in stage comedy Nell Gwynn and scored herself another Olivier Award nod for Best Actress this year (16).

Gemma also has a string of films in the pipeline including zombie thriller The Girl with All the Gifts, romance movies The History of Love and We Happy Few, plus French-language drama Orpheline.