They say art imitates life. Keira Knightley, for one couldn’t agree more. In an interview with Guardian, she tells of how oddly reflective her two latest movie roles were of her current stage in life. The offbeat comedy Begin Again and the Sundance favourite Say When saw Keira take on roles with which moviegoers wouldn’t normally associate her. Looking back at her 12-year acting career, it isn’t hard to see why.
Whether it was portraying one of literature’s most esteemed heroines, Elizabeth Bennet in Pride & Prejudice (a role which garnered her an Oscar nomination), playing the titular role in the film adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s masterpiece Anna Karenina or holding her own opposite fellow Brit Benedict Cumberbatch in the critically lauded The Imitation Game, Keira has always been more known for her period dramas. Hence, taking on these two recent projects marks a turning point in her career and she believes, in her personal life too. Something which she welcomes wholeheartedly.
“In both movies, I play people who are caught in some sort-of quarter-life crisis. I suppose you can say my characters were having a bit of a float. They suddenly found themselves going ‘Er, who am I?’ I think everyone has experienced that at some point,” Keira divulges. And does Keira see herself in these characters? She doesn’t hesitate with her reply. “Definitely, the roles were strangely fitting,” she confesses.
“I’ve been doing period pieces for a long time. However, something more modern and less stylised – I hadn’t done much of that. There’s just something emotionally scruffier in modern-day movies, you know.” She continues, “I now have an image of womanhood in my head which I’d like to portray. As I’ve gotten older, that’s become more crucial for me. I’m not into airbrushed perfection. I don’t have a perfect figure, face or teeth. I’ve got what I’ve got and it’s all fine. It adds character. So, I now look forward to characters whose hair isn’t perfectly brushed every time they go out. That’s what I liked about Gretta (her character in Begin Again). She’s a real woman.”
Elaborating further, Keira says, “I’ve stopped trying to please people by taking on pristine roles or projects worthy of award buzz. You can never make something everybody likes. If you’re like me who always looked for A at school, it’s like the dangling carrot in front of you which you’ll never get. The issue with acting is that even if you win an Oscar, there’s always someone who will loathe your performance. So, I’m giving up on trying to score the A and just enjoy the process.”
Of marriage and musicals
It looks like film projects aren’t the only thing a’changing for Keira. Come October this year, Keira will make her Broadway debut. Unbeknownst to many (especially, those more familiar with her US films), theatre holds a special place in her heart. “I love the stage even though it’s been a while since I last appeared in London’s West End. When I was nine, I could already quote dialogue from Much Ado About Nothing!” And it doesn’t come as a real surprise. After all, we wouldn’t expect anything less from the daughter of a playwright mother and actor father.
With her new take on her career (and life, in general), one wonders if it had anything to do with Keira’s nuptials to musician James Righton. “Our marriage’s pretty ordinary. We stay in and read lots. We’re basically geeks. We also like cooking but James is better at it,” she shares candidly. “We’re different in some ways, though. He can light up any room whereas I’m the one who sits in the corner.” But it looks like soon, Keira won’t be doing much sitting in corners anymore – unless, it involves changing nappies – as she and James recently welcomed their first child.
Feminist at heart
Just as how she’s open about her career choices and marriage, Keira’s no shrinking violet when it comes to the subject of feminism. “There’s a lack of good female roles in Hollywood. We need to have our voices heard.” But as passionate as she is over the movie industry’s imbalance, she is more concerned about the welfare of women globally. This has prompted her to write to British Prime Minister David Cameron – in collaboration with Amnesty International – about ensuring women’s rights in war-torn countries like Afghanistan are protected. “It’s taken true courage for women to vote in elections, have high-profile jobs and attend school. People act like feminism is something we all should be ashamed of. But feminism is about the fight of equality between the sexes, equally pay, respect and opportunity.”
The Guardian. Available at www.theguardian.com
The Independent. Available at www.independent.co.uk
The Telegraph. Available at www.telegraph.co.uk