Keira Knightley Atonement Interview

Keira Knightley Atonement Interview
Keira Knightley: Shes already been nominated for one Oscar following her brilliant performance in Joe Wrights 2005 hit film Pride and Prejudice. Two years later and with the samedirector at the helm, the 22-year-old British actress Keira Knightley is expected to earn herself anothernomination for her latest role in Atonement. The film was recently nominated in seven categories for the 2008 Golden Globes, often an indication on a how a film will fare at the Oscars. Based on the Ian McEwan best seller, Knightley plays Cecilia Tallis an upper class young English woman who falls for Robbie (James McAvoy), the educated but financially strapped son of the housekeeper who, on the hottest day of summer in 1935 is accused of a terrible crime, he didnt commit. Gaynor Flynn caught up with the actress at the recent Venice International Film Festival.

Gaynor Flynn: Were you looking to play a more mature character?

Keira Knightley: I was looking for a character that was more maturethan I had played before. Obviously given my age Idbeen playing a lot of girls on the brink of womanhood. I wanted to play somebody with a certain maturity whois dealing with things that werent teenage based. And I think what really fascinated me about her wasthat it was this girl in this incredibly privilegedposition but who is completely directionless and isprobably angry and doesnt know why. Shes almostlike a pressure cooker about to explode. She knowswhat she should be doing but she cant make herself doit. Its almost like shes atrophied in the positionthat shes in and I was fascinated by that.

Gaynor Flynn: Were you fascinated by the period as well, they actvery differently in 1935, they appear very woodencompared to modern actors. Were you worried aboutthat?

Keira Knightley: Isnt that pretty much anything anyone ever says aboutme, shes very wooden on screen? (laughs) So no, Ithink it was actually one of the things I got reallyexcited about was doing it in that very 1940s, 1930sstyle. Its a style of film acting thats pretty muchgone really. I mean the David Lean films we werewatching particularly Brief Encounter for me it wasvery much Cecilia Johnson who I took inspiration fromif you like and a bit of Deborah Kerr for good measurebut that style of acting isnt what we do now. Ithink it was really interesting for everybody tochange pace of what they normally do on screen, and toreally change that and do the 1940s where the speechis like machine gun fire its really quick and thatBritish accent is pretty much lost. I think itssomething most directors shy away from because it isdifficult and there is a worry that you ostracise theaudience because of it, its the sort of peak of thatBritish stiff upper lip. But Atonement is not acomfortable film, its not a comfortable book you needto get that feel of tension of something thats goingto go wrong and I think in some way the language andthe style of acting helped to get that heightenedrealism that we were going for in the whole feel ofit.

Gaynor Flynn: Were you tired of action adventure?

Keira Knightley: You know you do a film like Pirates of the Caribbeanand its designed to appeal to the biggest audiencepossible. Its a family movie. I never wanted tobecome an actress to play the same person again andagain and again. I think the interesting part of it ischanging, thats whats interesting to me. ElizabethSwan is great but its a kids character, its aaction character. Shes meant to fight monsters andthats what she does and thats lovely but when yourelooking for something more intellectually stimulatingthen you look for something like Atonement which youreally have to dive into.

Gaynor Flynn: Did you think okay Im going to do Pirates and get abit more known and then I can pick and choose my otherprojects?

Keira Knightley: No it doesnt really work like that. When I wasoffered Pirates it wasnt like I was being offeredanything else. That was it so you dont really have anidea. If you think about it, it was based on a Disneytheme park ride, you look at it and go this is notgoing to work and I remember telling my friends andthey laughed at me and I was like yeah its reallyembarrassing isnt it, but that was the work that wasoffered so you take the work and then all of a suddenits a success and then all of a sudden you are inthis incredibly fortunate position where you are ableto go okay this is what I want to pursue. But itsnot planned.

Gaynor Flynn: So the plan wasnt to become more famous, and havemore power so you have more control over your career?

Keira Knightley: I think fame is a very fickle friend and if thatswhat youre looking forward then youre not going tolead a very happy life because youre never going tobe famous enough. Obviously I wanted to besuccessful, I think everybody in what ever career theychoose wants to be as successful as they possibly canbut I think in a funny kind of way, fame is thedownside of that.

Gaynor Flynn: Do you find the focus on your personal lifedehumanising in a way?

Keira Knightley: Of course it is. Anybody reading anything about anyonecan see its dehumanising people because actuallyintrinsically its not polite is it? You dont walkalong the street and make a comment about whatssomebodys wearing or you dont walk around thestreets and go well youre a bitch cause you saidthat, it goes against everything were taught to do,so obviously its strange. Its not particularly apart of culture today that I like. I dont enjoy thekind of voyeurism that involves so on a personal noteits not the way I get my entertainment. Its quitestrange because you cant just be an actress. You haveto be a celebrity, which seems to be this new thingswhere theres no difference between somebody on areality TV show or somebody who actually works anddoes a job in a film.

Gaynor Flynn: Why did you want to become an actress?

Keira Knightley: I dont know. I mean can you answer any questionabout why you wanted to do something at the age ofsix? But I enjoy what I do, Ive always enjoyed it,probably for different reasons but again I dont knowwhat I got out of it at six I think Ive alwaysenjoyed stories. Its entertainment and who wouldntwant to live their life in stories?

Gaynor Flynn: Would you say youre a confident person?

Keira Knightley: No, not at all. But I dont think its that black orwhite. Its not like you go in there and go I believethat Im the best in the room, you just go this issomething I really love to do and I really want to doit. I dont know if Im the best but I want to be apart of it so Ill give it a great go and if itdoesnt work out, then Ill walk on and do somethingelse but you might as well give it a go.

Gaynor Flynn: Youve been in a lot of period films, are you lookingfor more contemporary roles?

Keira Knightley: No actually Im about to do another period piece(laughs) called The Duchess and it was sort of anaccident because I was looking for somethingcontemporary and then I read the script and I read thebook it was based on and went oh wow. And thats whyplanning your career never works because if Imreading a script like The Duchess and it moves me Imnot going to turn it down because its set in 1784,that would be pretty fucking stupid. So yeah you canhave a plan to go right I want to do a really grittymodern day piece and then it all goes tits up becauseyou read a script that you love so yes in an idealworld at some point yes, because I want to keepchanging.