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The Knightley News
The star of Domino enters the post-rookie phase of her career

Bob Thompson
National Post

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Forgive the usually pleasant Keira Knightley, for she is slightly miffed. The source of her apparent annoyance is an item in one of those celebrity magazines. The confounding tidbit isn't about her personal life, which she refuses to discuss. Her frustration focuses on the description of an up-and-comer.

"The magazine calls this actress 'the next Keira Knightley,' " says Knightley, pretending to be righteously indignant. "And I'm thinking, 'Hold on, am I past my prime already? I'm only 20 years old.' "

That's right, 20. It seems as though she should be older, especially now that she qualifies as a benchmark for success in the film game. As she heads into her post-rookie phase, she can look back on the kind of career most actresses would be proud to call their own, then call it quits. She has much more to come, however.

And imagine, Knightley had such a low-profile debut, as Queen Amidala's look-alike decoy in 1999's Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace. A great deal has happened since then, and not much of it low-profile.

The co-star of the 2002 indie hit Bend It Like Beckham was catapulted into the limelight as Elizabeth Swann in 2003's Pirates of the Caribbean opposite heartthrobs Orlando Bloom and Johnny Depp. It's a career-making part she repeats in Pirates 2 and 3, currently shooting in and around the Bahamas.

But she's quick to point out there's more to her thespian talents than swishing and swashing in a family film. Having said that, she proudly admits she recently survived a scene lashed to a vessel's mast. Moviegoers, however, won't get to see those Knightley performances for many months.

In the meantime, her fans will be able to enjoy two upcoming cinema projects. One is the film version of the Jane Austen novel Pride & Prejudice. The movie is already a hit in Europe and will open in North American theatres next month.

For those who need immediate gratification, there is her title role in Domino, in which Knightley plays Domino Harvey, a former model-turned-bounty hunter who famously called actor Laurence Harvey her dad.

Opening next Friday, the Tony Scott movie is more a tribute than a biopic of Harvey, who died in Los Angeles three months ago from an overdose of painkillers. And while Domino, the action flick, takes many narrative liberties, there is no denying Knightley holds her own alongside Christopher Walken, Mickey Rourke and Edgar Martinez.

Indeed, the stark contrast between her portrayals in Domino and Pride & Prejudice underscore two things: Knightley's many talents and her need to challenge those talents. In the case of Domino, that's despite her lack of preparation.

"I had four days off between finishing Pride & Prejudice in the English countryside and starting Domino in L.A.," says Knightley, recalling her tight schedule. "So I was there towards the end of Pride & Prejudice, having fun practising nunchuks for Domino on this proper bed in period clothes."

Confusing? A little. But then Knightley grew up in a less-than-typical environment with her London actor dad, Will Knightley, and her actress-turned-playwright mother, Sharman Macdonald. In fact, when Knightley decided to quit school at 16 to pursue acting full-time, there wasn't much her theatre-trained parents could say.

She did some work on British TV and took smaller parts in films for a few years. Then it was the double bill of Bend It Like Beckham and Pirates. And there was fame and all the good and bad that goes with it.

For Knightley, the bad is her lost privacy, although she does a better job than most at keeping her personal life to herself. The good, she says, is getting offered roles such as Domino and Pride & Prejudice. She just wishes they wouldn't come so close together.

Meaning her planned three-week bounty-hunter training became a two-day seminar. Extensive firearms research became a few days of target shooting. And assorted meetings with Domino Harvey, became a couple of hellos, although Knightley emphasizes "that I'm not doing a direct characterization of her." What she is attempting to define is somebody "who is going down one path, then takes an opposite turn."

That was the Knightley take on Domino. "Here's this girl, part of Hollywood royalty, who has everything," Knightley says. "And she walks away from it -- a strong, brave, crazy kind of move."

And if the theme wasn't crazy enough for Knightley, Scott decided to confirm it by shooting some of Knightley's bounty-hunter establishing scenes with L.A. gang members.

"Yeah," says Knightley. "Real gang bangers. And they were great to my mom on set. Like, she would ask them, 'What's this tattoo mean, and this one?' And they would explain. And then they would go and improvise scenes."

Their ominous presence made the shoot a little different. But no big deal for Knightley, who even films a sex scene later in the movie. That was no big deal, either.

"I'm European," she says. "I don't have that conservative thing. It was actually liberating to be topless in the middle of the desert."

She smiles. "Put on some sunscreen," Knightley says, "and I was ready to go."
http://www.canada.com/national/natio...9-a61ea501ba6b
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