Join Date: Feb 2005
Keira Knightley loves jumping from role to role
ROGER MOORE; The Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel
Published: November 23rd, 2005 02:30 AM
Keira Knightley’s voice is so winsome and frothy that you can practically see those famous teeth and that million-dollar grin over the phone.
And why wouldn’t she bubble? She’s 20 years old and, constant cracks about being “boyishly thin” aside, she’s stunning. Glamour, FHM, New Woman and Tatler have all named her “sexiest” this or “most desirable” that in the past year.
She just left the set of one of two “Pirates of the Caribbean” sequels, working with Orlando Bloom and Johnny Depp.
“Trying to do a scene with Johnny and trying desperately not to laugh at his performance is a true trial,” she says, laughing. “There were a couple of times where I completely corpsed (actor’s slang for botching a scene), and the entire crew would fall down and we’d have to do the entire scene again.”
In a business and culture that celebrates the newest, the freshest and the hottest, Knightley qualifies for all three. Even her failures celebrate her sexy chic. The babe-as-bounty-hunter thriller “Domino” may have flopped last month, but Knightley came through it smelling like an English Rose.
And now she is showcased in her “dream role,” the one any English actress with a literary-romantic bent would pine for. Knightley plays smart-mouthed yet always proper Elizabeth Bennet in the new film of Jane Austen’s “Pride & Prejudice,” which opens today.
“I’ve been obsessed with ‘Pride & Prejudice’ since I was about 7,” says Knightley, the daughter of a playwright-mom and an actor-dad. “My mom got it on book-tape, and I listened to it constantly.
“I had two dollhouses, a little one that was Longbourn and the big one was Pemberley,” she says, naming the two main homes in the novel.
She read the book and watched the definitive and popular BBC/A&E version of the tale “endlessly.” So much so that she was scared to death to do the film.
“But my mom said, ‘Read the book again, and I guarantee you that you will see Elizabeth Bennet as yourself.’ And she was absolutely right. … Any woman who reads it identifies with her so closely that she sees Elizabeth Bennet as herself.”
“Pride & Prejudice” is Austen’s classic tale of class, courtship and blown first impressions. It’s about a lower upper-class family with multiple marriage-age daughters – the Bennets – and their dealings with their betters, mainly the families of men who would make nice financial matches for the down-on-their-luck Bennets. It’s about how the spirited and knowing Elizabeth misjudges, and is misjudged by, snobbish and icy Mr. Darcy, whom we just know will eventually melt under her spell.
“The reason I became an Austen fan is because the characters aren’t perfect,” Knightley says. “They’re hugely flawed. With Elizabeth, she’s everything that I, as a woman, would like to be. Or so you’d think. She’s capable of those withering put-downs, terribly witty, independent, passionate.
“But sometimes, she’s really (bloody) annoying, and you just want to kick her in the (behind) and say, ‘Come on. What are you doing?’”
Knightley may be able to play perfectly prim and proper on the screen. But she can curse with the best 20-year-olds, which actually adds to her charm, what BBC critic Stella Papamichael calls “her tough-cookie routine.” Rest assured, when we print (bloody) and (behind), she’s actually waxing more colorful.
That “tough cookie” business is what Knightley wanted to bring to Elizabeth Bennet. Her “Lizzy,” as she calls her, “is a woman of her era, and ahead of her time,” she says. “You can’t take that ‘of her time’ propriety from her, because you’ve got to know the rules in order to break them. And that’s what she does.”
Knightley, herself, is very much of her time, the “it” girl of the moment, a moment she has worked toward all her life. She begged her parents for an agent when she was 3, so the story goes. At just 20, she is 17 films and a dozen TV movies or episodes into her career, a career as varied as the breakout soccer-girl performance in “Bend it Like Beckham,” a “Doctor Zhivago” for British TV, “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Love Actually,” “The Jacket” and “Domino.”
“There’s nothing sexier in an actress than courage,” says Edgar Ramirez, her co-star in “Domino.” “It’s a great contradiction, that Keira, as beautiful as a swan, is as hard as iron.”
Knightley, sprinting from one film to the next, has her own spin on that.
“I’m trying to give people whiplash, I really am. I think I would get very bored if I kept on doing the same sorts of roles, over and over again. Can’t wear a bodice every day, you know.”
Hope in reality is the worst of all evils because it prolongs the torments of man.
-- Friedrich Nietzsche