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Keira Knightley to play Iraq war whistleblower Katharine Gun in Official Secrets

Seeking A Friend For The End of The World

Story by Jack Foley

KEIRA Knightley is to play Iraq war whistleblower Katharine Gun in new film Official Secrets.

Gavin Hood, whose previous credits include the acclaimed Eye In The Sky and crime drama Tsotsi, is to direct the film, with shooting due to begin in March.

Explaining his decision to make a film about the forgotten Gun, Hood said: “I found Katharine’s story fascinating. It’s a story that has largely been overlooked. Even in the recent Iraq inquiry, which was otherwise very thorough, she was not called to testify. Katharine’s story is a very important piece of the Iraq war puzzle and one which has been missing for too long.”

Gun, who was 28 at the time, worked as a Mandarin translator at GCHQ, the British government’s communications HQ in Cheltenham, when she leaked a confidential US National Security Agency email to national newspaper The Observer.

The memo, which consisted of a single sheet of paper, asked her and her colleagues to help the US government spy on UN security council delegations in New York. The reason, it was claimed, was to allow both the US and UK governments to persuade undecided countries that invading Iraq was the right course of action.

The Observer‘s decision to run the story, in spite of having been pro-war just weeks before, eventually cost Gun her job. She was subsequently arrested and charged under the Official Secrets Act.

Knightley’s casting comes just weeks after she went on the record as saying she was content to take on more historical roles given that modern films often find the female characters being raped or “there to be the loving girlfriend or wife”.

She said she would consider contemporary scripts if they offered more than that.

But Hood is proud to have landed the British actress for his long-held project, saying: “Keira’s presence in this movie is indispensable in terms of star power. I take it as a huge compliment that she has agreed to do this film. She really responded to Katharine’s bravery and strength of character.”

Former Doctor Who Matt Smith has also been cast as former Observer reporter Martin Bright.

Commenting on what to expect, Hood said that the film will follow both Gun and Bright as they deal with the fallout from the leak.

“I will say that I don’t think it’s a film with a downbeat ending,” he continued. “It’s a thriller and a mystery and there are some interesting reveals along the way. Ultimately, it’s a movie for grown-ups which I hope will intrigue people and inspire them and, most of all, lead to great debates when they leave the cinema.

“I want people to be saying: ‘What would you have done? Would you have done that?’”

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