The Edge of Love - Keira Knightley interview
Compiled by Jack Foley
KEIRA Knightley talks about her role in John Maybury’s The Edge of Love, and the various challenges of the role, including finding her singing voice.
She also talks about how much research she carried out into her real-life character, perfecting a Welsh accent and whether it felt strange working on a script that had been written by her mum!
Q. Were you instrumental in persuading [director] John Maybury to come on board?
Keira Knightley: I worked with John on The Jacket and I think he’s an extraordinary film-maker. It was actually Shar who showed me Love is the Devil before I did The Jacket. I read the first drafts of this piece when I was working on The Jacket, and we’d so fallen in love with him that we thought he was the only person that should direct this! We wrote poems for him, we sent him champagne and cakes. Four years later he finally read it.
Q. What was the biggest challenge of this project for you?
Keira Knightley: It was really lovely to work on something that was so intimate, and small. It’s very rare to get a film script that has such good dialogue, so that was a real joy. A lot of the time, you spend on film sets really fighting to find out how to say the words, whereas on this one we were already on another level.
Q. Did it come from the relationships you all had?
Keira Knightley: You can’t fake warmth. You can fake lust, jealousy, anger, but actual genuine warmth, I don’t think you can fake. It was really great that we did all get on, we had a great time all living in the same house, it was wicked. We felt like a proper unit, so that means when you’re doing something that’s incredibly intimate, that you feel safe to try things out.
Q. How extensively did you research your character, Vera?
Keira Knightley: I didn’t base my performance on the real Vera. I completely went with what Shar had put in the script. What was fantastic was having the support of the family members – Rebecca Gilbertson [Killicks’ grand-daughter] was there every day, and it was amazing for them to have said to us: “Go for it. Make it a fiction. Make it a good story.” And has Shar said, it is a fiction, and particularly my characterisation is that, it’s not based in reality.
Q. How did you prepare for the singing? And were you scared?
Keira Knightley: I went through voice coaching. I was absolutely terrified. I thought my knees were going to buckle, and the first couple of takes I sounded like a pubescent boy. I didn’t realise I was going to have to do it live. I did actually go into a studio and record it beforehand, so I thought I’d just be miming to playback. On the morning, when there were a hundred extras, John said: “We’ll just do it live.” I’ve never been more terrified in my entire life. What was also useful was that John said, she’s singing down in a tube station, she doesn’t have to be completely brilliant, so I thought if I hit a wrong note, I can say it was a character choice.
Q. How did you go about perfecting the Welsh accent?
Keira Knightley: [Spending] 18 weeks in Swansea helped! We had a really good voice coach. Half of my mum’s family is Welsh. I remember when I was a kid she used to read to me, and witches and wizards in books always had a Welsh accent, so I guess I took it from that really.
Q. Did it feel strange working on your mother’s script?
Keira Knightley: No, it felt very natural. You live with a writer, and you grow up with their words, their kind of fantasies, and I’d pretty much seen every single one of her plays, and been in a lot of rehearsal rooms, so it felt very natural and easy. It was lovely to get an opportunity to do that professionally as well. I didn’t know that she was obsessed with Dylan Thomas before. She was working on this project for a long time, but she didn’t read me Under Milk Wood or anything.
Q. What do you think about some people’s view that the film offers an unflattering portrayal of Dylan Thomas?
Keira Knightley: Some people say he’s mischievous, he’s a child, and other people say he’s quite demonic. I don’t think we should dictate about him, if that’s your view of him, that’s wonderful, but it’s great to know that other people think differently.
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