Feature by: Jack Foley
THE Jacket arguably provides British actress, Keira Knightley,
with her best role to date.
The star of films such as Pirates of the Caribbean and Love Actually
was in danger of becoming typecast as the romantic leading lady,
more prone to wearing corsets than getting down and dirty.
Indeed, such was her image that director, John Maybury, was reluctant
to cast her in The Jacket - only being convinced by Knightley
herself, following a fortunate case of food poisoning!
Knightley first read the script for The Jacket while on location
in Dublin for King Arthur, and recalls finding it 'exciting and
imaginative' and a role that she knew she had to play immediately.
"The other eight scripts on my pile were variations of the
same pretty, uptight British girl, but Jackie was this damaged
character who meets a guy going through trauma," she explains.
"It's very rare that a film will show people who are in
the process of self-destructing."
When Jackie is first introduced to audiences, she looks like
a victim in waiting.
Stuck in a small town, drinking too much, she decides to pick
up Adrien Brody's time-travelling Gulf War veteran, John Starks,
with little regard for her own safety.
Without properly knowing him, she invites him to her house and
then has a bath while he roams the house.
Yet the bond that subsequently develops between the two characters
provides Starks with the opportunity of escaping his own personal
nightmare, as well as an unlikely form of romance.
It is a performance that marks something of a coming-of-age for
Knightley, who adopts an American accent and an altogether more
Yet Maybury took some convincing that she was right for the role.
"I didn't want Keira Knightley for the role," he observes
"I'd met 15 to 20 young American
actresses, and there were at least two or threee that I thought
would be terrific as Jackie, so very reluctantly I met with her.
"I knew she was an interesting, pretty girl, but that was
it as far as I was concerned."
Knightley seized her opportunity, though, travelling from Dublin
to London on a rare day off to meet Maybury, despite also suffering
from a debilitating case of food poisoning.
"I spent most of my energy trying not to projectile vomit
on these people I desperately wanted to work with," she recalls.
"And then John told me that he did not think I was right
for the role, and said he didn't want me.
"At that moment, I had nothing to lose. I declared that
if I didn't get the part of Jackie, I could be stuck in corsets
for the next 20 years, and asked him to let me read.
"He agreed and promised if he was convinced, then he would
hire me. We shook on it. I read the part and he gave me some notes,
then gave me his mobile phone number and offered me the job!"
Adds Maybury: "The fact that she had food poisoning at the
audition actually served to make her act and look even more like
"Then, when she read, she was excellent and I realised that
she was a very intelligent girl and a very good actor. She comes
across almost like a young Jane Fonda."
Having secured the part, Knightley then set about transforming
herself with relish, continually using Maybury's vision for Jackie
as pointers for pitching it perfectly.
As such, her character reflects influences such as Edie Sedgwick,
a fixture of Andy Warhol's Factory and star of his film, Ciao
Manhattan, who eventually self-destructed through alcohol and
drugs, as well as aspects of Courtney Love (vocally) and Marlene
Dietrich (for her languidity).
He also forced her to spend time alone when not working on the
set to reinforce Jackie's sense of isolation.
But she comically concludes that this may have backfired slightly:
"We decided that Jackie would listen to a lot of loud music,
alone at home, and since I was living in the apartment above John,
he got to hear a lot of Jeff Buckley, White Stripes, Nirvana and
Recalls Maybury, jovially: "It was like living underneath
a noisy teenager, as Keira also liked to dance around her apartment."