Compiled by: Jack Foley
JUST a year after her breakthrough performance opposite Johnny
Depp and Orlando Bloom, in
Pirates of the Caribbean, Keira Knightley is once again front
and centre in the epic adventure, King Arthur, the latest offering
from Pirates producer Jerry Bruckheimer.
Knightley plays a Guinevere radically different from any put
on screen before and stars alongside Clive Owen (The Croupier),
as King Arthur, and Ioan Gruffudd (Horatio Hornblower), as Lancelot.
Right now, it seems as if casting the stunningly beautiful 19-year-old
Knightley - who was a recent cover girl for Vanity Fair - would
be an obvious move for any director, but Pirates hadn’t
come out when Antoine Fuqua was casting King Arthur.
"I didn’t quite understand why there was so much hype
about her," Fuqua recalls. "Then I met her and she’s
like Audrey Hepburn on the screen."
Knightley, whose previous roles include the hit comedy, Bend
It Like Beckham, will next be seen in the thriller, The Jacket,
with Adrien Brody, a new version of Pride and Prejudice, and very
likely, a Pirates sequel.
Knightley talked to us about her blossoming career and how she
had to put on the weight but shed the clothes for the role of
Q: What were your initial thoughts regarding King Arthur?
A: When I first heard they were doing a new version of
King Arthur I said, "Oh, what’s the point? We’ve
seen it so many times before. We all know the legends, we all
know the story so well." But then I read the script and I
thought, "Oh, that’s interesting." But I was a
tiny bit terrified – and excited – to take a role
as well-known as Guinevere and completely change it. But it’s
about time we had a new version of Guinevere.
Q: So what’s different about this Guinevere?
A: What’s amazing about this character is she’s
so strong. She’s very manipulative, very calculating. She
is very much a master of her own destiny and that’s interesting
to see from a character that has been traditionally so romantic
and innocent. To take that out and have a character who has blood
on her hands is a fascinating thing.
Q: Did you and Antoine Fuqua discuss Guinevere’s
history much? When we meet her in the film she’s in prison…
A: I talked to Antoine quite a lot about the back-story
and we did decide that she was leading an attack and got captured
and put in jail, where she got tortured as well – definitely
tortured. And I thought she was high up in society, which gave
me more to play.
Suddenly, this person who had been fighting against the knights
since she was born finds herself amongst them, and she has to
think about what’s the best action to take. Should she kill
them all, or does she use them to her advantage?
So she chooses to use Arthur to her advantage. It’s a cold
way of looking at it, but there is a bit of love as well. She’s
a character who would not fall in love with somebody unless they
were beneficial to her cause. What we’re looking at is Guinevere
as a guerilla leader – she’s fighting for an occupied
nation. The interesting thing to note is that there is not a single
innocent character in this movie. They’ve all done things
that are repulsive and disgusting, and each one is probably haunted
by that. But it makes them more interesting individuals.
Q: How difficult was the training for the movie?
A: We had to train pretty hard. Before filming started,
I did three months of boxing, weightlifting, axe fighting, sword
fighting and horse riding, even though I never got to ride a horse
in the film. We all worked really hard. And once we started filming,
we had trainers on the set all the time. And when we weren’t
filming, we were in the gym. So it was definitely physical.
Q: Did you gain weight for the role?
A: I tried. I did actually put on more muscle for the
role, and that was the main aim. When I accepted the part, it
was on the condition that I put on as much weight as possible.
And I did try to put on as much muscle as I possibly could in
the three months before filming started. I did go up a dress size,
which I was very proud of. I would’ve liked to have kept
it going, but it would’ve meant two hours in the gym, four
times a week, and I just couldn’t be bothered.
Q: What did producer Jerry Bruckheimer have to do to
get you on board?
A: Actually, he didn’t need to convince me. As
soon as I read that there was a swordfight in the movie, I went,
"Oh, OK!" I worked with Jerry Bruckheimer last year,
on Pirates of the Caribbean, and I had a fantastic time. I’m
such a fan of his – I think he’s absolutely amazing.
The opportunity to work with him again was one I couldn’t
Q: Talk about the leather
outfit you wear in the climactic battle sequence in the film.
It’s hard to tell whether that was fun to wear. Was it?
A: I was very happy with the battle dress, actually.
It’s a little skimpy, but actually we spent months trying
to perfect it. Originally, we had Guinevere in full armour, but
then we wondered, where would she get all that armour?
But it isn’t as skimpy as it appears. I actually had much
more on than most of the guys – they were only in loincloths.
But we did have to make sure that I could move around in it without
anything popping out. And it was all lined with fabric, so there
wasn’t any chafing.
It’s the perfect way to wear leather, actually. But I was
fine because we did it at the height of Summer, in Ireland last
year, and it was really hot. So I was fine running around in it.
I could do whatever I wanted to in it and all the boys were dying
in their armour. When I think about it, I got off pretty easy,
Q: Do you pick your parts knowing that you’re a
role model for girls?
A: The characters I played in Bend
It Like Beckham and Pirates
of the Caribbean are role models and positive beings, but
I wouldn’t say Guinevere is a role model, apart from being
strong. As a moviegoer, I want to see women who are proactive
and not just the girl in the movie – that’s what I’m
interested in. As far as Guinevere being a role model, I wouldn’t
say that she is one. She’s pretty cold and she fights a
lot, and I wouldn’t recommend that. As far as me choosing
roles, I only do what interests me. I’m playing an alcoholic
waitress in my next film, and she’s not a role model, either.
Q: What can you tell us about The Jacket, which opens
later this year?
A: It’s with Adrien Brody, Kris Kristofferson and
Jennifer Jason Leigh, and it’s from a director named John
Maybury. It’s a thinking man’s thriller. It should
be really interesting. It’s definitely different from King
Q: And you’ll be playing Elizabeth Bennet in Pride
and Prejudice. How excited are you to take on that role?
A: It’s a fantastic opportunity, just as it was
to play Guinevere. They’re both strong female roles that
if they come your way, you don’t turn them down. With Pride
and Prejudice, it’s an adaptation of a book so if I have
any questions, I have the book to run to. We haven’t started
filming yet, but it should be good. I’m very excited.
Q: What can you tell us about the Pirates of the Caribbean
A: Honestly, that’s a question for Jerry Bruckheimer.
We all had a fantastic time doing the first one and we’re
all definitely up to do the second one as well, so keep your fingers
Q: It sounds like you’re really enjoying what you’re
doing. How thrilling is it for you to be working in movies?
A: It is amazing, because throughout my life what I’ve
loved doing is watching movies. I love reading books about movies,
I love the escapism of film, and I love the stories. So it’s
incredible for me to be involved with them as much as I am, from
the very first stitch in a costume to the end product.
That’s what I find really incredible and that’s what
I always wanted to spend my time doing. Acting is a profession
where you’re hot one minute, and not hot the next, and that’s
totally cool with me … that’s what I find most fascinating
and exciting about it – that it can be gone in a puff of
Q: That doesn’t seem to be very likely to happen
in your case. In fact, some might say you’re becoming something
of a British symbol to the rest of the world. What do you think
A: I love where I’m from, you know, I’m very
much a Londoner. And I think the more time I spend away from England,
the more I love it.
But I don’t know if I’d say I was a British symbol.
It is very strange seeing yourself in magazines. It means you
can’t buy them, which is really annoying. And I don’t
read any of the papers. I spend most of my time working, and when
you’re on a film set, it’s like being in a protective
bubble, which is fantastic.
So I haven’t really been overly aware of it. Honestly, if
I’m on a billboard, I usually have to walk past about five
of them before I actually figure out that it’s me staring
back at myself. Or I say, "God, she looks familiar."
Q: Do you have a big support system at home?
A: I’ve got a very kind of close-knit friend and
family group, which is great. They’re all fab and they tell
me when I’m acting up, and laugh at me as much as possible
which, I think, is very important and very British. So, yeah,
they’ve all been great.
Q: Now that your career has taken off, are you starting
to enjoy some of the money you’re making? Have you made
any large purchases?
A: I bought myself a flat, in London. I haven’t
moved into it yet, but I bought it so if the acting thing falls
apart, at least I’ll have a flat. Of course, there’s
no furniture in it yet – absolutely nothing – just
bricks and mortar. And I have no idea how I’m going to decorate
it. I keep seeing things and getting ideas, but honestly, I can’t
make up my mind.
Q: Would you ever consider moving to Hollywood?
A: If it’s absolutely critical for my career, then
yes, but I can’t imagine that it ever would be. I do like
it in Los Angeles – the weather’s good and the beaches
are nice. When I first arrived, I couldn’t get my head around
it. I really didn’t like it and I wasn’t sure why.
I think it’s possibly because it’s very spread out
and I’m used to built-up cities. A lot of people say LA
is a city without culture, but I think if you look for it, you
can find it. I like visiting, but I don’t know if I could
actually live there. I’m kind of happy where I am.