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Pirates of the Caribbean - The corset looked great, but oxygen depravation became a big problem!



Feature by: Jack Foley

TEDDINGTON may seem like a million miles away from the bright lights of Hollywood, yet the glamour and glitz of Tinseltown is now well within reach for one of its young residents.

Keira Knightley may be just 18, but she is already being tipped as one of the hottest new prospects around, following high-profile roles in movies such as indie hit, Bend It Like Beckham, lavish television drama, Dr Zhivago, and this Summer’s blockbuster, Pirates of the Caribbean.

It is little wonder, therefore, to find that there are still ‘pinch me’ moments for the rising star, given her remarkable ascent into the limelight.

Speaking ahead of the release of Pirates of the Caribbean, at a press conference in London’s Dorchester Hotel, Knightley described the past two and a half years as ‘fantastic’, adding: "It’s really, really great to have the opportunity to do what we [co-star, Orlando Bloom] both want to do, especially working with people like Gore Verbinski, Jerry Bruckheimer and, of course, Johnny Depp.

"Obviously, there are pinch me moments, but you take each day at a time and try to have as much fun as possible. And, fortunately, this movie was a great experience to be part of."

Knightley appears in Pirates of the Caribbean as the heroine of the piece; the feisty daughter of the governor of Port Royal, who is kidnapped by Geoffrey Rush’s wily Captain Barbossa, as part of his plan to reverse a curse that has consigned his crew to sailing the waters of the undead.

Far from being a mere damsel in distress, however, Knightley’s Elizabeth Swann frequently gives as good as she gets, while waiting for her beloved (Orlando Bloom) to rescue her, with the help of Johnny Depp’s eccentric Captain Jack Sparrow.

And getting involved with the swashbuckling on show is something that appealed to the actress from the start, even though, initially, she thought she was in for an easier time than her male colleagues.

"When I first read the script, I thought I was going to have a really easy time of it, sitting around, pouting a bit, and screaming a lot," she revealed. "But Gore, the director, had other plans, and thought it would be a great idea if I tried to do as much of it as possible.

"So I ended up climbing up ships and jumping off the other side, and hitting men over the head with golden polls, which was actually great fun, even though he never gave me a sword!"

Indeed, the experience of filming the blockbuster was far more physical than Knightley could ever have imagined, whether it was mixing it with pirates, squeezing into a corset, or merely keeping her sea legs.

The young actress was one of several crew members who found the choppy seas of the Caribbean a little unsettling.

"I don’t normally get sea sick, but they had these special boats made, which rocked a lot, so I thought better be safe, than sorry, and took these sea sickness pills," she revealed, with a tinge of embarrassment. "But they make you really, really drowsy.

"Everybody was coming up to me and asking, ‘are you ok?’, but I just couldn’t keep my eyes open for the entire day; so, after that, I decided I’d rather puke than be falling asleep all day.

"It was very glamorous, people puking overboard and me sort of me falling asleep," she laughed.

So while the opportunity of working alongside the likes of Orlando Bloom and Johnny Depp may be enough to turn most women green with envy, they should console themselves with the fact that Knightley certainly seemed to ‘suffer’ for the ‘privilege’, especially when it came to wearing a corset.

"I actually made it more difficult for myself, as I’ve got a Scarlett O’Hara, in Gone With The Wind, thing," she continued. "She gets her waist down to 18 and a half inches, so when I went into all these fittings, I thought it would be a great idea if we tried to do the same.

"It looks great and I used to breathe in and try to make them go tighter and tighter; and for five minutes, it’s fantastic, you have this lovely thin waist, and big cleavage, which is great fun, but oxygen depravation then becomes a big problem…

"I think it was during a scene where I was standing on the stairs that Gore actually had to say to me, ‘ok, go out and take the corset off, because your eyes are rolling into the back of your head’. But it looks good, so that’s the main thing."

From spending time with Knightley, it is clear that she is, indeed, taking each day as it comes and having as much fun as possible, yet, from taking a peek at her biography, it would seem that her path to success has been a much longer one than it initially appears.

The daughter of actor, Will Knightley, and playwright, Sharman MacDonald, Keira apparently requested an agent at the age of three, and secured her first role at the age of nine, in Moira Armstrong’s A Village Affair, in 1994.

She subsequently attended Teddington School, before securing her first big break in 1999, playing a double for Natalie Portman in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.

Far from being instantly recognised, however, her role as the decoy queen was kept secret, in order to maintain the surprise, and it was maintained through the promotions that Portman played both the Queen and the decoy.

Indeed, her similarity to Portman is so striking that it was reported, during filming, that their own mothers could not tell them apart, once covered in make-up.

Further roles quickly followed, though, and Knightley has since appeared in The Hole, as well as Bend It Like Beckham. Next up, is another blockbuster, King Arthur (again produced by Jerry Bruckheimer), which she is currently filming in Ireland, as well as the ensemble drama, Love Actually, alongside the likes of Liam Neeson, Hugh Grant, Colin Firth and Laura Linney.

So how is the star adapting to the transition from smaller, independent movies, to the wilder extravagances of the Hollywood blockbuster?

"There’s a big difference," she notes. "I mean, on Bend It Like Beckham there were, maybe, 50 crew members, while on Pirates. we had hundreds, and hundreds and hundreds; so it’s just much bigger, and we could take more time.

"Every football sequence in Bend It Like Beckham took no more than a day and a half, whereas some of the action sequences in this took about two weeks.

"It’s a longer, drawn out process, doing something of this magnitude, as opposed to something that small, but I think the banter between actor and director is always the same, and you have that discussion always, no matter what you are making. Everything’s just on a larger scale."

Rather like Knightley’s career itself, then.

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