New Again: Keira Knightley

In New Again, we highlight a piece from Interview’s past that resonates with the present. 

Leo Tolstoy’s timeless late-19th-century love story, Anna Karenina, will be released on the big screen this Friday, November 16, in an adaptation directed by Joe Wright and starring Jude Law and Aaron Taylor-Johnson as the husband and lover, respectively, of the titular Russian aristocrat, played by Keira Knightley. The elegant film, set in the late-tsarist Russian high society, focuses on the novel’s depiction of the depth of love and the ebb and flow of passion.

Knightley, the 27-year-old English actress who recently covered Interview’s April 2012 issue, took on her first role in the 2001 psychological thriller, The Hole. Since then, her career has progressed with major roles in Bend It Like Beckham, Pirates of the Caribbean, and two other Joe Wright adaptations: of Ian McEwan’s Atonement and Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice.

When Interview‘s Scott Lyle Cohen first spoke with Knightley almost a decade ago—back in March 2003—she was still surprised by the success of Beckham and gearing up for Pirates. She even indulged him in a little pirate-speak.

Keira Knightley
by Scott Lyle Cohen


This new actress scores a goal with her first lead role.

SCOTT LYLE COHEN: You were completely convincing as a soccer player in Bend It Like Beckham (opening in the U.S. this month). Had you played before?

KEIRA KNIGHTLEY: Sort of. I was captain of the girls’ team in primary school, but we never actually scored a goal. We only kicked people. [laughs] We did 20 weeks’ training for the film, which was great.

COHEN: For the benefit of Americans, “Beckham” in the film’s title refers to Manchester United soccer star David Beckham, who’s a hero to you and your co-star, Parminder Nagra. Still, for all the action on the field, this is not a soccer movie, is it?

KNIGHTLEY: No. It’s about following your dreams. Soccer is the subject, but it doesn’t have to be soccer at all. It could be anything. It could be knitting. It’s about overcoming your—and everybody else’s—prejudices.

COHEN: Were you surprised by audiences’ responses to the movie when it opened in the U.K. last summer?

KNIGHTLEY: Completely. When I was doing it I thought, Hey, this is brilliant, but it’s a small British movie, and it was such a shock when suddenly it went to number one in the U.K., and then all over Europe. It’s got a universal vibe to it, so I think—I hope—that people in America will identify with it as well.

COHEN: Tell me about your character, Jules.

KNIGHTLEY: She’s a girl on a mission. She’s always hated the prejudice that went with a girl playing football. She’s rebelled and fought sexism all her life, which is very impressive. You know, it’s funny—my dad’s a theater actor [Will Knightley] and my mum’s a playwright [Sharman Macdonald], and as a child I fell in love with the whole environment of acting and wanted to be a part of it, and I think that’s very boring of me, because I never really rebelled. I should have become an accountant or something. [laughs] Hopefully, one day I will, otherwise I’ll just feel extremely disappointed in myself. Who knows—after this film perhaps a soccer team will sign me!

COHEN: Or you could be a pirate, with the training you must be getting on your current movie, Pirates of the Caribbean.

KNIGHTLEY: Exactly! Why not?

COHEN: All you need to do is wear an eye patch and perfect your swashbuckler’s growl.

KNIGHTLEY: [laughs] Harrrr! See? It’s quite good, isn’t it.

COHEN: I’m terrified. [both laugh] Pirates, which comes out this summer, is your first prominent role in a big production, no?

KNIGHTLEY: Yeah, and it’s very exciting. The movie is a big adventure inspired by the Disney ride, and we’ve got Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom, and Jonathan Pryce in it. I’ve been in L.A. for three months now, and I’m getting used to everything, and it’s bizarre. It’s really strange when you walk onto a set with a life-size ship, and they’re blowing it up, and you think, just a normal day at work. But it’s been an incredible learning experience. When you’re doing a small film, everything goes pretty quickly. But on one of these monsters, it goes so slowly it’s unbelievable. I’m totally spoiled here n the set, and I’m enjoying it thoroughly.

COHEN: Now, Johnny’s been living in France for a while, and Jonathan and Orlando are Brits. Do you guys talk football?

KNIGHTLEY: Actually, Orlando’s not a big football fan, but I’ve found a lot of Brits over here who are. I’ve been going to a pub in Santa Monica at 6:30 in the morning to watch live English football.

COHEN: And your team would be?

KNIGHTLEY: West Ham. They’re doing very badly; it’s extremely depressing.

COHEN: What about Manchester United, Beckham’s team?

KNIGHTLEY: No. I mean, Beckham is extremely beautiful and he is a god. When he’s playing for England I support him, but when he’s playing for Manchester United he is the opposition.


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