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AGENT ORANGE: Keira Knightly & Jerry Bruckheimer Talk About King Arthur!

By B. Alan Orange — July 5th, 2004

Movie Picture"The Real Truth Behind King Arthur..."

Interviews with Keira Knightly & Jerry Bruckheimer

- Keira Knightly -

Knightly: Hello, you...

O: Okay, what's up with you and the uncomfortable costumes?

K: This one was actually much more comfortable than the one in Pirates. I could actually breath in this one. It's a good thing.

O: How are you?

K: Good.

O: You've been busy.

K: Quite busy, yes. That's right. That's how I like it. I've just been working pretty hard. Which is great. It's what I like to do. It's all good.

O: Do you like doing these action movies? You've become quite the action heroine in the last year...

K: Ha-ha...

O: Is that fun for you.

K: I did really enjoy it. It was great. I absolutely loved it. I'd been asking Jerry if I could have a sword all the way through Pirates, and this more than made up for it. Yeah, I totally loved it. It was hard work. I did about three months of hard training before we started shooting. For me, that meant a lot of weight lifting to try and bulk up a bit. Horse riding and sword fighting. I've been practicing archery, and that sort of thing as well. It was fantastic. It was a lot like being back in London, on the playground. Which is always good. It was great fun.

O: Do you have any tips on axe fighting?

K: Swing as hard as you can.

O: Was your original conception of Guinevere, as a warrior, to this extent?

K: Do you mean from the myths and legends?

O: Yeah.

K: No. This is very much turning that version of Guinevere on her head. This is so different it's untrue. What we've tried to do through the whole movie is find a reality behind everything. That means the characters as well. For this Guinevere, we've said that she's a Pick. She comes from a matriarchal society. So, the women of this time would absolutely fight. They were equal, and sometimes the leaders. And this makes Guinevere a much stronger character than in any of the myths and legends were she was born and sold into marriage. This one, she's very manipulative. She's very calculating. She's big.

O: When did you first here that this was the angle they were taking with the material?

K: When I first read the script. Yeah.

O: What was your reaction?

K: I was very excited. When I first heard they were going to do another version of Camelot, I thought, "What's the point?" They've done it so many times. What new story can they tell? Then I read the script and thought, "Oh, that new story." It's certainly not Camelot.

O: Did you miss that Camelot moment? Did you just want to bust out into song?

K: Ha-ha...Yeah, occasionally. But, I think what's great about the King Arthur stories is that there are so many of them. I've got a book at home that's very thick. You know? There are different interpretations. There are different stories to tell.

O: What do you think after having done this? Do you think there was an Arthur? When did he live?

K: I don't know. There are a lot of theories behind it. But, it is certain that someone did live. And it is probable that some of the myths are based on him. But as far as the truths go, who knows? Nobody ever knows. But it is an exciting point. They are finding out more and more. And more and more discoveries are being made. Especially recently. It is an interesting subject. It's always interesting trying to find reality from fantasy. You know? Trying to find the reality behind any fantasy is interesting in itself.

O: I liked that ceremonial type thing at the end.

K: Yeah. It's good, isn't it? We only shot that a week ago.

O: Really?

K: Something like that, yeah. Two weeks ago, maybe. It is nice. And I think that is very accurate to Pagan marriages. I was talking to the historian the other day, and he was very happy with that. He said that everything was in there, and that the scene was very important to him. I'm the wrong person to ask about it. I don't actually know the truth behind it. But I thought it looked good.

O: Did you film those final scenes in North Dublin?

K: We did. Most of the movie was done in Ireland, just outside Dublin.

O: Do you think Clive makes a good King Arthur?

K: (whispering; Clive Owen is very close behind her) I think he makes a very good King Arthur. (Speaking at normal volume) I don't want to say that very loudly, cause then he'll get a big head.

O: He looks great in the part.

K: Oh, yeah. The thing about Clive is...He's got an amazing face. But he's also very manly. I think that's really important to Arthur. You don't want a pretty boy in that role. It just wouldn't work. You need to see strength in him. He's been a big television actor in England for a long time. His work is constantly of an extremely high standard. He's a very talented actor, and he brings a strength and a worldliness to the part that is necessary for Arthur.

O: As do you. You're a very strong presence as well...

K: For actresses, there are many stronger parts coming up than ever before. For me, as a moviegoer, and a young woman, that's what I want to see. I'm fed up with seeing these young women that are very much in the background, who are just there to be the girl in the movie. As apposed to being really proactive as characters. All of the ones I've played? It hasn't been a particularly conscience choice, you know? It just so happens that that is what's come along.

O: It makes it easier.

K: I know.

O: The little girls, they love you...

K: Wow...But, no. I think that it is a really positive thing to see strong women on film. I don't know that Guinevere is particularly a role model. She's defiantly tough. As far as fighting for what you believe in. That's a great thing. And I think it's interesting to take a character that has traditionally been so romantic, so innocent, and making her very politically motivated and pitting her in a situation, which is really guerilla warfare. It was interesting.

O: Have you counted how many people you eliminate in the movie?

K: Well, since it's now a PG-13 movie instead of an R rated movie, I think my death count has probably gone down. I'm pretty sure that I've now killed fewer people, unfortunately. If I kill them at all, now. I'm not even sure.

O: What is the weirdest place you've been recognized?

K: The weirdest place? Probably in Ethiopia. That's pretty weird, right?

O: Talking about strong women, you and the bow and arrow...Are you really that strong?

K: Well, I'd done archery as a kid in summer camp. And all that kind of stuff. And I did it in a couple of movies before, as well. So, yeah...I'm pretty good, actually. I'm better than the boys.

O: How much strength is required to pull that thing back?

K: It depends on the weight of the bow. And how far you want the arrow to go. If you only want the arrow going a short distance, you can have a pretty lightweight bow. But if you want it to go a long way, then you have to get a heavier one.

O: Is it tough to be a strong woman with all that testosterone flying around the set?

K: No. It's very easy. I had seven very beautiful boys in leather all around me, all day.

O: Did you act like a girly-girl, or...

K: I think I was one of the lads by the end of it, actually. Which was fantastic. I'm naturally a bit of a tomboy, anyway. So, no. It was really good fun. And of course, we did have that three-month training period before the film started. We all got to know each other pretty well. It was a laugh.

O: About your costume...Why were you practically naked with no shielding?

K: What we had originally was a full suit of armor. I put it on, and it was like, "Well, wait a minute...Where did she get this full suit of armor from?" That didn't make any sense. Guinevere in this is a Woad, so she had to be in the same costume that all the Woads were in. If you look at all the Woads, they're semi-naked. So, I had much more on than any of them did. Realistically, Picks and Celts used to fight naked. And that would be beyond an R rated version.

O: Is there any truth to you maybe being a Bond Girl?

K: There are absolutely no truths to the rumors that I was in talks to be a Bond Girl.

O: What about the rumors that Keith Richards might play Johnny Depp's father in Pirates 2?

K: You'll have to ask Jerry about that. I have no idea. It would be cool, wouldn't it?

O: You have no idea?

K: No I don't actually. It would be fantastic. I'm excited. We all had a great time on the first one. So, it will be great to do it again.

O: What's it like working on your second Jerry Bruckheimer movie? Is there a certain thing that it makes it a Jerry Bruckheimer movie?

K: He's one of the most amazing producers around. There's no doubt about that. To constantly make films that are completely different from each other, and yet still appeal to a huge audience is something that many producers try, and very few producers actually succeed at. He's an amazing person to work for. He's been absolutely fantastic to me. And I absolutely adored working with him on Pirates, so it was great to have this opportunity to work with him again. He's incredible. I've seen him quite a lot over this last year, and I haven't seen him lose his temper once. He's always completely calm and nice to everybody. So, yeah, I think he's very impressive.

O: Do you still consider the UK your home?

K: Yes. I'm not spending much time there, but yeah. Definitely. That's where all my friends and family are.

O: Can you have a social life?

K: Yeah. I think it's very important to stay in touch with friends and family.

O: Can you talk about Antoine as a director? He was kind of an odd choice for this...

K: Yeah, I mean, I think he's the reason we were all so excited about doing it. You always think of the Arthurian legends, and I'd always imagined that they'd be directed by some old English guy that's obsessed by all of them. It's refreshing when you're trying to do something new and different with source material that people know so well. It's really important for the director to have a completely new outlook on it. That's what Antoine did. He's not from the culture that I am, that's so steeped in it, all the time. In a way, I don't think he had a problem coming in and changing all of it. He found new ways to do it. When you look at the other films he's done, when you look at Training Day and Tears of the Sun, they are both so different from each other, and then to go onto King Arthur, its such a wild transition. I really think that's the reason we were all going, "Wow, this is pretty amazing." To do something like this with a guy who is a very novel director. He was fantastic. The first time I met him was in LA when I was doing Pirates. I had lunch with him and talked about the script and talked about the character. I thought he had so much integrity. He was absolutely incredible. I came out of the audition going, "Okay, anything that guy wants to do, I'll do it." And I still stand by that. He's an amazing talent. A really amazing talent.

O: Were there any funny moments while making this film?

K: Oh, God...There were lots. We had horses, and bows, and arrows. And all of that. And we had semi-naked, fully painted people all over the place. The whole thing was ridiculous. I can't think of anything specific. We did have Ray Winston...His horse had this weird thing were it kept standing on his cape and flicking him. I remember one day, it was actually the start of the ice battle. And they're all moving off and trying to creep across the ice. Ray's not moving. Antoine's got this big loud speaker, and he's going, "Ray, move! Move!" And Ray's going, "I can't! I can't! The horse is standing on me fucking cloak!" Yeah, there were lots of things. It was a big action film. So we were all getting hurt all the time.

O: Can you talk about working with Ray?

K: Oh, god, he's such a big character. He's absolutely amazing. I mean, he really is. And I love his films. He's such a phenomenal actor. So, it was wicked that they could get him in this role. He just brings Ray Winston to everything. He's an incredible man. He was really great. And the horse that he rode in this film is the same horse he rode in Cold Mountain. And the same one as the horse in something else he did. So him and this horse are best friends. It was very impressive.

O: Did he own the horse?

K: No, I think he's just friends with the stunt guys. It was very cool.

O: What's next for you?

K: I've got The Jacket coming out in February. And I'm just about to start Pride and Prejudice...

O: Are you playing Elizabeth?

K: I am...Thanks for that. All right. Yeah, no...It's really exciting. It's a character that's a bit like Guinevere. It's such a famous sort of female role. Again, it's a show of strength. But it's through wit and intellect, and all the rest of that stuff. It's very specific to that time. So, yeah, it should be fabulous.

O: All right. That's it. Thank you.

K: Bye, now...

- Jerry Bruckheimer -

O: Are you really afraid that people are going to confuse this with Camelot?

Bruckheimer: Sure.

O: Why? When you said that last night, it wasn't even on my mind. I was thinking more about that Richard Gere movie...

B: Right. With test audience, the girls were saying, "I want to see more of Camelot." And I said, "You're watching the wrong movie." We wanted to do something fresh and different. I had some journalists yesterday say the same thing. If I had of made that same story, they would have said, "Why did you do that? We've seen that story done a thousand times." I get the same thing on the violence. The movie's a PG-13. Some of the press have said, "We wanted to see more fighting." If I had of put in the violence, I would have gotten, "Why do you have to have such gratuitous violence?"

O: Originally, it was an R?

B: Yes, it was an R.

O: Did you cut out any beheadings for sensitivity reasons?

B: No, we cut them out because we wanted a PG-13.

O: With the big billboards, some people may see Guinevere, Lancelot, and Arthur, and assume that it's the love triangle...

B: That's not the intent. We just wanted to put the leads on the poster...

O: Speaking of the leads, who made the decision on the casting?

B: Antoine and myself. We cast the movie, along with a casting director.

O: You picked a lot of extremely talented people that aren't so well known. How did you find these people?

B: You're a writer, right? And you read a lot. If I'd only read two books, I wouldn't know a good writer from a bad writer. Because I've only read two books. You read a lot, so you know what a good writer is. You read something and you go, "Wow! What a use of words! Where did they come up with this?" I see actors all day long. That's what I do. I see hundreds of actors every year. So, we interview actors. You can tell, pretty quickly, who is unique and who is different. And the wheels aren't turning. In other words, they're acting.

O: You have an extreme knack for picking...

B: I think other people can, too, if you do it right.

O: Was there a conscience decision not to have major stars in the film?

B: Yes. It's the historical King Arthur rather than the fictional King Arthur. You don't want the baggage a big star comes with. You don't want someone that has a history of other films and a history of other characters. For American audiences, and for most audience around the world, except for Britain, these are fresh faces. That's what we wanted. We got that in Clive. He's got all the trappings of a movie star. He's handsome. He's a good actor. That will happen for him.

O: What about Antoine? He's a different choice that you might not expect. He brought so much to this...

B: Yeah. Antoine worked with me on Gangster's Paradise, a video Coolie did for Dangerous Minds. This was before he was doing features. I thought he was really gifted. And I wanted to work with him. When I saw Training Day, I said, "This movie needs that kind of edge and reality." That's what I wanted. I wanted a real gritty film. And that's what he brought to it.

O: Did the recent re-shoots in Ireland result from some of the test screenings?

B: Of course. Sure.

O: They wanted a different ending?

B: Yeah. Audiences wanted to know what happened to King Arthur. We had two screenings. One, we just ended at the funeral. The next one, we ended at the funeral, but we had a voice-over that explained what happened to Arthur. But they weren't happy with that one either. So, we ended up shooting the wedding for the end. I really think that works. It lifts the audience up a little bit.

O: Were you worried that audiences might not connect with this more realistic approach to the King Arthur legend?

B: It's always a worry. But I think the movie is entertaining. And I hope that audiences will embrace it. It screens very well. We got a good reaction last night. People seem to enjoy it. If the word of mouth is good, and Disney provides the advertising that they're doing, people will show up. It's always about what they think when they walk out. Who knows how they're going to react.

O: A lot of people have said that the treatment of Guinevere is sexist, even though she's a very strong character. Why do you think that it is?

B: The outfit. Yeah. She is a strong female warrior. It is embedded in the history of the myth.

O: She wouldn't have worn that into battle, would she?

B: Yeah. Yeah. That, or she would have been naked.

O: And you put her in the outfit to avoid the R rating, right?

B: Absolutely. I make movies to entertain people. And if I haven't entertained them, then I've failed. People are spending hard earned money, and they want to be taken on a ride. Especially on a movie like this.

O: Have you ever bought a test screening?

B: Yeah, sure. All the time. You have to take everything with a grain of salt. When you read the part about the cast, who they like and who they don't like, ninety percent of them pick the villains. They hate the villains. So that's good. They're supposed to hate the villains. They cheered last night every time a villain died.

O: When did you decide to take this from an R rating to a PG-13? I remember last year, at the Pirates Junket, you telling us that this was going to be a hard R...

B: When Disney moved it from the fall to the summer schedule.

O: Was that to get a wider audience?

B: Yeah, because kids are out of school. And you have so much competition during the summer. The next weekend after this comes out, we've got I, Robot to content with. We lose those big multiplex screens. We're pushed to the smaller screens. So, we've got to get them in there.

O: Do you think that loses any of the integrity of the film itself?

B: No. I think the movie is effective the way it is. It might not be as effective for certain people. But it is effective. If I'd made the real hard R movie, you guys would be saying, "Why did you have to choose violence? Why did you have to show all the blood?"

O: I wouldn't be saying that.

B: It's a strong battle. There's a lot of cool stuff in that battle.

O: The ice battle is great...

B: Also the pre-battle, when the knights come in. The one right before the big battle...

O: How much research did you do as a producer?

B: I studied up on the time period. I changed a lot of the names to coincide with the groups that were there at that time. I read a lot about the weapons. And the armor. What was going on in the world during that century...Well, it looks like I'm ready. Thanks, guy...

O: One last thing...Is Keith Richards doing Pirates 2?

B: We don't know yet...Great. Thanks again...

O: Bye...

-The End-

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