Keira Knightley Interview

The actress is not into fad diets and loves English period costume dramas

Keira Knightley has really had an impressive career for someone who is so young. That is really the most striking thing about her. She's just turned twenty and has the demeanor of someone still flush with youth. She's had a pretty busy year and continues full steam ahead. She's currently shooting the sequels to Pirates of the Caribbean.

How did you prepare for this role?

Keira Knightley: I read the book a lot. I've been obsessed by the book since I was about seven, I had all the Austen series on book tape. I was obsessed with the BBC version when I was about ten or eleven. I read the book finally when I was about fourteen and got obsessed again. When I was offered the role, I was terrified of doing it, because I'd been really obsessed with the BBC one, I thought I'm just going to do an absolute copy of Jennifer Ehle's performance and that would be awful. I was so terrified before I started, that I learned the entire script, my part and everybody else's by heart. We had historians come and give us lectures, and we had etiquette lessons. You have to learn the rules to be able to know how to break them.

Do you and Elizabeth share any traits?

Keira Knightley: I think it's impossible not to. I'm making a huge generalization here, but I'm assuming every woman will want to be her, which is this sort of incredibly passionate, clever, witty, intelligent, just amazing being. But also she is so annoying and you want to kick her up the ass and tell her to sort it out. So she's flawed and that's very human. I think when people see the film; they will see aspects of themselves in that character. Which is what's so brilliant about Austen, I think you see yourself in all her characters. Strong women.

Do you think that modern girls relate to Elizabeth?

Keira Knightley: You can set it anywhere; it's about things that are as relevant today as they were two hundred years ago. It's about growing up, it's about making mistakes, it's about falling in love for the first time, it's about a million different things. You can see that you can set this story anywhere, because you've got "Bride and Prejudice", the Bollywood version, you've got "Bridget Jones". I think it doesn't matter where you're from, we all need a bit of romance, so why not?

Was there anything from the book that wasn't in the film that you wanted?

Keira Knightley: Of course. It's a difficult thing when you try and make a film of a book that you really love. You have about two hours to tell the story, and it's never going to be enough. There's a lot more of the Wickham stuff in the book that I love. I love all that Lydia, Wickham thing, that we never shot. There is quite a wealth of stuff that we had to leave out, because it didn't go with our story.

What can you tell us about your Judi Dench pillow?

Keira Knightley: My Judi Dench pillow! I didn't get one, I don't know why! I think it was pretty rude [laughs]. I love that, because she gives this kind of fantastic air. She just sits there and she embroiders, and you think, "Oh that's so nice, it's Judi Dench". It's so quaint; she's embroidering a cushion. She's got like hundreds of them, they're just covered in swear words or rude sayings or whatever.

Did you learn anything from the film that you still do? How's your curtsying?

Keira Knightley: [laughs] Yes, I always curtsy.

Did you like being girly and all dressed up?

Keira Knightley: I love costume dramas, I love performing in them, because in a funny kind of way, you feel more free. You know about the period, you can read the books, you can see the paintings, but you've never actually going to know what it was like. You can kind of stretch those boundaries a bit. I mean, you do something that's modern day, and you know what this is like. It's kind of a little bit of room.

Did you have any problems with the dancing scenes?

Keira Knightley: I loved that; I made myself look like an idiot. I mean, it was great, because we actually started rehearsals off with the dancing, and there's nothing that's going to break the ice more than everybody just looking so stupid.

What was the most difficult scene to shoot?

Keira Knightley: I thought it was probably the scene in the rain, the proposal scene. It was actually my favorite scene to shoot as well, but I think that was probably the most difficult, just because it was quite complex. You wanted to get that sexual tension between them, and you want to get the fact that they really fucking fancy each other, but they hate each other at the same time.

Elizabeth Bennett and Domino are two very disparate characters. How much time did you have between the two films?

Keira Knightley: I finished this, had four days, and went on to Domino.

Talk about that transition.

Keira Knightley: I cut my hair off! Domino is a crazy script anyway, so it's difficult at the best of times to get your head into that, but even more difficult when your head is so far into Pride and Prejudice. I was getting so freaked out that wouldn't be able to make the transition in time. I literally worked six days a week on this. I think it was incredibly stupid, and putting a ridiculous pressure on myself, to do them that close together. But you live and learn. And actually it was quite exciting as well. I think it kind of helped with "Domino" because the feel of that movie is flying by the seat of your pants, and I felt like I was flying by the seat of my pants.

In the spectrum between Elizabeth and Domino, where do you fall?

Keira Knightley: A little bit of both [laughs]. I'm nothing like any of them and a bit like all of them. You bring yourself to every role, it doesn't matter who it is, it doesn't matter if it's a mass murderer, you can bring something to it. So a little bit of everything, I'll say.

Was it just as difficult to get back in character for the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels?

Keira Knightley: No, it was very weird. The whole point for me is to change as much as possible. If I've done one movie, I've done that, move on. So it was really strange to go back to a part. I am my biggest critic. I change absolutely everything, and when you've got to go back, and kind of keep something the same that you don't like it's a little bit weird. Saying that, I love that character, I really do. I think she's quite different, because she's not your average heroine. She actually has a bit of bite to her, and I think that's fantastic. It's a beautiful group of people, literally, and it's a lovely the group to work with.

Do you diet a lot to keep thin? How do you view that Hollywood image?

Keira Knightley: No, I would be extremely stupid if I said that my looks had absolutely nothing to do with what I do, it's a visual medium. I'm perfectly aware of that, the face and the body help. Of course they do. At the moment, it is the trend fashion-wise to be thin. It's fine. I think that there's absolutely no point trying to force your body to be anything than what it is. I think that when you see people who are really pushing themselves to terrifying lengths to achieve what is perceived as being beautiful today, then that's just terrifying, it's really terrifying. I wouldn't do that, I'm naturally thin. I'm not working out at all at the moment, and the body hasn't fallen apart yet, so I'm assuming that we're all right. I'm young.

Pride and Prejudice is in theaters this Friday.