RT Interview: Keira Knightley on Welsh Accents and Life After Pirates

Britain's hottest young actress tells RT why supporting homegrown film is important.

by | June 20, 2008 | Comments

Keira Knightley - Jeff Vespa/WireImage.com

Keira Knightley‘s star seems ever on the rise as early success with audiences in films like Bend It Like Beckham and Pirates of the Caribbean have segued into multi-award-winning roles in the likes of Pride & Prejudice and Atonement. In The Edge of Love, Knightley stars alongside Sienna Miller, Cillian Murphy and Matthew Rhys in a film about the fiery relationship between Dylan Thomas (Rhys) and three of his friends. Already attracting talk of another Oscar nomination, Knightley’s performance is being described as one of her best. The script has been penned by Sharman MacDonald, Knightley’s mother.

You’re an actor who enjoys a challenge; what was the challenge of this film for you?

Keira Knightley: You know, it’s really funny, it’s actually really lovely to work on something that was so intimate, and small. And I think that it’s very rare to get a film script that has such good dialogue. So it was a real joy, because a lot of the time you spend on film sets, you spend it really fighting to find out how to say the words. With this one we were already at another level, because it just flowed so easily.

Did it help to have friendships with the cast before you started?

KK: It really helped. I don’t think that you can fake warmth. You can fake lust, jealousy, anger; those are all quite easy. But actual, genuine warmth? I don’t think you can fake it. And it was really great that we did all get on. We had a great time all living in the same house, and we felt like a proper unit. So it means that when you’re doing something that’s incredibly intimate, you’re safe to try things out and you don’t feel like a complete dickhead!

The Edge of Love

How did you wrap your tongue around the Welsh accent?

KK: We had a really good voice coach. Half my mum’s family is Welsh, and I remember when I was a kid, she used to read to me, and wizards and characters like that always had a Welsh accent.

Did it feel strange working on her script for this film, as well?

KK: It actually felt very natural. If you live with a writer, you do grow up with their words and with their fantasies. And I’ve pretty -much seen every single one of her plays, so I’ve been in a lot of rehearsal rooms, and all the rest of it. It felt very natural and very easy, and lovely to do that professionally, as well.

The Edge of Love

Were you looking for something of hers that you’d be able to collaborate on?

KK: Not at all, it was a complete fluke and accident. It was literally just that she said, “will you give me some notes,” and I thought it was beautiful and an amazing story, and just really interesting. So I was working on The Jacket, and I just gave it to one of the producers, thinking he may be able to give notes on it, or something. He said, “is this something you’re thinking about?” And I only really said yes cause he’d read it, I didn’t think anything would come of it at all. So yes, it was fantastically accidental.

Dylan Thomas is not that likeable in the movie, is he?

KK: Some people really just go, “Oh, he’s mischievous,” and other people go, “wow, he’s quite demonic, and dark.” So I think it’s wonderful that it says a lot about the people that are going to see the film. I don’t feel we should dictate about him, I think if that’s your view of him, then that’s wonderful. It’s good to know that other people think differently, and that’s what makes the characters interesting.

Do you think it’s actually even about Thomas directly?

KK: Again, I think that’s open to interpretation. But it’s not a regular biopic, where you’re doing a beginning, middle and end of Thomas’ life. A lot of time I have a problem with biopics that try to do too much in an hour and a half. So I thought the really fascinating thing about this was that it was looking at a very specific time, and some very specific people, and really exploring those relationships, and meeting up with those characters, as opposed to just one central character.

Was it nice to do this after coming back from making the Pirates films?

KK: Yeah, it was great, it was really great. It’s fantastic to have the opportunity to work abroad, and do all that, but there is a certain point where you’re just like, “Oh, I’d love to work at home.” I think once you get a certain profile you can help to make films, and we have a tiny industry in this country so I think it’s really important for the people that can, to get into it. So it was great to do something that was entirely British-financed, British cast, crew. I thought that these were genuinely fascinating stories; the British emotional mentality is a very interesting one. It’s my culture, so obviously it’s what I’m interested in. It’s great to do films here.

The Edge of Love

You’ve been cutting a swathe through various times passed in your films recently; do you have a favourite era, one that you perhaps identify with?

KK: I don’t have a favourite era, no. I’m very glad that I haven’t lived through the Blitz but I love films from that era and I find it fascinating when you’re actually looking at the reality of the era, versus what we think of as the 1940s.

Thinking about young people grabbing onto life with absolutely everything in them, when death is literally falling from the sky, it’s fascinating to think, “Well, how do you behave?” You try and live for every single moment, and every single thing and sometimes, you’ll make mistakes, but I find that fascinating.

As a time period I like to think about, and as far as relationships and emotions go, I find it a very interesting period.

Do you get sent more period stuff than contemporary stuff?

KK: I do get a lot of contemporary stuff; I just find it’s very difficult to find good female roles in contemporary pieces. I don’t know why that is. I find more interesting roles for women in period pieces. I do personally like watching period films; I think you can really get lost in the fantasy of them. You’re not judging it on a day to day, “I know this,” basis. You’re in your own role, and I like the fusion that that creates. But really, it’s about the characters, and I’ve found it’s just not as good for women in contemporary pieces.

The Edge of Love

At your height of Pirates it was fairly crazy with paparazzi. Has that all calmed down a bit now?

KK: Yeah it has a bit. I think I’m older and boring! I think it was particularly crazy when I was 18 and they were thinking, “she must fall out of clubs any minute now…” But I didn’t, and that’s really crappy, I think. It has calmed down, and now I’m doing a lot of very different roles, in a lot of smaller films.

What got you through that period then?

KK: I don’t know, to tell you the truth. I just didn’t stop working. I mean, I didn’t stop working until this year, so I was in the very protective bubble of film sets. So in a funny kind of way, I was never back for long enough to really notice what had happened. Any time I did pop up though, I thought, “Fuck, this is terrifying!”

So now you’ve got a bit of time off, are you going to travel?

KK: I just want to live life in general, really.

Check out our interview with Knightley’s co-star, Sienna Miller, right here.

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