Exclusive: Keira Knightley talks Atonement with RT

We meet one of the world's most famous people to talk about the job she does that people forget about.

by | September 7, 2007 | Comments

Keira Knightley - Jeff Vespa/WireImage.comAt just 22 Keira Knightley has done more than most actresses have in a lifetime. She took the jump from indie thesp to worldwide star by landing the role of Elizabeth Swann in the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie and spent much of the promotion for that film twiddling her thumbs as a bunch of hardened journalists stayed away, convinced it was going to come of nothing.

Such is the power of her celebrity that it can be easy to forget she acts too, but when an Oscar nomination beckoned for her role as another Elizabeth – Bennet – in Joe Wright‘s take on Austen’s classic Pride & Prejudice she became the third youngest woman ever to get a Best Actress nod and those who’d sat on the fence in the past began to take her seriously as a true acting talent.

These days, sitting down with the young actress one-on-one is a rare occurrence restricted to journo heavyweights for high-profile magazines and newspapers – Knightley always rates the cover and no-doubt pushes circulations up – so when Rotten Tomatoes was offered the opportunity to do just that, we leapt at it, excited as we were to grille her on perhaps her finest performance to date, reteaming with Wright for his adaptation of Ian McEwan‘s wartime bestseller, Atonement.

Had you read Atonement before you took the film?

Keira Knightley: Not before I took the film, no, but before I started filming, yes. I actually read the script first and cried, and I think anything that makes you cry is definitely worth pursuing. So then I read the book and I think it’s a bit of a dream for any actress to be able to play those characters; I think Ian McEwan draws his characters so brilliantly. It’s like a blueprint and really all I had to do was follow it.

What was it about Cecilia that grabbed you?

KK: I don’t know, I just fell in love with her completely. I think very often in films you either get these very good or very bad characters and I was interested that she’s not particularly nice at the beginning of it. I don’t think that means she’s a nasty person, I think she’s probably a very good person, I think she’s just having one of those days where she’s being ratty with everyone and everything is annoying her.

I was sort-of interested in playing this person who is, I think, emotionally rather repressed. She’s got a lot of things bubbling around inside her and she’s sort-of like a pressure cooker, but she doesn’t really know why. She’s from this incredibly privileged background but she’s directionless. I just thought it was fascinating, completely fascinating.

Keira Knightley
Keira Knightley talks to Rotten Tomatoes by a lake. A real lake. Not a studio, we swear.

It’s also a challenging role for any actress; when you take on a challenge like that does it help to have a history with your director, as you have with Joe?

KK: Yes, I think it does, I think he’s a brilliant director. I think the fact that he’s a mate of mine and that he creates a really lovely atmosphere on set is personally what I like; I like working like that, I like working in a relaxed atmosphere. For me personally it’s sort-of conducive to better work, or to feeling that you can explore more. Or to not feeling so self-conscious! So yeah, it did help, definitely.

Is there more room for creativity on a project of this scale by comparison to Pirates?

KK: Of course. Of course there is. I think Pirates of the Caribbean is wonderful, it’s pure entertainment, it’s like a glass of champagne. And it’s totally fabulous escapism and totally relevant for that fact. This is something that’s quite different. It’s really trying to provoke emotional responses from people. It is really trying to take out your heart and trample all over it, really.

And, you know, creatively, on something like Pirates, it’s about the spectacle of the entire thing; it’s about the explosions, it’s about the fight sequences. As it should be. But you’re not really having huge conversations about exactly what, emotionally, we’re going through here. It’s not the point of it. It is the point of this, and so it did mean that it was… I sound like such a wanker saying this, but it was creatively really, really wonderful and really exciting. And hugely rewarding, as well.

Keira Knightley
With co-star James McAvoy in a scene from Atonement.

Are these the sorts of roles that are interesting you as your career develops?

KK: I think entertainment is important; everyone wants that glass of champagne occasionally, and that’s great in a movie and it shouldn’t be taken away. Escapism is wonderful. At that particularly point, yeah, maybe I wanted to do this as an antidote to Pirates – I’d been on it so long that I wanted to explore something else. But if you can possibly do both – if you’re lucky enough to be able to do both – then obviously that’s the best of both worlds.

The Edge of Love is shaping up to be an interesting film; how has it been to have had the opportunity to perform your mother’s screenplay?

KK: It’s absolutely amazing; completely amazing. Her work is something that I’ve grown up with; it’s always been a part of everything in my life. To be able to perform it was completely, completely extraordinary. And fingers crossed it’ll make a good film!

Do you feel a bit of added pressure when you’re dealing with her words?

KK: No, you know what, her script was completely wonderful. You never know what’s going to work; you can have the best script, the best director and the best cast and still, for some reason, it’s just not going to gel. Hopefully this one has, I think she’s done a tremendous job on the screenplay. And yes, I am biased, but really I wouldn’t have done it if I’d have thought it was crap and, really, we’ve got a fighting chance of making a really good film and that’s all anyone’s got. You can’t ask for more than that.

Can you tell us briefly what it’s about?

KK: It’s about a friendship group that implodes and a situation that leads to an act of violence…


KK: Yes, indeed! It’ll make sense when you’ve seen the film! [laughs]

Tag Cloud

TCA Arrowverse FXX Amazon Prime Video Amazon tv talk Winners Apple TV Plus Hulu toy story The Purge Creative Arts Emmys science fiction Universal crime thriller YouTube CW Seed SundanceTV teaser Masterpiece video latino APB Disney+ Disney Plus versus DC Comics boxoffice Avengers Showtime TV renewals PaleyFest Rocky Rocketman WGN sag awards YouTube Red golden globes finale OneApp National Geographic Crunchyroll 007 cats Opinion Pet Sematary based on movie 2017 sports ABC Family Oscars History Best and Worst true crime President Winter TV Character Guide hist Song of Ice and Fire sitcom Comics on TV Ellie Kemper discovery MSNBC A&E HBO Cosplay Horror Teen USA richard e. Grant Captain marvel Countdown quibi ITV revenge romance Fantasy Spike what to watch GIFs war DGA New York Comic Con USA Network Lucasfilm Action A24 game of thrones Polls and Games Fox News LGBT Watching Series cooking doctor who Awards VICE Shudder Hallmark Christmas movies Election natural history cinemax CNN Quiz Ovation Ghostbusters Superheroes The Walking Dead Tumblr name the review Tarantino Pixar Thanksgiving crossover cartoon Kids & Family Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt facebook Esquire Turner singing competition Grammys Cartoon Network christmas movies Sony Pictures diversity rotten movies we love Film Festival cancelled television Classic Film crime Warner Bros. movies TNT Box Office Paramount Christmas Columbia Pictures TCA 2017 2016 Fall TV Academy Awards Lifetime Christmas movies YA halloween breaking bad Sci-Fi Musical TruTV award winner Rock Sundance TV space Pop directors E! spy thriller Britbox Trailer spain HBO Max Discovery Channel casting Comedy Central binge Disney streaming service supernatural BBC America Peacock travel Stephen King Apple TV+ Black Mirror Disney Plus dceu LGBTQ festivals thriller Baby Yoda cancelled TV shows Reality zombie Film game show BBC First Look Hallmark anthology Sundance IFC Films Calendar E3 canceled TV shows Year in Review YouTube Premium Reality Competition Apple Elton John screen actors guild animated NYCC medical drama harry potter south america Binge Guide Certified Fresh See It Skip It 45 Sneak Peek period drama miniseries psychological thriller Shondaland cancelled TV series Netflix Christmas movies GLAAD unscripted 2015 TBS Crackle San Diego Comic-Con BET Holidays Syfy composers streaming Vudu NBC 2019 blockbuster mutant Trophy Talk robots Photos Brie Larson Red Carpet slashers Bravo comics First Reviews SXSW book talk show Country CBS All Access comiccon X-Men documentary Spectrum Originals zombies blaxploitation social media batman Walt Disney Pictures technology Marvel Television TCA Winter 2020 Animation Podcast Chilling Adventures of Sabrina dc ESPN Comedy historical drama RT History comic dragons Starz zero dark thirty Music Netflix Premiere Dates Nat Geo ratings free movies Star Wars transformers Drama dramedy werewolf The Witch TCM joker 71st Emmy Awards Logo independent Family Food Network Writers Guild of America Toys spider-man ghosts Marvel Women's History Month adventure Mudbound Rom-Com DC streaming service Disney MTV Lionsgate cars strong female leads Pirates screenings MCU DC Universe Holiday Extras Heroines crime drama green book Emmy Nominations cancelled theme song WarnerMedia The CW Video Games Valentine's Day jamie lee curtis Disney Channel indie OWN Summer DirecTV nature Cannes spinoff Marathons romantic comedy ABC docudrama serial killer FX TIFF AMC reboot movie Mystery 2018 Emmys GoT justice league TLC Tomatazos police drama SDCC television Western anime adaptation Adult Swim Set visit biography Infographic Musicals aliens Comic Book PBS Mary poppins Mary Poppins Returns Turner Classic Movies renewed TV shows series Epix vampires witnail Awards Tour Television Academy Superheroe Super Bowl political drama Marvel Studios Star Trek stand-up comedy RT21 Endgame The Arrangement Biopics 20th Century Fox politics Anna Paquin cults hispanic Tubi Trivia Lifetime children's TV IFC 24 frames Nominations Interview Dark Horse Comics Spring TV Amazon Prime Schedule kids Nickelodeon TV Land Pride Month Acorn TV Martial Arts Freeform 2020 Paramount Network spanish language El Rey elevated horror VH1 cops foreign CMT mockumentary Chernobyl Mindy Kaling TV sequel FOX disaster CBS 21st Century Fox Mary Tyler Moore psycho Sundance Now canceled American Society of Cinematographers