What is it with Keira Knightley and period films?
Keira Knightley has a new movie coming out and big surprise, it’s another costume drama. Re-teaming for the third time with director Joe Wright (Atonement, Pride and Prejudice), this time the actress embodies Tolstoy’s doomed heroine Anna Karenina in a highly stylized adaptation that’s been getting raves on the festival circuit. So what is it about Keira and vintage corsets?
KK: I’ve been asking myself that an awful lot and when I was younger I felt really bad about it. I felt that I was doing something wrong in doing so many period films and then, well, what is this? This is obviously my taste. I’m drawn to this. I love history, I love reading historical novels, I love watching period pieces as well as performing in them. I think it’s something to do with the fantasy aspect. I think when you’re dealing with a time and a place that you don’t know, you get to leave yourself behind, you leave your culture behind, you leave your situation in life behind and you get completely immersed in different characters and different emotions. I think as a dramatic tool it’s a really, really handy one. Whether it’s a historical piece or it’s a science fiction piece they both do kind of similar things for me. It’s the element of fantasy that I love.
Is it easier to get into a character in a fantasy?
KK: Sometimes it’s different. This one was exhausting. Very happily exhausted by it but it was, I mean, this was definitely the hardest thing that I’ve done because of the very specific staging. The shooting can be quite simple when you play such an emotionally heightened character as I did with the David Cronenberg film, you know, we’d do two takes, two set-ups and that was it. That was done. We’d normally finish early. With this because the stylization was so extreme, the technicality of doing it, you know, you’d be doing it 14 different times, 14 different ways. You’d have to twirl into a shot that was actually shot through a mirror and time the tear to come down your face as soon as you twirled into it - and then it would take 10 times before the focus guy got the focus point through. Or trying to do a whole scene that’s meant to be incredibly, incredibly passionate but you have to keep the strip of light exactly through your face so you can’t actually move your body and as soon as you move your body the whole shot’s completely ruined so you have to start again. So technically this was really difficult and because of that and because we wanted to keep her as being this emotional kind of creature it meant that everything had to be kept at this level all day which was sort of 14 hour days. So I’d get home at the end of the day and have a glass of wine and just pass out - then wake up and start again. So yes, it was exhausting but exhilarating. A real proper challenge.