Even by Hollywood standards, Keira Knightley’s rise to stardom has been meteoric. For this she has to thank her role as a soccer-mad tomboy in Brit smash Bend It Like Beckham, and now the 18-year-old has returned to Blighty to take a role in Love Actually from the makers of Four Weddings and Notting Hill…
So what was it like making the movie?
Keira Knightley: “I laughed my way through the whole thing – I never stopped laughing. In our scenes it was me and Chiwetel Ejiofor and Andrew Lincoln. Andy is fantastic and Chewy is one of the most exciting British actors around at the moment. It was really exciting to get the chance to work with two people I admired so much – and no corsets, which was nice.”
And how did you find Richard Curtis as a director?
Keira Knightley: “He’s a nice man, a really good bloke. I know that he was very nervous doing it, but having written it he knew everything inside out and knew what he was doing. You would get there in the morning and it was all there, done and dusted.”
You get married at the beginning of the film. How was that to shoot?
Keira Knightley: “It was quite possibly the most romantic thing I’ve ever seen. We had some real lads there, sparks (gaffers’ assistants) and assistant directors and the rest of the crew, and they were all standing there with little stupid grins on their faces. It was great!”
You play newly-wed Juliet, who finds herself in a strange situation with her husband Peter’s best man Mark…
Keira Knightley: “It’s a bit of a love triangle really. Juliet has always thought that Mark hates her but it turns out he is actually madly in love with her. The thing is, the entire story is played out in about five or six scenes. It could be a whole film, but Richard is so clever – everything you need to know is there. It’s beautifully written.”
What do you think of romantic comedies in general?
Keira Knightley: “I love romantic comedies, they are really important. They are 100 percent escapism – you just sit there and lose yourself in this world. I cry my eyes out or laugh or both. The thing about Richard is that he makes feel-good movies well and that’s very difficult to do. There is nothing more disgusting than a patronising, smarmy movie, so to be able to do it well is an amazing talent. There are so few people who can do it and Richard is at the top of that list, no question. It’s incredible how you can sit through all of his films with a grin on your face. You may say ‘Oh no, it’s not my sort of thing…’ but you still smile – I defy anyone not to.”
The first read-through must have been daunting…
Keira Knightley: “Agony! I had five scenes and I have never been more nervous in my entire life. I’ve done read-throughs before with the likes of Johnny Depp and that wasn’t terrifying. But here there were 50 people sitting around this huge table. It was astonishing – you looked up and there was Hugh Grant; over there is Alan Rickman. There’s Liam Neeson; there’s Emma Thompson. Can you blame me for being nervous? Just the fact all of those people turned up for this read-through shows how much respect they have for Richard. At the end of it I was like: ‘I can’t handle this!’ I got out of there as fast as I could.”
The film has a lot of different stories that converge at the end. Did you feel like you were working in your own little movie?
Keira Knightley: “Yeah you did really – we did our big wedding thing and we were the stars of the show. And then suddenly you’ve got all these other people with their stories. And it was like: ‘Excuse me! I know you’re Alan Rickman, but get out of my film please!’
You’re only 18. Shouldn’t you be at university or something?
Keira Knightley: “Well, my mum and dad think I’m going to university – they probably expect me to become a doctor or something. But no, I think I’ll stick with this. I’m having a very good time!