KEIRA, FOR REAL
Keira Knightley may love acting in period pieces, but there’s a regular girl under that corset and she’s awesome. Here, she dishes to Glamour about her pressures, her past and why she still does her own laundry.
by Josh Patner
With so many costume dramas under her belt, it’s almost surprising to see Keira Knightley arrive at her Glamour interview wearing a blouse and sailor pants instead of a layer-cake skirt and ready-to-be-ripped bodice. It’s easy to forget that she’s a modern 23-year-old, and that she can be chatty and relaxed despite her reputation as a serious actress. Knightley has certainly earned it: She garnered a 2005 Best Actress Oscar nod for Pride & Prejudice, received rave reviews in last year’s Atonement, and now stars in The Duchess, the true story of the eighteenth-century beauty Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. Along the way, the actress has encountered her fair share of tabloid nastiness: The image of her strikingly thin body in a bronze dress at a 2006 premiere of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest fueled widespread speculation that she was anorexic; in 2007 Knightley successfully sued London’s Daily Mail after it printed pictures of her in a bikini, along with a story that alleged her thin frame was partly to blame for the death of a 19-year-old British girl from anorexia. (In the article, the girl’s mother reportedly claimed that if photographs of Knightley came with a health warning, her daughter might have lived.) Intense and patently unfair stuff, especially since Knightley is so passionate about the way her real body is represented to the world—she reportedly refused to allow her breasts to be enhanced in movie posters for The Duchess, something that’d been done in images for 2004’s King Arthur. And today she is sharply funny and blessedly opinionated about everything from on-camera nudity to not discussing her relationship with actor Rupert Friend. Keep reading for more reasons to admire her.
GLAMOUR: Keira is quite a glamorous name.
KEIRA KNIGHTLEY: Is it?
GLAMOUR: Yes! Keira Knightley. You come from a theatrical family. Did they have theatrical expectations of you?
KK: My mother is a writer and my dad’s an actor. But, no, they didn’t. I think they would have been happier if I hadn’t done the same thing as them.
GLAMOUR: Come on.
KK: Why, come on?
GLAMOUR: You’ve done very well. So if you came home and said, I’d like to be a nurse, a kindergarten teacher, a scientist…
KK: I think they would have been over the moon about a career that has certain securities that you certainly don’t get if you’re an actress. Nobody knows whether you’re going to do well or not.
GLAMOUR: I actually think people who are very successful are the people who knew what they wanted to do from the get-go, like you.
KK: I don’t know, I think that puts a lot of pressure on kids who don’t know what they want to do. I think it has a bit to do with luck, too.
GLAMOUR: It’s funny. We think movie stars swan around, never iron a shirt, never go shopping. Do you go food shopping? Do you have yogurt in the refrigerator?
KK: Do I have yogurt in the refrigerator?
GLAMOUR: Yeah, because you know, we think you just ring a bell and the maid comes in…
GLAMOUR: …and you say, I’d like an egg white omelet and…
GLAMOUR: …wheat toast…
KK: [Laughs.] Shit.
GLAMOUR: …and I’ll have it in the music room.
KK: Christ, OK.
GLAMOUR: Is that true?
KK: No. [Laughs.] Not this morning…. I had yogurt, which I had in the fridge. I bought it myself, at Sainsbury’s [a U.K. grocery store]. With muesli, also from Sainsbury’s.
GLAMOUR: So you do laundry?
KK: I have a washing machine.
GLAMOUR: Do you know how to use it?
KK: [Laughs.] Yes, I know how to use a washing machine! Wow. I don’t have a maid.
GLAMOUR: OK, we’ve established that you’re a normal person. In your new film you play the Duchess of Devonshire. She is a difficult character because you don’t always like her…
KK: She’s spoiled; she can be lonely in a huge group of people, which I find fascinating. She wants as much attention as she can possibly get.
GLAMOUR: Have you experienced that kind of hysteria? Where there’s one person whose attention you crave, and you can’t get it?
KK: I know it sounds ridiculous, but I like disappearing.
GLAMOUR: You like disappearing?
KK: Definitely. I don’t actually have that thing of having to go, me, me, me, me.
GLAMOUR: What about nudity? Are you comfortable doing it in a film?
KK: Pretty comfortable. I certainly wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t…. I detest unnecessary nudity and what it says about women in society.
GLAMOUR: What do you think it says?
KK: I think you see a lot of films where, Oh, yes, the woman gets her tits out again and runs around naked for no reason. And you kind of go, Ugh, do we have to? [Laughs.]
GLAMOUR: I think that the public is simultaneously entertained and skeptical of a young, beautiful woman who’s had a lot of success at an early age, and I wonder, What does that skepticism feel like?
KK: It was very difficult when I was 16, 17, 18, 19. I felt that I had a lot to prove. It’s obvious to say you can’t please everybody and there are always going to be people who are going to say, I just don’t like you. There’s nothing I can do about that. I’m aware, probably much more aware than my harshest critic, of what my own problems are with my acting ability. I’m very, very critical of myself, and I don’t ever want to not be.
GLAMOUR: Do you read your reviews?
KK: No. Nothing, nothing, nothing. Unless I’m unfortunate enough to catch something by accident, which happens, and it’s always a bad review. Always, it’s amazing. I will be sitting in a café, and I will open a random paper right to the page of the review…. And then you’re sucked in and go home and never want to go out again.
GLAMOUR: You sued a tabloid that offended you and you won. Why was it a wrong that needed to be made right?
KK: My agent phoned me up and said, look, I’m so sorry to have to tell you this, but this is actually one of the worst things that I’ve read about anyone, and you have to do something about it. And you know, 90 percent of the stuff that I’m meant to have said or done is completely untrue, so there have been a lot of things that I could have sued over very easily. But I’m not like that and I don’t want to waste my time with it. But this, on a personal level, was a devastating thing. On a professional level, it was something that could potentially be career ruining, so I had to take that very seriously.
GLAMOUR: You’re very private—you don’t talk about who you’re dating—and you have a rich life. I’ve read that you like to cook.
KK: I’m going to try a curried whole chicken tonight, which I was writing down the recipe for before I came here, because I’m going to a friend’s. But I don’t know whether it’s going to be any good.
GLAMOUR: It sounds tasty. Are you a girl’s girl? A boy’s girl?
KK: I have quite a lot of girlfriends, but I probably have more boy friends.
GLAMOUR: Guy friends.
KK: Yeah. Guy friends.
GLAMOUR: Why do stars date stars? Would you ever date a mechanic?
KK: Yeah, if [the right] mechanic came along. I do think that [acting is] such an unpredictable job, and you’re away a lot. If you’re dating somebody outside the industry, it can be hard to understand that.
GLAMOUR: But you could be working on a film on one side of the world, and he could be working on the other side of the world. That’s not a high-voltage turn on?
KK: It might be for some people.
GLAMOUR: But for you it’s not?
KK: I haven’t dated a movie star.
GLAMOUR: Is that true?
KK: [Laughs.] Shit, I never say anything about who I date or who I don’t date, and there I’ve made one statement and I’m not going to make another one.
GLAMOUR: [Laughs.] What was it like to play [Georgiana], someone who was hugely fashionable, who uses fashion quite a bit in her manipulations and self-promotion?
KK: When you look at her attention-craving nature, she needs to be the center of every single party she goes to. Her clothes play a huge part of that. But you look at women at that time, and I think clothes were the main way they had of expressing themselves.
GLAMOUR: But not you?
KK: No. I do that if I have to publicize a film—press junkets, going to premieres. Then I invent somebody that is entirely [different] from me because I find it easier.
GLAMOUR: The red carpet isn’t you?
KK: No. I think fashion is like putting on armor. I like that aspect of it, but it’s not something I want to think about every day.
GLAMOUR: And what are you communicating today?
KK: I have no idea!
GLAMOUR: You picked your clothes out 10 minutes before you got in the car?
KK: No, I picked them out because I haven’t done washing for ages. So I decided not to put on my stained, stinking stuff for you, to try to present myself as someone who wouldn’t have stained, stinking clothes.
GLAMOUR: And you’ve done a brilliant job.
KK: But now I’m talking about it, so I’ve ruined the illusion!
The interviewer needs to be fired. Now.