Keira Knightley

Shooting star

She kicked off life career in football kit; her latest film sees her in fııll medieva 1 garb.

Is there ııo part Keira Knightley doesn’t feel comfortable? Justine Picardie meets the leading lady who’s wearing her roles with the greatest of ease. Photographed 1 “I feel like Fve been hit över the head with a sledgehammer,” says Keira Knightley as she arrives for her shoot on a sunny London moming. stepping gingerly on to the boat that is to feny us ali along the Thames. “I just got back from filming in Montreal, and I seem to have caught a cold, and I’m spotty, and I think I might be about to throw up.” She says ali this with the brightest of smiles, matter of factlv, rather than in a Hollywood tantnımmy way, and then plonks herself down to have her hair done, having fetched herself a cup of tea.

The effect is quite disconcerting because on the one hand, she does look like an ordinaıy London teenager ripped denim, hooded sweatshirt, unbrushed mid brown hair, pale faced, like she could do with a good night’s sleep. But at the same time, Keira Knightley is startlingly beautiful: porcelain skin, despite today’s small blemishes, luminous dark ey es, perfect cheekbones, and a bee stung pout. So you can see why she’s been able to play everyone from a tombpyish footballer in Bend It Like Beckham to a corseted period beauty in Pirates of the Caribbean and why, too, she’s been working non stop since then, in similarly diverse roles. She’ll soon be seen as Guinevere in King Arthur, a forthcoming blockbuster produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, who was also responsible for Pirates. (“She’s got an says Bruckheimer.) But in complete contrast.

She’s just fınished making The Jacket, directed by John Maybury, whose last film, Love Is The Devil, was about Francis Bacon. “I’m playing an alcoholic waitress who falls in love with a Gulf War veteran,” she says. “It’s a veıy dark and twisted tale.” Knightley’s directness is in evidence, again. as she offers up the information that Maybury wasn’t at ali convinced by her at the start. “He didn’t want me for the part.” she says, “and he told me so. He said he wasn’t sure whether I could act, whether it was ali hype, and he also told me he didn’t know why I wanted to do his film. So I said that if I didn’t do it, I’d be in corsets for the next 20 years.” Despite this unpromising beginning, the filming went ahead, and the word is in Hollywood that The Jacket will be very good indeed (which may explain the expensive Tiffany necklace she’s wearing today, a present from her director). As for her retum to the mainstream in King Arthur: well, she’s equally enthusiastic about that.

“It’s directed by Antoine Fuqua, who made Training Day, and I really got on with him. He’s got so much integrity. He wanted me to play Guinevere as a real warrior part of the condition of getting the part was that I had to develop some muscles, so I trained for three months before filming began with this amazing guy called Ed Chow, who worked which made me feel rather self conscious.” Not that there’s any bulk in evidence now: Keira Knightley is very slender, in her “absolute favourite Seven jeans”, feet tucked underneath her in a pair of daisy covered Converse sneakers (“a birthday present from a friend” and no, she’ll give tiothing away about whether she has a boyfriend, despite the inevitable rumours that linked her with her co star in The Jacket, Adrien Brody). She turned 19 at the end of March, and sometimes seems older, tougher, at least when it comes to discussing her career; though she does admit to a recent “teenage starstruck moment” with George Clooney, who is one of the producers of The Jacket. “He came to the set when we were filming, just for a day, and I managed to say ‘hi’ and ‘bye’, but that was it.”

What is most disconcerting of ali is seeing her with her mother, the award winning playwright Sharman Macdonald (best known for When I was a Girl I used to Scream and Shout), who has come to keep her company on the boat. Keira calls her “Shar”, and they could almost be sisters: Sharman, gamine in jeans and trainers, working on the script for her latest play as her daughter gets her makeup done. “She’s a sensible girl,” says Sharman affectionately, “asking for her own agent at the age of three.”

Keira Knightley

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