Keira Knight­ley shines in her lat­est role.

ELLE (Canada) - - Radar - BY KATHRYN HUD­SON

It feels like somebody is go­ing to be mur­dered at any minute,” says Keira Knight­ley with a laugh, look­ing around the de­cid­edly or­di­nary ho­tel room with mock hor­ror. “There’s some­thing about the green walls and that flu­o­res­cent light....”

That pretty much sums up Knight­ley’s frank charm. She’s sit­ting in a glit­ter­ing Alexan­der McQueen dress after walk­ing the red car­pet at the Toronto In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val, yet she is as apt to make fun of the flick­er­ing, creepy light as she is to dis­cuss the pow­er­ful so­cial themes be­hind her wildly-well-re­ceived film The Imi­ta­tion Game.

The drama tells the heart-wrench­ing true story of Bri­tish math­e­ma­ti­cian Alan Tur­ing, beau­ti­fully played by Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch, who was in­stru­men­tal in break­ing Ger­man codes dur­ing the Sec­ond World War (and sub­se­quently win­ning the war), only to be con­victed of ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity, which was then a crime. Knight­ley plays Joan Clarke, a fel­low math­e­ma­ti­cian who sup­ported Tur­ing and dealt with her own share of strug­gles: namely, to be taken se­ri­ously as a fe­male in­tel­lec­tual. “When you talk about fem­i­nism to­day, it’s about get­ting a place at the ta­ble and it’s about equal pay,” says Knight­ley. “So I was quite amazed to look [at this story]. It was the 1940s, and of course we have hugely ad­vanced, but ac­tu­ally it is ex­actly the same sort of fight.”

Knight­ley jumps ea­gerly into the fem­i­nist de­bate, made trendy re­cently by Bey­oncé’s “fem­i­nist” con­cert light­ing and Karl Lager­feld’s spring/ sum­mer 2015 picket-sign-laden run­way show. “There was a point from the early 2000s up un­til about two years ago when, for some rea­son, it got com­pletely lost even though it was per­fectly ob­vi­ous that there wasn’t equal pay or equal rep­re­sen­ta­tion,” she says, shak­ing her head. “It’s once more in the zeit­geist, so that’s great.”

The ac­tress speaks her mind with ease, likely be­cause she has spent 10 years ig­nor­ing clam­our­ing pa­parazzi and pub­lic opin­ion. “It was much worse when I was younger,” she ex­plains of the at­ten­tion. “When you do films like Pi­rates of the Caribbean, that in­ter­est is more in­tense. In the past five years, it has re­ally eased off... or I have just got older and used to it. After all, Bend It Like Beck­ham came out when I was 17.”

When I ask if there’s ad­vice that she’d go back and give her teenaged self, she cocks her head and thinks. “What would you tell your­self?” she asks. I’d likely say that there is power in just shut­ting up at times, I ex­plain. Knight­ley claps her hands. “I still have that now!” she says with a laugh. “I should shut up too; I’d get into less trou­ble. But I still find si­lences re­ally awk­ward with strangers. I’ll tend to say some­thing stupid and they’ll think I’m stupid—you can see it writ­ten on their face. I’m like ‘Oh, my God, I only said that be­cause you’re be­ing so quiet!’” She chuck­les in a way that only the clever can when call­ing them­selves stupid and soon launches into why she’s loving French au­thor Émile Zola’s 19th-cen­tury nov­els— par­tic­u­larly Nana. (Fod­der for another pe­riod film, per­haps?) For the most part, though, Knight­ley is ac­tu­ally look­ing for­ward to hum­ble plea­sures. She laughs. “I’d quite like a mar­garita.” n

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