From 187 Bazaar’s Women of the Year

THEATRE ICON

Harper's Bazaar (UK) - - News - BY EL­IZ­A­BETH DAY PHO­TO­GRAPHS BY ALEXI LUBOMIRSKI STYLED BY LEITH CLARK

Keira Knight­ley: ‘Fe­male lead­er­ship is al­ways im­por­tant’

After mak­ing a com­pelling Broad­way de­but, while bring­ing up her baby daugh­ter, the ac­tress has had a year full of drama

Although a Labour sup­porter, she wel­comes the fact that we have a fe­male prime min­is­ter

KEIRAK NIGHTLEY AND I…

…are sit­ting in a café talk­ing about our Uber rat­ings. When you or­der an Uber cab, the driver gives you a score out of five stars at the end of a jour­ney. The lower the rat­ing, the less likely you are to get picked up. ‘How do you find out your rat­ing?’ Knight­ley asks, mid­way through a crois­sant and a cup of English Break­fast tea. You can fol­low a link on the app, I say. She vis­i­bly shud­ders. ‘I don’t want it,’ she says, shak­ing her head. ‘I don’t want to know.’ I tell her that the last time I checked, mine was lower than I thought in spite of the fact that I’m al­ways scrupu­lously po­lite. I think, I say, it’s be­cause… ‘You don’t chat?’ Ex­actly. ‘No, I don’t talk,’ agrees Knight­ley. ‘So I must have a shit Uber rat­ing.’ She pauses. ‘I think I’m OK with that.’

You can un­der­stand why. Keira Knight­ley is 31. For half of her life, she has been in the pub­lic eye. She had an agent at the age of six and won her break­out lead­ing role in Bend It Like Beck­ham at 16. Since then, she has be­come one of the most fa­mous women on the planet.

Her film ca­reer has been var­ied and stel­lar, run­ning the gamut of gen­res. She has starred in pe­riod drama (Pride & Prejudice), ac­tion (Domino), in­de­pen­dent films (Seek­ing a Friend for the End of the World ), rom-coms (Love Ac­tu­ally), big-bud­get block­busters (Pi­rates of the Caribbean) and high-brow lit­er­ary adap­ta­tions (Atone­ment). She is about to ap­pear along­side Will Smith and He­len Mir­ren in Col­lat­eral Beauty, the story of an ad­ver­tis­ing ex­ec­u­tive whose col­leagues de­vise a plan to help him through the af­ter­math of a per­sonal tragedy.

On stage, too, Knight­ley is an ar­rest­ing pres­ence. When she ap­peared in The Chil­dren’s Hour by Lil­lian Hell­man in the West End five years ago, crit­ics hailed her per­for­mance as ‘ex­cel­lent’ and ‘deeply af­fect­ing’. And ear­lier this year she was on the Broad­way stage play­ing the ti­tle role in Thérèse Raquin, Emile Zola’s tale of mur­der and adul­tery, de­liv­er­ing a per­for­mance that was hailed as ‘com­pelling and ar­tic­u­late’.

In per­son, she is en­gag­ing, smart and funny com­pany. She turns up to our in­ter­view on time, with­out fan­fare, wear­ing a denim jump­suit and a leather jacket, and is im­me­di­ately warm and friendly. No pub­li­cist sits in, which is al­most un­heard of for a star of Knight­ley’s cal­i­bre. She is ex­tremely nice, swears more than you might think and – yes – she is un­fath­omably, ef­fort­lessly beau­ti­ful.

So it’s strange that, over the years, Knight­ley has at­tracted a dis­pro­por­tion­ate amount of vit­riol. She has been ac­cused of ev­ery­thing from pout­ing in­ap­pro­pri­ately on-screen to be­ing too thin. She suc­cess­fully sued the Daily Mail over al­le­ga­tions she had an eat­ing dis­or­der in 2007 – and, for the record, she doesn’t look re­motely anorexic.

The last time I in­ter­viewed her, six years ago, Knight­ley told me strangers used to fling in­sults at her and seemed in­ex­pli­ca­bly an­gry to find her in nor­mal set­tings, like a pub or the su­per­mar­ket. Over time, she’s had to de­velop a pro­tec­tive layer against other peo­ple’s opin­ions – and that in­cludes be­ing fine with not know­ing what Uber driv­ers might think of her. ‘Yes­ter­day I had two re­ally lovely peo­ple come up to me in the street and just say how much they like my work, which al­most never hap­pens,’ Knight­ley says. The an­gry ones ‘are very odd… It feels like you’re not meant to be walk­ing down the street do­ing your shop­ping. Or they just hate your work, in which case they say, “I hate your work.” Or they hate your face, in which case they say, “I hate your face.” But [it’s] more like a kind of jokey, “Oh God, I’ve al­ways hated you!” Or, “I’ve al­ways found your face so an­noy­ing!” I’ve had that quite a few times. Like, “Oh, sorry! Sorry about that.” Yeah. So there’s still a cou­ple of those. But not as much as it was.’

A lot has hap­pened to Knight­ley in the years since we last met. She mar­ried her long-term part­ner, the Klax­ons key­boardist James Righton, in the South of France in 2013, and they now have a 19-mon­thold daugh­ter, Edie. Be­com­ing a mother has made Knight­ley feel ‘prop­erly grown-up… for me that was my mo­ment of go­ing, “Whoa, I’ve got to keep some­thing alive and I can barely do that for my­self and how the hell am I go­ing to do that for you?”’

She seems cen­tred and happy, de­spite the sleep de­pri­va­tion. Righton is ‘in­cred­i­bly sup­port­ive’; the kind of man who goes on hol­i­day and strikes up con­ver­sa­tions with wait­ers, ‘and then you’ll get some amaz­ing rec­om­men­da­tion for some­where that is not touristy and off the beaten track… He’s good at do­ing that. And that’s a great skill.’

He sounds nice, I say. ‘He’s so nice,’ she says, smil­ing. ‘God, the next thing is we’re go­ing to be di­vorc­ing and it all will have gone wrong be­cause now I’ve put it down in print.’

All prices from a se­lec­tion, ex­cept where stated. Keira Knight­ley wears em­broi­dered tulle dress, Chanel

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