Keira Knightley currently stars in "Anna Karenina," her third collaboration with director Joe Wright. Backstage's Great Perforamnces issue, on newsstands Dec. 6, will feature a piece on her discussing her craft, Knightley also took the time to speak frankly on several other topics, including how she often dies on film; how Wright was resistant to casting her in "Pride and Prejudice," their first film together; and how her Mr. Darcy in that movie, Matthew Macfadyen, almost played her abuser in a public service advertisement.
Is it true when you first met Joe, he wasn’t interested in you for “Pride and Prejudice”?
Keira Knightley: He had actually cast someone else in role. “Pirates of the Caribbean” had come out, and though I was financially a better prospect, he was seeing a lot of press shots where I looked incredibly glamorous and he thought, “That isn’t Elizabeth Bennett.” We had a meeting, and it actually didn’t go very well. But I think the producers really wanted me for the film so they convinced him to meet me again in London. I turned up in my normal clothes, and I’m really very scruffy. And he could see me in the part then. It was like, “Oh, you look like shit. Well done.”
What happened to the girl he had cast?
Knightley: I’m not going to say who she is, but she does well. I don’t think he had officially cast her, but it was known it was going in that direction. That wasn’t very nice of me. But she does very, very well.
You had such great chemistry with Matthew Macfadyen in that film, I’m almost disappointed he plays your brother in “Anna Karenina.”
Knightley: I think we all really enjoyed playing with that. It was funny. Joe and I did a domestic abuse ad for a charity in England a couple of years ago. It’s quite a shocking ad; I get beaten up by my lover. He actually did have a moment where he said, “Let’s get Matthew to do it because that would be amazing.” I did actually put my foot down and say, “You cannot have Mr. Darcy beating the shit out of me on a TV ad!”
Will you and Joe work together again soon?
Knightley: Neither of us feel this is the end of our story, but at the same time we think it’s good to work with other people. I think we’ve both changed since “Atonement,” and you can only do that through experiences with other people. It would get quite dull if you were working with the same person creatively all the time.
I hear you're taking a break from serious roles. Is that true?
Knightley: After I shot “Anna Karenina,” I thought, “I’ve been playing incredibly dark creatures that pretty much die for the last five years, and I’ve really got to put something out there that’s a little bit more positive.” So this year has been the year of pure entertainment. I have a film called “Can a Song Save Your Life?” that’s very lovely. Then a pure piece of Hollywood entertainment in the form of a Jack Ryan thriller. I just needed a year of not dying.
You did a comedy this year, “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World,” but even that was kind of dark.
Knightley: My mom even said, “Jesus Christ, you do a comedy and you die in it. What’s wrong with you?” But the dark ones are the ones I always like doing the most.