It doesn’t take a casting genius to arrive at Keira Knightley to be your lead in a film like “The Duchess.” Some actors know guns. Some know accents. Keira Knightley? She knows gowns (and I suppose if you’ve recently watched “Domino,” you could say she also knows guns and accents, but whatever).
Based on the best-selling biography of Georgiana Cavendish, the duchess of Devonshire, Knightley’s latest finds her in the familiar pomp and circumstance of a period piece, but this time she’s traded pirates and swords for infidelity (Ralph Fiennes co-stars as her none-too-pleasant husband) and infamy (the duchess was an “it” girl far before the likes of Lindsay and Britney).
MTV News chatted with Knightley about her predilection for ornate costumes, whose celebrity pout bests hers and why she’s done with pirate movies for a while.
MTV: Have you ever met a corset, a gown or a wig you didn’t like?
Keira Knightley: I don’t think I do like them! I think I’m actually just really unlucky and I just end up doing these films where I’m in them all the time.
MTV: Are you a glutton for punishment?
Knightley: Must be. They’re not very nice to wear. They look kind of cool, but they’re really not comfortable.
MTV: It probably doesn’t do you any good to keep the wardrobe from something like this.
Knightley: Can you imagine if I was walking around the streets of London in an enormous 4-foot wig?
MTV: You would definitely get in Us Weekly if you did that.
Knightley: Would I? Really? Great. I’ll try that.
MTV: For a period film, a great number of the themes here are modern, especially the ways your character handles celebrity.
Knightley: I thought it was really interesting. I thought that celebrity culture was a modern phenomenon. She had hordes of people following her around. She had cartoonists chasing her, putting her picture in the paper. I did find that fascinating that it hasn’t changed.
MTV: Did you bring your own experience dealing with celebrity into it?
Knightley: I didn’t really. I wasn’t looking for a character that I could draw parallels with myself in. I just thought she was extraordinary. She’s this huge fashion icon, and politically she was influential, even though it was a time when women didn’t have the right to vote.
MTV: Were you prepared for stardom when it hit after “Bend It Like Beckham” and “Pirates of the Caribbean”?
Knightley: I don’t think I’m prepared now! I think it’s always very strange. When I get recognized or my name is said, I always find it really, really odd. I’ve never managed to get used to that.
MTV: Is there any advice you’d give your younger self?
Knightley: I was very young when “Pirates” came out. I was 17 when I made it. At that point I really cared what people thought. You try to please everybody. I suppose what I’ve learned is it’s absolutely impossible. Don’t try. And just relax. Films are put out there to be criticized. Some people are going to love them, and some people are going to hate them. And that’s fine. You can’t please everybody.
MTV: Blistex has announced that you have the best pout of any celebrity. Do you have a reaction?
Knightley: I heard that the other day! And I think they’re wrong, because they put Angelina Jolie third, and where is Scarlett Johansson? I don’t think I beat either of those really, so I go against that. I mean, thanks and everything, but I think they’re wrong.
MTV: Do you work on your pout?
Knightley: It’s a natural pout. Aren’t I lucky? [Laughs.]
MTV: Is the remake of “My Fair Lady” on your agenda?
Knightley: It’s an interesting prospect, but there’s nothing concrete.
MTV: Would you sing in it?
Knightley: Yeah. Fingers crossed on that one. I like doing things where I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to do them or not. I think you have to push yourself. You have to admit you’re going to fail at some point. You’ve got to try. Like with anything I do, there’s always a part of me that says, “I can’t do that. This is going to be the one where I fall on my face completely.” It would be exciting to try it.
MTV: Would you be happy if you never did another “Pirates” movie?
Knightley: They were completely amazing, but I think I can’t wear corsets for a while.
MTV: You know Disney has to be developing another sequel to the franchise.
Knightley: I’m sure they are. I had an amazing journey with those three films. But I think it’s [time to do] different things.
Check out everything we’ve got on “The Duchess.”
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