How Keira Knightley Fell For 'Manipulative And Cruel' Anna Karenina

By Colin Greten

When "Pride and Prejudice" and "Atonement" director Joe Wright was picked to helm another piece of classic literature in "Anna Karenina," it came as no surprise who he picked to play his lead. Keira Knightley has seen her acting career flourish in these types of roles. While she has had success in other roles her most critical success comes from her collaborations with Wright, resulting in two Golden Globe nominations and an Oscar nod.

In a recent interview with MTV News Knightley explained how her relationship with her title character, "Anna Karenina" has changed over time. After regrettably dropping out of school ("I was feeling really stupid," she cracked), the actress felt the need to read more books to keep her hesitations at ease. In reading the classic Russian tome, she originally found the character of Anna to be a sweet, innocent girl. However, after rereading the book in preparation for her upcoming role, she found herself hating Anna more than she ever would have thought. She explained that Anna is "not as nice as I thought she was."

"I think it's more interesting when you have characters where you don't know how you feel about them the whole time. I do sympathize with her and I do love her," she continued. "But you also go, 'She is manipulative and cruel and duplicitous."

Knightley's changing opinion of Anna proves just how far she has come as an actress. While many actresses research and work to truly become the roles that they play, it is clear Knightly thinks about it on a whole different level. Her struggle with the character of Anna is intriguing as perhaps the character experiences the same struggle.

While Anna can be seen as innocent, she is also the manipulative character that Knightley discovered last summer. "Anna Karenina" premieres in a limited release today, and if the Knightly/Wright combo has shown audiences anything, it's that they are perfectly suited to tackle this type of project.