STAR INTERVIEW: Keira finds her voice in search for ‘hope’

James Corden and Keira Knightley in Begin Again.  Picture: PA Photo/Entertainment One. ANL-141107-125820001
James Corden and Keira Knightley in Begin Again. Picture: PA Photo/Entertainment One. ANL-141107-125820001

Keira Knightley talks to Susan Griffin about her latest movie, Begin Again (15), for which she had to sing on camera.

Keira Knightley’s a little peeved. It’s the mention of her appearance on The Graham Norton Show, in which she revealed her husband’s attempts to teach her the guitar almost ended in divorce, that’s done it.

At the mention of his name, Knightley becomes a little steelier of eye, momentarily crossing an arm protectively across her body.

“It was a joke but now I have to repeat it all f*****g day. I do, don’t I!” exclaims the actress, who wed the Klaxons’ James Righton in 2013.

She thankfully begins laughing (albeit a little hysterically).

She’s right though – she probably will be batting off questions relating to her relationship until sundown, but after 20 years in the business, the 29-year-old knows only too well how the promotional tour works. The anecdotes and personal titbits that can be gleaned (however tenuously on the journalist’s part) is all part of the circus.

As is Knightley’s ensemble – a beautiful black dress with intricate lace and ruffled collar detailing, despite it only being 10am. “It’s very swooshy, isn’t it?” she says, wafting it about for effect.

Known for eschewing the celebrity circuit despite her Hollywood status, today’s outfit is a world away from Knightley’s off-duty attire, and that of her singer-songwriter character Greta’s (hence the guitar lessons) in new movie Begin Again.

The film’s writer and director John Carney wanted Knightley’s entire wardrobe to come from secondhand shops. For Knightley, whose known for her period roles in Pirates Of The Caribbean, The Duchess and Anna Karenina, ditching the corsets was indeed refreshing, but wasn’t her sole reason for signing up.

“I wanted something that had hope in it. All the things I’d previously done didn’t have hope in them,” she says, laughing. “I think hope is a very difficult thing to put into films actually, without being hugely cheesy.”

She believes her breakout project, 2002’s Bend It Like Beckham, ‘was a very hopeful piece’, though, and that Begin Again shares a similar tone.

The film follows Greta and her long-time boyfriend Dave (Maroon 5’s Adam Levine) who, seduced by dreams of making it in the big city, move to New York to pursue their passion for music.

“We all felt it was really important for the role of Dave to be played by somebody who was actually a musician, because they have this confidence that you absolutely can’t fake. Actors have been through way too much rejection to pull that one off,” says Knightley.

Despite it being Levine’s acting debut, she didn’t offer him any advice. “No, he didn’t need any, and I don’t think you could guide Adam, he’s sort of like a missile.”

When Dave rejects Greta for the fame and fortune of a big solo contract, she’s heartbroken and contemplates leaving the Big Apple. But not before Steve, her mate from home (James Corden) encourages her to go on stage at an open mic night. In the audience is Dan (Mark Ruffalo), a down-on-his luck record producer who, captivated by her talent, persuades her to take a fresh approach and they transform the streets of New York into their recording studio.

She thinks the film’s a fairly true to life portrayal of what happens to couples when the playing field stops being level, and one of them takes off. What happens to intimacy, trust and loyalty when fame comes calling?

“I think the relationship is really well-written. John probably wrote it based on some real-life people he’d witnessed,” says Knightley, carefully side-stepping a question as to whether she can relate to such a scenario.

“I think there’s an incredible excitement that comes from that sudden flash of success and, probably, there are a lot of people that are left in the wake of it, and certainly my character is one of those people.”