It's still life
LONDONS INDIAN summer is no fun with hayfever but, fear not, Nurse Keira Knightley is on hand with an emergency pollen plan. “So you’ll need an antihistamine – this one is good. And oh, this is really good for stinging eyes. You rub it on your eyelids and it takes the itch away. I hate the stinging eyes, don’t you? I had really bad hay fever last year for the first time. Shocking. I thought I was going to die it was so horrible.”
The queen of costume drama has never played Florence Nightingale. But should the relevant biopic arise, she can skip the audition.
“Now you’re going straight to Boots after this, aren’t you?
We had an inkling she would turn out to be a sensible sort. As long ago as 2006, we can recall a younger Knightley, then aged 20, responding coolly and politely to an idiotic question at the press conference for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest: “Why do people keep asking me if I’m going to have children?” she said. “You’re not asking my male colleagues if they’re going to have children.”
She never discusses her private relationships in public, though she has a warmth and openness that occasionally belies her reticence: Mark Ruffalo, her co-star from John Carney’s incoming Can A Song Save Your Life? is “lovely, just perfect”; Joe Wright, who directed her in Pride and Prejudice and Anna Karenina is “lovely and clever”; James Wrighton, her fiance, is “so lovely”.
She and the Klaxons keyboard player were engaged last May; she’s been threatening a full meringue dress ever since.
It could happen. At 27, having survived any number of speculative headlines about her weight, her boyfriends, and the contents of her bins, Knightley is apt to say “sod it” when the occasion demands. She’s even come full circle on costume drama. In 2004 she pleaded with director John Maybury to cast her in the psychological thriller The Jacket with the words “please rescue me from the corset. Almost a decade later, she’s thrilled to be all hooped up as Anna Karenina in director Wright’s new kinetic adaptation.
“I used to think I was doing something wrong,” she says. “I felt as if I had to keep apologising for the period dramas. – ‘Oops. I’ve made another one. Sorry’ – but that’s what I really love doing. I love the fantasy of the past. The here and now is so concrete. I love the sense of exploring and creating other worlds. I love that you can get lost in the possibilities. And my contemporary films never seem to do as well. So now I think, fuck it, I’m going to do what I love doing.”
Today, sporting a delicate monochrome knit and black maxi skirt, the clothes say dressed up, but the way she curls into her chair – feet up – is decidedly less formal. Her arms are toned and belong to someone who goes to the gym, not someone who eats three Tic Tacs for lunch. And the face, though defined by classic movie star architecture, has gotten more impish over the years. She’s almost always on the verge of a dirty laugh.