Keira Knightley: I won’t shoot any more sex scenes directed by men

Actor uncomfortable trying to portray ‘male gaze’ and is ‘too vain’ to shoot intimate scenes

Keira Knightley: ‘I don’t want it to be those horrible sex scenes where you’re all greased up and everybody is grunting. I’m not interested in doing that.’ Photograph: Tim P Whitby/Getty

Keira Knightley: ‘I don’t want it to be those horrible sex scenes where you’re all greased up and everybody is grunting. I’m not interested in doing that.’ Photograph: Tim P Whitby/Getty

 

Keira Knightley has expressed her discomfort with shooting intimate scenes, saying that she will no longer do so if the film is directed by a man.

In conversation with the director Lulu Wang and the writer-producer Diane Solway on the Chanel Connects podcast, Knightley credits the “male gaze” and her own personal vanity with the decision.

“If I was making a story that was about that journey of motherhood and body acceptance, I feel like, I’m sorry, but that would have to be with a female film-maker,” Knightley says. “I don’t have an absolute ban, but I kind of do with men.”

She continues: “I don’t want it to be those horrible sex scenes where you’re all greased up and everybody is grunting. I’m not interested in doing that.

“I feel very uncomfortable now trying to portray the male gaze. Saying that, there’s times where I go, ‘Yeah, I completely see where this sex would be really good in this film, and you basically just need somebody to look hot.’

“So therefore you can use somebody else, because I’m too vain and the body has had two children now, and I’d just rather not stand in front of a group of men naked.

“We all empathise with men hugely, because, culturally, their experience is so explored. We know so many aspects of even male sexuality. But we don’t feel like men can say, ‘Yes, I understand what you’re talking about, because I’ve got this wealth of art and film and theatre and TV from your point of view.’”

Male directors tell me what it is to be a woman. Be nice, be supportive, be pretty but not too pretty, be thin but not too thin, be sexy but not too sexy, be successful but not too successful

Knightley has spoken in the past of clashes with male directors, launching a broadside against male colleagues in a 2018 essay: “They tell me what it is to be a woman. Be nice, be supportive, be pretty but not too pretty, be thin but not too thin, be sexy but not too sexy, be successful but not too successful… But I don’t want to flirt and mother them, flirt and mother, flirt and mother. I don’t want to flirt with you because I don’t want to f**k you, and I don’t want to mother you because I am not your mother… I just want to work, mate. Is that OK? Talk and be heard, be talked to and listen. Male ego. Stop getting in the way.”

She has also spoken of the impossible position some women are left in unless they act either flirty or maternal. “Before motherhood you’re sexy, but if we talk about the whole vagina-splitting thing then that’s terrifying; there’s no sex there. So what we do is go into the virgin-mother retrofit; that’s nice and safe. The problem with those two images is, I think, very few women actually identify with them. Women are meant to play the flirt or the mother in order to get their voice heard. I can’t. It makes me feel sick.”

Knightley’s most recent role was in Philippa Lowthorpe’s Misbehaviour, in which she played an activist who stormed the stage at the 1970 Miss World ceremony, in protest at its sexism. Her next film is Silent Night, a Christmas comedy costarring Matthew Goode and Annabelle Wallis and directed by first-timer Camille Griffin. – Guardian

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.