Keira Knightley

Pride & Prejudice

Interviewed by Alana Lee

“You're not going to read a script that has a fantastic story and characters, and decide not to do it because it was set 200 years ago ”

After breakout performances in Bend It Like Beckham and Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl, Keira Knightley became one of Britain's biggest young stars. The "sexy beanpole" has balanced low-budget British movies with high-profile Hollywood blockbusters, a trend maintained in upcoming pics Pride & Prejudice and Tony Scott's Domino. She's currently reprising her role as Elizabeth Swann in two Pirates Of The Caribbean sequels which will see the light of day in 2006/7.

When you accepted the role of Elizabeth Bennet, were you at all concerned with being typecast in costume dramas?

I think the thing is not to be typecast if you can possibly manage it, and what excites me about acting is the idea of changing as much as possible from character to character, and piece to piece. You're not going to read a script that has a fantastic story, a fantastic character and a fantastic director and decide not to do it because it was set 200 years ago. That would be a bit foolish. You can only go with what interests you, and Pride & Prejudice has been a book that I've been obsessed with since I was about seven, so the opportunity to play a part like Elizabeth Bennet was one that I couldn't miss out on.

What was the interaction like between yourselves and Donald Sutherland, who plays Mr Bennet?

We adored him. He was amazing, completely amazing. Partly because he did love having six women around him all the time. We were really lucky. It was an amazing company to work with and be amongst. Everybody got on, and I think you can see that when you see the film.

An American actor, Jena Malone, plays your sister Lydia. What was that like?

She stayed with the [English] accent all the way through, and suddenly at the end when she started speaking with an American accent we were all slightly freaked out. It was like, "What are you doing?"

What's the relevance of the story for modern audiences?

I think the reason that Pride & Prejudice has been so popular for so long is that fundamentally it doesn't matter when you set it. You can see that in Bridget Jones, or Bride & Prejudice. For me it's about growing up, about making mistakes, it's about love and it's about things that are as relevant today as then. And it's one of the most beautiful romantic stories ever told. I think it has completely universal appeal, and it doesn't matter when you set it or when you're watching or read it. You can't not love it.

So do you see Elizabeth as a modern woman for her time?

I think so. The reason I was so terrified about taking her on was that when I first got the part I had women coming over to me saying, "You're not Elizabeth Bennet, I am!" I think that's why the character is so loved, because everybody who loves the book is Elizabeth Bennet. Or she's what you aspire to be: she's funny, she's witty and intelligent. She's a fully rounded and very much loved character, so it's terrifying to actually take her on. But equally, because I'd been obsessed I also believed that I was Elizabeth Bennet so I was the right person for it.

How did the corsets compare to those in Pirates Of The Caribbean?

These corsets were fine. For me what was really important was that you got a sense that these girls could really run around in a field, walk for miles, do anything they wanted in their clothes. The corsets in Pride & Prejudice only came down so far, whereas the corsets for something like Pirates Of The Caribbean are right the way down which means your stomach is pulled in and you really can't breathe. With these it was like not wearing a corset at all. It was fantastic. So a very easy corset experience for me!

Pride & Prejudice is released in UK cinemas on Friday 16th September 2005.