Keira Knightley spoke to Variety about her upcoming film Colette, a historical drama about the French novelist who famously wrote Gigi and other stories about female liberation and sexuality. (Colette herself engaged in relationships and affairs with both men and women.) Colette also had to deal with her husband taking her earnings, and in a film about the life of such a dynamic and ground-breaking woman, it was only natural that Knightley spoke about brave and outspoken women of the film industry and the current moment.
Knightley speaks about the types of female roles available, just recently getting paid more than her male co-stars, and the prevalence of reporters who constantly ask actresses about motherhood. “I don’t really do films set in the modern day because the female characters nearly always get raped,” says Knightley, when asked about her preference for historical pieces. She does note, however, “There’s been some improvement. I’m suddenly being sent scripts with present-day women who aren’t raped in the first five pages and aren’t simply there to be the loving girlfriend or wife.”
She adds, before offering praise to Lady Bird, “When there are female writers and directors and producers, the parts for women are better, and so the way that society views women through drama is much better and much more well rounded.” Knightley has been outspoken about the need for female-driven and female-led stories in the past.
Knightley states that she had never personally dealt with Weinstein’s predatory behavior, offering that she “[didn’t] think everybody knew the extent of what was going on”, and spoke positively of #MeToo, #TimesUp, and the shift in how we deal with predators. “There have been seismic changes at various points, where you have things like the suffragette movement, and we’re having another tectonic shift right now,” said the actress, “Women are saying, ‘No more. We’re not putting up with predatory bullshit.’”
What’s been really interesting is that it’s not just this industry — it’s in every industry. I was surprised by some of the specifics. But I was aware of the culture of silencing women and the culture of bullying them, and I knew that men in the industry were allowed to behave in very different ways than women. That was obvious. What was fascinating about the #MeToo movement was I was sitting with friends who weren’t in the industry, and there wasn’t one of us who hadn’t been assaulted at some point. We’d never had that conversation before. That was an eye-opener.
For too long, you really did go, ‘Oh, this is just normal.’ It’s terrifying that was our response. It must have been awful for all of those brave women who have come forward and spoken publicly about their experiences. There’s been a lot of pain and a lot of suffering. We’re in a period of time in which it all has to come out. Then we need to move forward and figure out how to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.
You can read the full interview at Variety, where Knightley also discusses how working on Pirates of the Caribbean at 18 years old was “traumatic,” and how it informs the way she treats young female actresses.
(via Variety, image: Sony Pictures Classics)
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