Pride & Prejudice: Interview with Keira Knightley

When I met Keira, I realized that she asks questions of herself and other people, and is really a tomboy. She has a lively mind and a great sense of humor. –Director Hoe Wright

The world of Jane Austen is depicted on the big screen in all its romance, wit, and emotional force in Pride & Prejudice. Faithful to the setting and period of the beloved novel and filmed entirely on location in the U.K, this is the first movie version of the story in 65 years. The classic tale of love and misunderstanding unfolds in class-conscious England near the end of the eighteenth century. The five Bennet sisters–Elizabeth, or Lizzie (Keira Knightley), Jane (Rosamund Pike), Lydia (Jena Malone), Mary (Talulah Riley), and Kitty (Carey Mulligan)–have been raised aware of their mother's (Brenda Blethyn) fixation on finding them husbands and securing set futures. The spirited and intelligent Elizabeth, however, strives to live her life with a broader perspective, as encouraged by her doting father (Donald Sutherland).

Joe Wright on Casting Knightley

I originally hadn't considered someone as beautiful as Keira. I was looking for someone who didn't fit the normal feminine conventions, and was bright and slightly difficult. I figured Lizzie would be quite difficult to live with; she's tough-minded and questions everything all the time. When I met Keira, I realized that she asks questions of herself and other people, and is really a tomboy. She has a lively mind and a great sense of humor. During shooting, she kept on surprising me. What does one look for in an actor Originality of thought; somebody who is able and willing to give their heart to what they are doing, and is able to really listen to the other actors. Keira did all of that, and was a hard worker.

On Elizabeth Bennet

Lizzie is a character who has been strongly identified with, and cherished, by several generations. She is every girl's dream. I was aware of the pitfalls inherent in playing such a longstanding heroine. There was a huge pressure taking on the role. Lizzie is one of the best roles in literature for girls. If youre an actress and you get the chance to play her you definitely can't say no. But it is scary, because when you read Pride and Prejudice, you feel like you own her. I know I did, and Im sure everybody feels the same way, and that they'll have a very clear idea of who Elizabeth Bennet is. So this was an exciting challenge.

On Jane Austen

Jane Austen's own critique of her the book was that she felt it was too light-hearted. She felt the relationship between Jane and Elizabeth wasn't realistic enough. We took heed of her comments and tried to bring to the movie a realism that perhaps isn't so much in the book, bringing out the idea that these sisters are two girls who have lived with each other and slept in the same bed for so many years now. They have annoyances and such, but they love each other and stand by each other, enjoying each other and sharing each other's pain.

Joe Wright as Director

It was great being directed by Joe because he's got a very clear vision of what he wants the entire piece to be like. So he can also say, You can stray a tiny bit, that's all right. And I think you have to do that to really own a character, to possess the role. It's a different process to do a film based on a book, because the inner dialogue of your character is all written down. So if there was ever a scene where I was having problems, we would go back to the book and in some way or another it was right there. But, equally, you have to take a stand and say, OK, I know it says this in the book, but you know what I can't do it like that because it doesn't make sense as far as this goes, so Im going to have to change that slightly. And then you have to be brave and just do it.

On Darcy and Matthew Macfadyen

When I went in to read with Matthew, I was so blown away that I virtually couldn't get my lines out. I just kept staring at him thinking, What the hell happened between you walking in as Mathew and you starting to read Because he actually did turn into Darcy, and the scenes flowed. Matthew's a man who is sexy in the mode of Richard Burton, with a bit of Alan Rickman. You need to see that kind of rugged beauty in Darcy, knowing that here was a man who walks across fields, climbs trees, and very much manages his own estate. With Matthew, you can see that etched across his face, yet he's also got this extraordinary vulnerability. On the page, Darcy reads as being very cold, but Mathew is so vulnerable through his big manliness that he gives Darcy extra qualities.

The Men's Costumes

When the men in the cast stood around in their normal clothes, we Bennet girls could chat away to them. As soon as they wore their costumes, the sisters, myself included, were suddenly faced with these sexy creatures and we turned into giggling idiots who couldn't string a sentence together. They were so well costumed!

Keira Knightley's Career

Keira Knightley is one of today's rising stars in international cinema. She is known to audiences worldwide for her performances in Gore Verbinski's blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, starring opposite Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom for producer Jerry Bruckheimer. Prior to that, she was seen in Gurinder Chadha's sleeper hit Bend It Like Beckham, for which she was honored with the London Critics Circle Award for British Newcomer of the Year. She could also be seen in Richard Curtis romantic comedy Love Actually, also made by Working Title Films.

Knightley starred this year in Tony Scott's action thriller Domino, as real-life bounty hunter Domino Harvey (daughter of the late British actor). Knightley is currently shooting Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (the first of two sequels, which are filmed back-to-back), reunited with the original cast and filmmakers and joined by Pride & Prejudice co-star Tom Hollander.

The British native acquired an agent at an early age, and appeared in her first TV drama (Ferdinand Fairfax Royal Celebration) at the age of 6. Her subsequent TV credits included playing Lara in Giacomo Campiotti's miniseries remake of Doctor Zhivago (opposite Hans Matheson). Knightley's first big-screen role was as a handmaiden in George Lucas Star Wars: Episode I–The Phantom Menace. Among her subsequent films were Gillies Mackinnon's Pure, Antoine Fuqua's King Arthur (again for producer Jerry Bruckheimer), as Guinevere; and John Maybury's The Jacket.