Keira Knightley Still Doesn't Feel Like A Grown-Up

Photo: REX USA/Tim Rooke/Rex.
Even if she doesn't want to admit it, Keira Knightley's a bona fide grown-up. To begin with, she's happily married to Klaxons keyboardist, James Righton. Then there's the matter of her career, which is flourishing, thanks to the back-to-back release of two new movies: the Sundance darling Laggies, and the surefire Oscar magnet, The Imitation Game.
When we met in Toronto last month to discuss the former, the 29-year-old British actress had all the poise and confidence of someone who's fully comfortable in their own skin — a certified sign of adulthood.
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But, just the mere mention of growing up makes Knightley wince, much like her character in Lynn Shelton's delightful new comedy, Laggies. In it, she plays Megan, an overeducated but underemployed charmer in the midst of a full-blown quarter-life crisis who shacks up with a teenager (Chloë Grace Moretz) to avoid growing up for just a little while longer. If that sounds familiar, according to Knightley, you're not alone.
We sat down with the actress to discuss the science of Benedict Cumberbatch, married life, and what it means to be all grown up.
Do you know anyone like your character Megan in real life?
I think everyone I know is like Megan, or different versions of her.
Do you feel like a grown up yet?
No! I think that's the thing about this character. Particularly with people of our generation, it seems very right, and really common, that sort of float, and that feeling of 'Am I doing the right thing?' The problem of Generation Y is that feeling of 'I should be doing something to live up to my potential. Am I living up to my potential? Am I doing the right thing? Am I with the right person?'
Did becoming a celebrity at such a young age force you to grow up early?
Sure, but I think people who go to university have to be independent and fend for themselves as well.
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Unless their parents pay for their tuition.
But, they still need to wash their clothes, and figure that out, and cook, and be on their own and all the rest of it.
Do you equate marriage with adulthood?
If anything, my husband and I have regressed.
How so?
He's just really fun, so we go out a lot and have a lot of fun.
Yet the societal norm for grownups has always been to get married and have a family.
I don't think we even thought about that, because we both come from backgrounds where none of our parents were like 'You should get married.' Mine were hippies who only got married because it was the only way they could get a mortgage. When I got married they were completely like 'I don't know why you bother. Fine, do whatever you want, but what does it mean? It doesn't mean anything.' And, we just sort of went, 'It'll be fun!' And, with all the statistics on divorce, it doesn't seem like the sensible thing to do. That's what I liked about it.
We've seen so many films about men who don't have their shit together. But, with movies like Frances Ha, Obvious Child, and now Laggies, there seems to be a real appetite for films about women who don't have their shit together.
Well, it just happens to women so much. Like I said, this character reflects most of my friends. I went to see Frances Ha with my best mate, and we both just sat there, and we were like, 'This was us!' It was so totally awesome. We'd been through that and suddenly you go 'Oh my god! This story is for me!' It's kind of an extraordinary thing when you've seen this so many times with men, and yet, I've never seen it from a female perspective. And, as much as it's the same, it's slightly different as well.
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What I find amazing is that even though these films are told from a female perspective, I totally find myself relating to them as well.
That's exactly right! When I saw male films that did the same thing, I totally identified with them, because they're characters that are flawed, and although it can be slightly different, we're all kind of going through the exact same things: career things, relationship things, sex things — whatever they are.
I wonder why that's a product of our generation specifically? My parents went to school, they got a job, they got married, and that was that. But, it's just not that way any more.
It's much more free-flowing. We've got more options, but that doesn't necessarily lead you to being happier. I don't think you should have less options, but I think there could be a lot of angst in suddenly going, 'I can do anything, and be with anyone, anywhere!' It's like, 'Oh shit!'
Photo: Courtesy of A24.
Is it more enjoyable promoting a film like this that needs to be discovered?
Yeah, especially when they do get discovered. It's heartbreaking when they don't. I've made quite a few that have been good that haven't managed to break through. Anything like this needs a fuck of a lot of support, so it's really great when people do get on board. There's also got to be a little gap in the world for something, and if you're lucky enough in that particular moment, your film can fall into that gap and take off.
What did you know about Lynn before you signed on to Laggies?
I'd seen Your Sister's Sister and Humpday, and I loved both of them. She sent me the script and I was pretty much like, 'Yes!' the moment I got it.
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Were you familiar with her method of working?
I wasn't really. Having watched Your Sister's Sister I thought that was definitely improvisation, so I suspected something, but we did way less of that on Laggies. Working in England on all these stylized period pieces, you don't get to deviate from the script, so I was excited to work in a totally different way.
Do you prefer working on these types of intimate sets compared to films like Pirates of The Caribbean?
I've been working on these smaller ones a lot over the last five years, and I prefer it. I prefer the way you work. As an actor, it just means you're not sitting around the trailer all the time. Hey, I'm not complaining; trailers are great, but it's a lot more fun to be constantly active and constantly doing things. I like the idea that you have to hit the ground running, and you don't get a second chance. It's like if you don't get that scene, you don't get that scene, and that's an exciting way to work — as opposed to the big sprawling ones, when you just fix it another day.
Let's talk about working with Chloë Grace Moretz. She's obviously having a moment.
She's got so many films out! Like, what the fuck!?
She's also been doing it from such a young age. Did she strike you as an old pro?
Oh yeah, 100%. She's wicked. What's really lovely about her is that yes, she's a total old pro. She's so confident, and she's so much fun, and she's so outgoing — but equally she's totally like a teenager, and that's what's really lovely. She's always giggly and jumping all over the place, which is nice, because you can work with kids who've been doing it for a long time and you think: 'You're behaving like me!' If you choose to work with young people, you should encourage them to behave like young people, and that's what I love about her.
Finally, I have to ask you about Benedict Cumberbatch, who you star alongside in The Imitation Game.
Yes! Yes!
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He seems like a unique kind of movie star.
He is unique. He's a very good actor. He's been a good mate of mine for many years. He has always worked more than any other actor I've ever met. He's been non-stop from the moment he started, and it's interesting that it took so long for things to hit for him. I remember having dinner with him and he told me about Sherlock and it sounded great, but there was no reason that was going to hit over anything else that he'd done, so you just kind of go 'Okay'.
Did you always think 'This guy is supposed to be huge?'
Definitely. I've seen a lot of his work over the years, a lot of his theater work, a lot of his television work, and yeah, you always thought 'He's a sensational actor.' I think the tough thing about the business is there's a lot of sensational actors who never get that lucky bit, and I'm so happy for him that he got that lucky bit, and it's going so stellar.
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