If I ever see a picture of Keira Knightley out and about, I wonder why the actress is holding a cell phone, or getting out of a car, or wearing pants, because I'm so used to seeing the 32-year-old in dramatic period pieces, smushed into a corset. It's something Knightley confessed to Variety that she used to be embarrassed about, but during an interview about her upcoming movie Colette, she also says there's a reason she's shied away from more contemporary narratives.
"I don’t really do films set in the modern day because the female characters nearly always get raped," she told the outlet. "I always find something distasteful in the way women are portrayed, whereas I’ve always found very inspiring characters offered to me in historical pieces."
In a post-Weinstein world, however, and the cultural shift that led up to it, she's seeing a change — like the fact that Colette was even made at all. The story about the sexually liberated French novelist was something director Wash Westmoreland had apparently been trying to bring to the big screen for 15 years.
"I don’t think it’s a surprise that it managed to get funding in the last few years when it had never managed to get funding before," Knightly said. "Women’s stories are suddenly viewed as important."
#MeToo has been a whirlwind for Knightley, as well. As a woman in the industry who "can count four times when I’ve been what I’d say was assaulted in a minor way," and who dealt with a stalker last year, she was still surprised at the scope of the problem. She was discussing it with friends only to discover that "there wasn’t one of us who hadn’t been assaulted at some point."
"I think everyone has battled their fair share of monsters. It’s not just actresses. It’s teachers; it’s lawyers," she continued. "I’m not talking about rape, but I’m talking about the people who had been grabbed in pubs or their breasts had been fondled by somebody they didn’t know or they’d had someone shove a hand up their skirt."
Despite this reckoning, Knightley says she still sees a lack of progress in Hollywood, especially when it comes to telling women's stories — something she spoke about back in 2015.
"Where are the female stories? Where are they? Where are the directors, where are the writers?" she asked Violet magazine at the time. "It's imbalanced, so given that we are half the cinema-going public, we are half the people [who] watch drama or watch anything else, where is that? So yes, I think the pay is a huge thing, but I'm actually more concerned over the lack of our voices being heard."
That's why, in conversation with Variety, she praised movies like Lady Bird, but it doesn't mean we're quite there yet.
"We’re in a period of time in which it all has to come out, " she told the magazine. "Then we need to move forward and figure out how to make sure that it doesn’t happen again."