Keira Knightley's list of accomplishments goes on: She's appeared in two mammoth franchises ('Star Wars' and 'Pirates of the Caribbean'), scored an Oscar nod ('Pride & Prejudice') and reportedly been tapped to play Eliza Doolittle in the much anticipated musical remake of 'My Fair Lady.' That'd be impressive for any actress, let alone one who's not yet 24.
Now, with a trio of more modern roles on her horizon, Keira first returns to the period drama, in 'The Edge of Love.' Set in Britain during WWII, the story follows the steamy real-life romantic quadrangle formed by singer Vera Phillips (Knightley), war hero William Killick (Cillian Murphy), the poet Dylan Thomas (Matthew Rhys) and his free-spirited wife Caitlin (Sienna Miller).
Knightley chatted with Moviefone about her love of period pics and her own body, the horrors of singing before a live audience and being the target of a weight-obsessed media, and the joys of acting -- and bathing -- with Sienna Miller. -- By Tom DiChiara
1. Your mom, Shar MacDonald, wrote the script for the movie -- how was it working with her?
It was nice. It sort of came about completely by accident. We hadn't planned to do anything together. It just that she, as she sometimes does, gave me a draft of it to give her notes on, and I just thought it was completely wonderful. And I said, "Would you mind if I help you out a bit with this?" So I ended up giving it to a producer and, not that that producer took it on, but I ended up getting involved from there. It was very exciting. It was nice. But she wasn't really there when we were shooting. She'd sort of done her job by then. She came down for a couple of days, but she wasn't really on set.
2. Was there any kind of added pressure due to the fact that the character you play was the real-life grandmother of producer Rebekah Gilbertson?
No. Rebekah completely spearheaded this movie. It was entirely her idea. She was a student at, I think, the National Film School. And she got in touch with my mum and said: "Look, I want to make a film about my grandparents. Would you write a treatment?" So my mum thought, "Well, wow, she's an amazing girl, and it's an amazing story." So she started writing the treatment. She was the one who wanted this to happen. And I know that Shar definitely said to her: "Look, we need to have everybody's support from your family to make sure that they're OK. Because this is a drama, I am going to have to dramatize it. You've got to figure out whether we've got a free license and what everybody's vibe is." And her whole family was so fantastically supportive. It was great. So I got to know her very well. ... So, actually, by the time we got to do it, it was a lot of fun.
3. Initially, you were supposed to play the part of Caitlin that went to Sienna Miller, but you wanted to play Vera. Was there any particular reason?
No, there wasn't. Caitlin was probably, if you like, the better role [laughs]. No, I wouldn't say that. It's a fantastic part. But my mum wrote it for me, and I read it and for some reason just responded to Vera. I think there was something about that at that particular time in my life where I sort of went, "Oh, I completely get this person." It's completely instinctual; there isn't any reason to anything that I do. It's complete instinct. I don't know why I thought that [laughs].
4. The film is ultimately about the friendship between Vera and Caitlin, and you and Sienna really do come off as having formed a bond. How'd you achieve such great chemistry?
We kind of knew each other a little bit beforehand, but not very well. We lived together while we actually did it and, yeah, we got very close -- which was fantastic and obviously definitely helped for the on-screen chemistry. I mean, part of it is that it's our job to make sure that it's there. But I think there was something very special about the whole process of making the film. We as a cast, all four of us, really just got on -- which was fantastic. And it makes it a lot easier. I love Sienna. I think she's an amazing woman and a wonderful actress, so it was just great to get an opportunity to know and to work with her.
5. Was the scene where you and Sienna take a bath together nerve-racking at all?
No, I think we're both used to doing things like that in our job. It was very soapy water, and it was a closed set and all the rest of it. And I actually had clothing on. She didn't. Well, I had something on [laughs]. No, it was sort of fine. It was just a problem because the bath water got really cold.
6. What's your favorite memory from filming?
Oh Christ, I can't remember. God, it was over a year ago. I'm not quite sure [laughs]. There was a fantastic bluebell wood that we were very close to. We'd go for long walks in this bluebell wood, which was very beautiful. So I think that and [taking] walks along sort of wind-swept cliff tops. It was very, very windy, very gray and very cold. But, you know, if you live in Britain you kind of have to embrace it. So that was good. And again, just working with all those guys was fantastic. There was a great energy on set. John Maybury, the director, worked very quickly. He normally only lets you do one take, maybe three. But he doesn't really like you doing more than one take. So you have to get into that process of working really fast, and I found that exciting.
7. What's your least favorite?
I did get absolutely terrified of the singing. I was so frightened. And it sort of came in the middle of shooting, so I had a couple of weeks to get really, really terrified before I actually had to do it. I was meant to do it just lip-synching -- I'd recorded it beforehand and then they were going to play it back. And the day we actually got to do it, John came over to me and said, "No, I want you to do it live." I said, "You must be kidding." [Laughs.] I'd never sung in front of anyone. I mean, I had as a kid, but in my adult life, I'd never sung in front of anybody. All of a sudden, I had to be up there in front of 150 people singing this song. I thought that this is sort of one of those horrendous dreams you have, you know, those anxiety dreams. It was completely horrendous. And the first time I sang, I sounded like a pubescent boy because I was so nervous my voice just went sky-high. It was awful. And I could see all these faces going, "Oh my God, you're crap." So I had a shot of vodka, and then it was fine after that.
8. So will we be seeing a Keira Knightley album of, say, Tom Waits covers on iTunes anytime soon?
No, I don't think so [laughs]. I don't know. No [laughs].
9. Will you be taking your voice out for another spin in the musical remake of 'My Fair Lady'?
Hopefully -- fingers crossed. I auditioned for it about two years ago, and I think it's been a matter of trying to assemble the correct team to do it that is going to make as interesting a movie and as good a movie as possible. There are good whispers going around, you know, and hopefully they'll come to fruition.