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Knightley night new york

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Keira Knightley’s done with playing tragic heroines and is desperately seeking a little hope. The Hollywood star tells the P&J that she might just have found it on the streets of the Big Apple


Keira Knightley’s a little peeved. It’s the mention of her appearance on The Graham Norton Show, in which she revealed her husband’s attempts to teach her the guitar almost ended in divorce, that’s done it.
At the mention of his name, the thus far animated and at times gurning Knightley becomes a little steelier of eye, momentarily crossing an arm protectively across her body.
“It was a joke but now I have to repeat it all day. I do, don’t I!” exclaims the actress, who wed the Klaxons’ James Righton in 2013.
She thankfully begins laughing (albeit a little hysterically).
She’s right though – she probably will be batting off questions relating to her relationship until sundown, but after 20 years in the business, the 29-year-old knows only too well how the promotional tour works. The anecdotes and personal titbits that can be gleaned (however tenuously on the journalist’s part) is all part of the circus.
As is Knightley’s ensemble – a beautiful black dress with intricate lace and ruffled collar detailing, despite it only being 10am. “It’s very swooshy, isn’t it?” she says, wafting it about for effect.
Known for eschewing the celebrity circuit despite her Hollywood status, today’s outfit is a world away from Knightley’s off-duty attire, and that of her singer-songwriter character Greta’s (hence the guitar lessons) in new movie Begin Again.

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The film’s writer and director John Carney (whose 2006 film Once won the Best Original Song Oscar, with the stage adaptation scooping multiple Tony Awards) wanted Knightley’s entire wardrobe to come from second-hand shops.
The film follows Greta and her long-time boyfriend Dave (Maroon 5’s Adam Levine) who, seduced by dreams of making it in the big city, move to New York to pursue their passion for music.
“We all felt it was really important for the role of Dave to be played by somebody who was actually a musician, because they have this confidence that you absolutely can’t fake. Actors have been through way too much rejection to pull that one off,” says Knightley.
Despite it being Levine’s acting debut, she didn’t offer him any advice. “No, he didn’t need any, and I don’t think you could guide Adam, he’s sort of like a missile.”


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Keira with James Corden in the new film

When Dave rejects Greta for the fame and fortune of a big solo contract, she’s heartbroken and contemplates leaving the Big Apple. But not before Steve, her mate from home (James Corden) encourages her to go on stage at an open mic night. In the audience is Dan (Mark Ruffalo), a down-on-his luck record producer who, captivated by her talent, persuades her to take a fresh approach and they transform the streets of New York into their recording studio.

A lot of the movie was improvised (“James Corden is the master of that so he did certainly throw a load of curveballs at me, which was a lot of fun”) and Knightley thinks it sums up the “vibe” of the film.

Although no stranger to challenging herself on screen, she admits to feeling “pretty vulnerable” at the thought of singing on camera.

“We recorded it all before we started filming, but they hadn’t really finished writing the lyrics or the top lines until two days before we got in the studio, so it was very much ‘just get on with it’ and we had four days to record it all.”

That didn’t sit particularly well with someone who likes a lot of preparation time.

“I was like, ‘I have no idea what I’m doing!’ So we did many, many takes of many different styles until we found something that everybody just went, ‘Oh! That was it’, and it felt right for me as well.”

She thinks the film’s a fairly true to life portrayal of what happens to couples when the playing field stops being level, and one of them takes off. What happens to intimacy, trust and loyalty when fame comes calling?
“I think the relationship is really well-written. John probably wrote it based on some real-life people he’d witnessed,” says Knightley, carefully side-stepping a question as to whether she can relate to such a scenario.
“I think there’s an incredible excitement that comes from that sudden flash of success and, probably, there are a lot of people that are left in the wake of it, and certainly my character is one of those people.”
But unlike Greta, Knightley found fame at a young age. “Being a very introverted 18-year-old girl meant it was a very different experience,” she says.
“It wasn’t like having years of going, ‘Why isn’t anybody taking notice, why don’t they realise?’ It was more a sort of, ‘Oh, that’s just happened, and how do I deal with that? I can’t go outside any more!’”
She cares little about whether she’s the star of the film or merely making a cameo.
“I like to change it up, so if there’s a role that interests me, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a lead, supporting or just something tiny. If I go, ‘Oh that’s interesting, maybe I can do something with that’, then I’ll take it.”

Begin Again is in cinemas now.