- Keira Knightley avoids taking roles in modern-day films because of the way that women are presented.
- Knightley claims that female characters are either “raped in the first five pages” or “simply there to be the loving girlfriend or wife.”
- She also admitted that she is more likely to take on “corset roles” due to her love of the genre.
Sexual violence towards women in films set in the current day is a major reason why Keira Knightley shies away from taking modern-day roles, she revealed in an interview with Variety.
While she praised Netflix and Amazon for producing original dramas with “strong female characters and female stories,” Knightley believes that the stories for women on the silver screen tend to portray female characters that are abused and violated.
“I don’t really do films set in the modern day because the female characters always get raped,” she said. “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.”
Knightley is best known for playing female leads in blockbuster period dramas, including Anna Karenina in Joe Wright’s 2012 portrayal of the eponymous novel by Leo Tolstoy, and Elizabeth Bennet in Wright’s 2005 adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.”
Alongside her frustration with the way modern-day parts for women are written, the actress was happy to divulge that her reputation for popping up in period dramas stems from her own love of the genre.
While she admitted to “feeling quite guilty about” her reputation to take on “corset roles” early on in her career, Knightley has grown to accept that period dramas are the films she’s always loved watching.
“I think some people find escapism through science fiction or fantasy, and I suppose my escapism into another world has always been through period drama,” she said. “It’s nice that in my 30s I can finally admit that.”
Although the landscape for female characters on the silver screen may seem bleak, the actress added that she has recently received multiple scripts for “present-day women who aren’t raped in the first five pages and aren’t simply there to be the loving girlfriend or wife,” which makes her hopeful for a shift in the industry.
This could only be a positive change in an industry landscape currently overshadowed by the stream of sexual abuse allegations made against countless powerful male figures late last year, sparked by accusations against Harvey Weinstein.
The powerful “Me Too” campaign followed shortly after in an effort to promote awareness of sexual harassment and assault, leading to the creation of the “Time’s Up” initiative, which saw Hollywood’s biggest stars wear black on the red carpet at the Golden Globes as a way of speaking out against sexual assault, harassment, and inequality in the workplace.
While Knightley asserted that she has never personally experienced any form of sexual harassment on set, she said the difference between the way that women are treated by some industry bigwigs is “obvious.”
“I was surprised by some of the specifics,” she said. “But I was aware of the culture of silencing women and the culture of bullying them, and I knew that men in the industry were allowed to behave in very different ways than women. That was obvious.
“What was fascinating about the #MeToo movement was I was sitting with friends who weren’t in the industry, and there wasn’t one of us who hadn’t been assaulted at some point. We’d never had that conversation before. That was an eye-opener.”
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