The A-List Interview: Keira Knightley
BY Brandon Voss
July 11 2014 4:00 AM ET
Knightley and Hayley Atwell in The Duchess
In the upcoming biopic The Imitation Game you play Joan Clarke, a colleague briefly engaged to gay British mathematician Alan Turing, the heroic WWII code-breaker later convicted for “gross indecency.” Were you familiar with Turing?
I first read about him several years ago and I was appalled. It didn’t happen in my lifetime, but I felt quite ashamed. It’s an important story to tell. We have to look at what happened to this brilliant man because of his sexual orientation. He was destroyed, and we can’t allow that to happen again. We can’t let homophobia or bigotry take over and tear people apart. What was done to this great intellect in a court of law is an absolute travesty. As much progress as we’ve made, we must continue to fight to make people understand and value each other.
How much did Clarke know about Turing’s sexuality before their engagement?
Well, in reality, I don’t know. But I suspect she knew. They were great, great friends and they loved each other, so I think she was willing to let him have his life on the side. Maybe they could’ve had a companionship that she would’ve liked, because if she married him, he would’ve let her still work. If she married someone else for a more sexual relationship, she might’ve been forced back into the kitchen. She was willing to sacrifice her sexual life to pursue her career, which was extraordinary. They had each other’s minds, and that was enough for her.
When did you become aware of the LGBT audience?
Quite a few lovely guys told me they enjoyed The Duchess in 2008, which was very nice. I have an awful lot of gay friends with incredible taste, and they’re hard to please. When they really like something, it means a hell of a lot.
In The Duchess you played 18th-century English aristocrat Georgiana Cavendish, who had an intimate friendship with her husband’s mistress, played by Hayley Atwell. Was Georgiana bisexual?
I think she was in love with that particular woman, and I think she could’ve had great sexual pleasure with a woman, as many women can. Sexuality is a funny thing, and sometimes labels don’t quite cover it.
Speaking of labels, you butched up to play English bounty hunter Domino Harvey in the action flick Domino. Some reports claimed that the real Domino, who died shortly before the film’s 2005 release, was a proud lesbian who was annoyed that the film depicted her as straight. Other reports claimed that she was a straight woman who supported the film and considered suing the publications that called her a lesbian.
I don’t think anything about her or the way she felt about the film could be put into a newspaper article. Nothing about her was black and white. I met her a couple of times when she came to the set. She was an extraordinary individual who lived an extraordinary life by her own rules. Sometimes things just don’t fit in the mainstream media, and she definitely didn’t.