Princess of period films like Pride & Prejudice, Oscar nominee Keira Knightley leaves the past behind to play a struggling singer-songwriter in Begin Again, a modern-day rom-com now in theaters. But when it comes to gay pride and prejudice, the 29-year-old Bend It Like Beckham beauty goes way back.
The Advocate: After so many corseted costume dramas, how did it feel to strum a guitar in street clothes as Gretta in Begin Again?
Keira Knightley: I only had to come in half an hour before shooting, as opposed to, like, two hours to get into wigs and makeup. It was great.
Did you feel more vulnerable without those ruffled petticoats to hide behind?
It’s true that the more stylized a character, the further and further it gets away from you. That’s what many actors enjoy about acting — disappearing into someone else. This was definitely the opposite of that, and it was quite scary. There was also a lot of improvisation, which I’ve never done before, but that was very exciting.
You also got to kiss Adam Levine, People’s reigning “Sexiest Man Alive,” who plays Gretta’s boyfriend and songwriting partner.
Yeah, he’s a pretty sexy dude. He’s got a good body on him. He’s also very funny, which is always the most attractive thing about anybody. He had so much energy that he was literally bouncing off the walls, so it was great fun to work with him. He had never acted before, so he was constantly going, “Oh, I don’t know how to do this.” He was a complete natural, of course, which is a bit annoying, really. But yeah, he certainly hasn’t been left short in the looks department.
Did you have any singer-songwriters on your iPod to help you get into character?
Not really. The director, John Carney, and I had emailed some ideas early on, but the character sort of went away from anything we’d talked about. We wanted to create her own thing, so I didn’t really take inspiration from anybody.
Now that you’ve discovered your vocal talent, do you have any aspirations to record your own album?
Not even remotely. [Laughs] But I have a whole new appreciation for people who can do that. You know, when I first read the Begin Again script, which I loved, the songs weren’t really in there. I just loved the character and the story, but I really didn’t think about the singing part until I was there in the studio and realized I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. I’m not a musician or a singer. That’s not how I express myself creatively, so it was weird and quite terrifying.
Would you consider doing a Broadway musical?
In my head, I would love to do a Broadway musical. I’ve always loved musicals — they’re so fun — but I don’t think I’ve got the voice that could do a Broadway musical. You need a big fucking voice for one of those things.