Knightley On Why She Does Period Pieces

From “Pirates of the Caribbean” to “Pride and Prejudice,” if you want a strong young actress who can pull off a corset it’s Keira Knightley. Though she has done contemporary films, she’s often mostly known for her work in period pieces ranging from “Atonement” to “The Duchess” to “Anna Karenina” and beyond.

In an extensive profile in Variety, the actress has gotten candid about her reasoning and explains the state of roles for women in contemporary set productions – parts that are either cliched, underwritten or demeaning:

“With the rise of Netflix and Amazon we’re seeing some strong female characters and female stories on streaming services. I don’t know about films as much. I don’t really do films set in the modern day because the female characters nearly always get raped.

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. There’s been some improvement. I’m suddenly being sent scripts with present-day women who aren’t raped in the first five pages and aren’t simply there to be the loving girlfriend or wife.”

Knightley’s next work is another period piece, “Colette,” about the famed French author. She explains that the film took over a decade to get made because the world is now changing and demand for stories about complex women are more desired:

“[Director] Wash [Westmoreland], the director, and his late partner [the writer and director Richard Glatzer] were trying to get this movie made for about 15 years. I don’t think it’s a surprise that it managed to get funding in the last few years when it had never managed to get funding before. Women’s stories are suddenly viewed as important.

There are quite a few scripts written by women; it’s the directors that have been massively lacking. I’ve worked with a number of female filmmakers, and they’ve all been wonderful. They haven’t always found it easy to get another film off the ground even when the films we’ve done have been very well reviewed. It’s a big problem. “

Knightley adds that she’s never been sexually harassed or assaulted on a film set, nor was she on the receiving end of any untoward behavior from Harvey Weinstein. “Colette” debuts at Sundance this Saturday.