Keira Knightley has said that she doesn’t like playing contemporary characters “because the female characters nearly always get raped.”
The 32-year-old actress made the comments in an interview with Variety magazine in a cover story to promote her new movie, Colette, a 20th-century period piece about the eponymous French novelist and author of the classic romantic novel of French manners, Gigi. She passed away in 1954.
Knightley is promoting Colette at the Sundance Festival. The film is being premiered there in the hope of securing a distributor.
Talking about the portrayal of women in contemporary filmmaking, Knightley tells Variety: “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.”
The Oscar-nominated actress did not mention by name any films she had in mind.
Knightley, who worked with Harvey Weinstein on movies such as The Imitation Game, said she had never experienced sexual harassment at his hands.
“My experience with Harvey Weinstein was always very professional,” she said. “He was famous for phoning people in the middle of the night and screaming at them. He didn’t do that to me, and he certainly never asked me for massages or anything like that. I wasn’t aware of any allegations or rape or sexual assault against him.”
She also shot down the suggestion that has often been made that Weinstein’s reputation as a sexual predator was so widespread in the industry that people working with him must have known about it, saying, “For the first time, people are sharing their stories. People have been absolutely terrified to talk about it and were scared of retribution, so I don’t think everybody knew the extent of what was going on.”
Knightley said that while she has never been “sexually abused professionally or harassed on a film set,” she has experienced unwelcome attention in her personal life.
“When I’ve been in bars, I can count four times when I’ve been what I’d say was assaulted in a minor way. I think everyone has battled their fair share of monsters. It’s not just actresses. It’s teachers; it’s lawyers. I’m not talking about rape, but I’m talking about the people who had been grabbed in pubs or their breasts had been fondled by somebody they didn’t know or they’d had someone shove a hand up their skirt.”
“For too long, you really did go, ‘Oh, this is just normal.’ It’s terrifying that was our response.”