Keira Knightley has the lead in upcoming drama Last Night, the debut movie by director Massy Tadjedin, here she tells us about the movie and how she got involved in the first place.
Tell us about the character you play?
Joanna is a writer, and we find her at a moment in her life when she’s writing articles for magazines, where she wants to be writing novels. She’s already written one which should have been a huge success, but she’s come to terms with it, and has taken refuge in a comfortable marriage and lifestyle. Then, one day, someone appears from her past and reminds her of who she used to be. And it all comes flooding back. She’s a wonderful character. We all tried to make the story as natural and realistic as possible. Joanna is a woman with a lot of failings, which made it all the more fascinating to play her.
So how did you get yourself prepared for the role?
I thought the screenplay provided an amazingly accurate and subtle portrait of her. All of the characters are blameworthy, including Joanna, so I approached her in that way. It’s so easy to blame her, yet we like her too because we understand what she’s going through. We feel empathy for her, and I think that is amazing. We feel the same way for all the characters, and that gives you lots of different points of view. This is particularly impressive in Joanna’s case because she has a lot of weaknesses. From the moment she gets the phone call from Alex, she can’t keep still. She immediately starts flirting with him, she wants to go out and meet him for a drink, she has an argument with her husband… I don’t see her as being innocent at all, but she is fascinating.
This is Massy’s first time directing, what made you get involved with this film?
Massy and I worked together on John Maybury’s film, The Jacket, for which she wrote the screenplay, and we’ve remained good friends since that time. She’s one of the most intelligent women I know, she really is extraordinary, and it sounded like a great project. We talked a lot about infidelity, about the relationships between couples and about everything that this story of hers touched on. I thought the story was wonderful, even though at the same time it made me feel uncomfortable. And I thought that the film would have the same effect on audiences. It’s an extraordinarily honest portrayal of a couple’s relationship in all its complexity. There was a very strong feeling of voyeurism to it, it really gave you the impression that you were entering into the lives of these people for the space of 36 hours. The film doesn’t make any judgements, and that’s what makes it uncomfortable. It’s the way it places you in a situation and leads you to make up your own mind. The scary thing is the way it forces you to ask questions of yourself. It will depend on your own experiences which characters you condemn and which ones you don’t. It’s a way of making you ask questions about yourself and about the relationship that you’re in.
What was the most difficult part about playing this character?
I’d never before acted in a completely naturalistic way. I’d never been asked to do that. It’s a very different way of acting. In her screenplay, Massy had described an American character. I told her I could play her with an American accent, but Massy refused. She said she wanted me to be myself as much as possible, with my own voice and my own gestures. Any actor will tell you that the most terrifying thing is to be yourself, that it’s a lot easier to play a character very different from yourself rather than to relate everything to something close to your real self. I didn’t feel comfortable with it at all. I needed a good two months to prepare myself, it was really weird. I tried to find a new style, to be ultra relaxed on the set in front of the camera. I watched some films, including a lot with Diane Keaton in, and that helped. Diane has that natural quality, that wonderful fluidity. Massy gave me loads of films to watch, in particular for the shooting style, because Last Night – and this is quite unusual for a film made nowadays – was practically all filmed using medium and wide shots. Nowadays, people use lots of close-ups. I’m more used to working close-ups, not wide shots, so all of a sudden I realised that I’d have to use my whole body as an instrument, rather than doing all my acting with just my face. It’s a completely different way of working.
What do you feel Last Night is about?
It tackles the question of infidelity, and above all what sort of infidelity is the worst. Is it a man who spends the night with another woman, who sleeps with her without having any real feelings for her, or is it a woman who spends the night in the arms of a man she’s in love with, and who loves her too, even though they don’t actually sleep together? Which is the more serious type of betrayal? It’s a personal thing for everyone… and that’s exactly how it should be. I remember that when Massy showed her film to the people at Miramax, there was a heated discussion around the table. Some of them thought Joanna was a sympathetic character, others understood her very well but disapproved, and others thought she was abominable. I believe that’s what gives the film its strength. Everyone has their own opinion.
Please note: This article predates the published date and is from the old HTML version of Memorable TV and is part of our From The Archives collection.