Keira Knightley has been nominated for two Oscars, two BAFTAs, and two Screen Actors Guild awards for her performances in films like Pride & Prejudice and The Imitation Game, but according to Begin Again director John Carney, the 31-year-old star’s acting skills could still use a bit of work.
Carney told The Independent during a recent interview that working with the actress isn’t something he’d like to repeat in the future. After discussing his latest film, the music drama Sing Street, Carney was asked what he’d learned from making 2013’s Begin Again, which stars Knightley alongside Mark Ruffalo and Adam Levine.
“I learned that I’ll never make a film with supermodels again,” he said, seemingly referencing Knightley’s appearance in several ad campaigns (Chanel) and on the cover of multiple fashion magazines (Vogue, Marie Claire) — all of which came after she made a name for herself as an actress, performing in commercials and smaller TV roles from the age of six until making her film debut in 1995’s A Village Affair.
“Mark Ruffalo is a fantastic actor and Adam Levine is a joy to work with and actually quite unpretentious and not a bit scared of exposing himself on camera and exploring who he is as an individual,” Carney elaborated, praising the rest of the film’s cast before criticizing Knightley. “I think that that’s what you need as an actor; you need to not be afraid to find out who you really are when the camera’s rolling. Keira’s thing is to hide who you are and I don’t think you can be an actor and do that.”
Carney further questioned Knightley’s legitimacy as a “proper” actress versus simply being a celebrity.
“It’s not like I hate the Hollywood thing, but I like to work with curious, proper film actors as opposed to movie stars,” the director admitted. “I don’t want to rubbish Keira, but you know it’s hard being a film actor and it requires a certain level of honesty and self-analysis that I don’t think she’s ready for yet and I certainly don’t think she was ready for on that film.”
In addition to Carney, Knightley has worked with other prominent filmmakers over the years, including David Cronenberg, who directed the actress in the 2011 historical drama A Dangerous Method.
“I had allotted a lot of time for those early scenes because I didn‘t know what she would need. I hadn’t directed her before. And those extreme scenes were the first scenes we shot. But she was fantastic. She needed very few takes. We were all just awestruck. She was incredibly well-prepared,” Cronenberg told Film Comment. “She would do these amazing things, which leads me to say that she’s among the best actresses I’ve ever worked with, and I’ve worked with the best.”