Keira Knightley is rarely seen in films set in the modern day, and there's a reason why. The actress said in a new interview that she often chooses period pieces because women are treated better.
“I don’t really do films set in the modern day because the female characters nearly always get raped,” Knightley told Variety. “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.”
In the one-on-one interview, the 32-year-old actress talked about her latest period drama, where she stars a French author, Colette, who tries to fight her husband who’s stealing her work and trying to pass it off as his own.
Knightley said playing the role of Colette was inspiring in the wake of Hollywood’s sexual harassment scandals.
“It’s wonderful to play inspiring women and to get their stories and their voices out there,” she said. “The fact that the movie is coming out right now isn’t a surprise. Women’s stories are suddenly viewed as important,” she added.
Though Knightley tends to shy away from playing modern-day roles, she said that she has seen some improvement in female characters through television and online streaming shows.
“There’s been some improvement,” she said. “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 “Pride and Prejudice” actress also weighed in on sexual harassment within the industry and working with Harvey Weinstein.
“My experience with Harvey Weinstein was always very professional. He was very good on the films we made. I was aware of his reputation of being a bully,” 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.”
Knightley worked with Weinstein on the films “Begin Again” and “The Imitation Game,” but unlike others who have claimed that Weinstein’s behavior was somewhat common knowledge, she said she was not aware of film producer’s sexual harassment history.
“I wasn’t aware of any allegations of rape or sexual assault against him,” she said. “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.”
And though Knightley said she has been fortunate to escape harassment in the workplace, she has experienced harassment in other ways.
“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,” she explained. “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."