Keira Knightley doesn't like playing modern-day characters because they 'nearly always get raped'

  • Keira Knightley avoids taking roles in modern-day films because of the way that women are presented.
  • Knightley claims that female characters are either "raped in the first five pages" or "simply there to be the loving girlfriend or wife."
  • She also admitted that she is more likely to take on "corset roles" due to her love of the genre.


Sexual violence towards women in films set in the current day is a major reason why Keira Knightley shies away from taking modern-day roles, she revealed in an interview with Variety.

While she praised Netflix and Amazon for producing original dramas with "strong female characters and female stories," Knightley believes that the stories for women on the silver screen tend to portray female characters that are abused and violated.

"I don't really do films set in the modern day because the female characters always get raped," she said. "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."

Knightley is best known for playing female leads in blockbuster period dramas, including Anna Karenina in Joe Wright's 2012 portrayal of the eponymous novel by Leo Tolstoy, and Elizabeth Bennet in Wright's 2005 adaptation of Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice."

Alongside her frustration with the way modern-day parts for women are written, the actress was also happy to admit that her reputation for popping up in period dramas also stems from her own love of the genre.

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Keira Knightley out and about
ROME, ITALY - MAY 22: Keira Knightley attends the 'La Traviata' Premiere at Teatro Dell'Opera on May 22, 2016 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Ernesto Ruscio/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 06: Keira Knightley takes a lunch break at Malaparte on April 6, 2016 in West Village, New York City. (Photo by Robert Kamau/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 02: Keira Knightley arrives at the set of Collateral Beauty on April 2, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Robert Kamau/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 02: Keira Knightley seen on set of Collateral Beauty on April 2, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Robert Kamau/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 21: Actress Keira Knightley is seen on the of 'Collateral Beauty'on March 21, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Raymond Hall/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 29: Keira Knightley walks to the set of Collateral Beauty on February 29, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Robert Kamau/GC Images)
NEW YORK - DECEMBER 07: Keira Knightley seen at 'An Evening Honoring Valentino' Lincoln Center Corporate Fund Gala on December 07, 2015 in New York City. PHOTOGRAPH BY Photo Image Press / Barcroft Media UK Office, London. T +44 845 370 2233 W www.barcroftmedia.com USA Office, New York City. T +1 212 796 2458 W www.barcroftusa.com Indian Office, Delhi. T +91 11 4053 2429 W www.barcroftindia.com (Photo credit should read Photo Image Press / Barcroft Med / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 29: Matt Ryan and Keira Knightley attend the Broadway Opening Night Performance after party for the Roundabout Theatre production of 'Therese Raquin' at Studio 54 on October 29, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Walter McBride/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 29: Judith Light, Keira Knightley and Matt Ryan during the Broadway Opening Night Performance Curtain Call bows for the Roundabout Theatre production of 'Therese Raquin' at Studio 54 on October 29, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Walter McBride/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 23: Actress Keira Knightley and husband James Righton are seen in Soho October 23, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Raymond Hall/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 10: Keira Knightley poses at the Roundabout Theater Company's 50th Anniversary Season Party at The American Airlines Theater Penthouse on September 10, 2015 in New York City. Knightley is slated to be in the production of 'Therese Raquin' this season. (Photo by Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 03: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Keira Knightley and James Righton are seen on September 3, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Alo Ceballos/GC Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 15: Keira Knightley attends the 20th Annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards on January 15, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Amy Graves/WireImage)
Actress Keira Knightley and recording artist James Righton attend the 2015 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Graydon Carter at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on February 22, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Axel Koester/Corbis via Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 22: (L-R) Lady Gaga and Keira Knightley arrive at the 87th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on February 22, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Dan MacMedan/WireImage)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - FEBRUARY 16: Actor Benedict Cumberbatch (L) and actress Keira Knightley attend the Times Talks and TIFF In Los Angeles discussion of 'The Imitation Game' at The Paley Center for Media on February 16, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Amanda Edwards/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 14: Keira Knightley attends the 2015 Writers Guild Awards L.A. Ceremony at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza on February 14, 2015 in Century City, California. (Photo by JB Lacroix/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 11: Keira Knightley seen at LAX on February 11, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by GVK/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
Keira Knightley and friend attend the EE British Academy Film Awards at the Royal Opera House. (Photo by rune hellestad/Corbis via Getty Images)
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While she admitted to "feeling quite guilty about" her reputation to take on "corset roles" early on in her career, Knightley has grown to accept that period dramas are the films she's always loved watching.

"I think some people find escapism through science fiction or fantasy, and I suppose my escapism into another world has always been through period dramam," she said. "It's nice that in my 30s I can finally admit that."

Although the landscape for female characters on the silver screen may seem bleak, the actress added that more recently she has received multiple scripts for "present-day women who aren't raped in the first five pages and aren't simply there to be the loving girlfriend or wife," which makes her hopeful for a shift in the industry.

This could only be a positive change in an industry landscape currently overshadowed by the stream of sexual abuse allegations made against countless powerful male figures late last year, sparked by accusations against Harvey Weinstein.

The powerful "Me Too" campaign followed shortly after in an effort to promote awareness of sexual harassment and assault, leading to the creation of the "Time's Up" initiative, which saw Hollywood's biggest stars wear black on the red carpet at the Golden Globes as a way of speaking out against sexual assault, harassment, and inequality in the workplace.

While Knightley asserted that she has never personally experienced any form of sexual harassment on set, she said the difference between the way that women are treated by some industry bigwigs is "obvious."

"I was surprised by some of the specifics," she said. "But I was aware of the culture of silencing women and the culture of bullying them, and I knew that men in the industry were allowed to behave in very different ways than women. That was obvious.

"What was fascinating about the #MeToo movement was I was sitting with friends who weren't in the industry, and there wasn't one of us who hadn't been assaulted at some point. We'd never had that conversation before. That was an eye-opener."

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