Even though we love her in a tightly drawn corset set in an 1800s English country side pining for love, Keira Knightley ditches the period pieces for thrilling action in order to start the new year with what she describes as “positivity and pure entertainment.”

It’s been a while since Keira Knightley took on a role in an action film. A darling of period pieces, most notably in Pride and Prejudice, Atonement and Anna Karenina, she surprises us with her starring role in the action-thriller Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit alongside Chris Pine and Kevin Costner.

“What I really love is looking at characters that I don’t understand and trying to understand, and generally that’s not the kind of characters that you’re going to find in a massive kind of blockbuster,” she told MTV. “Saying that, I did get to the end of Anna Karenina and go, ‘I just need to do something a bit fun.’ Jack Ryan is a thriller, but it’s a good old-fashioned Hollywood thriller, where people run around and things explode.”

jack-ryan-shadow-recruit-keira-knightley-kenneth-branaghWhile the attraction to Jack Ryan may have been the fun, action-driven plot, it was actually the film’s director and co-star Kenneth Branagh (who plays the villain in the movie) that sealed the deal for Knightley. “He’s one of the main reasons I wanted to be an actress,” she revealed to “I was so obsessed with his Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing and Hamlet, so the chance of working with him [was what drew me to the project], even though it’s something that’s nothing like that. He’s also one of the most phenomenal stage actors I’ve ever seen.”

“It was incredibly fascinating to watch him switch from one job to the other and do it so very effortlessly,” she continued. “It’s not an easy thing to be able to slip into your character when you also have to be worried about camera angles and the actors, and so many logistical things and then still be able to play your part. He was amazing!”

The praise went both ways as Branagh had only good things to say about his co-star. “I thought Keira would be interested in playing a contemporary character and being in a genre that can be treated quite glibly,” Branagh told “There is a physical element to the role, but it relies on her smarts, and she brings depth to her character.”

jack-ryan-shadow-recruit-keira-knightley-chris-pineJack Ryan: Shadow Recruit tells the story of Tom Clancy’s infamous hero from his tour of duty in Afghanistan to his early days in the Financial Intelligence Unit of the modern CIA where he becomes an analyst, under the guardianship of his handler, Harper (Kevin Costner). When Ryan (Pine) believes he’s uncovered a Russian plot to collapse the United States economy, he goes from being an analyst to becoming a spy and must fight to save his own life and those of countless others, while also trying to protect the thing that’s more important to him than anything, his relationship with his fiancée Cathy (Knightley).

The fact that Cathy does not die at the end of the movie is one of the biggest reasons Knightley took on the role. “I’d been sort of doing pieces of work that were incredibly dark and I pretty much died in a lot of them for five years,” she told Collider.  “I wanted this year to be the year of positivity and pure entertainment.”

However, despite her desire to move away from period pieces for now, Knightley confirms that she will probably never abandon them completely as she enjoys them far too much. “It’s all about story. It’s not about when it’s set or where it’s set. I like period. I like fantasy as a dramatic tool,” she continued. “Your imagination is required instantly in a period film, because it’s a world that you don’t know with rules you don’t know. I think I certainly relate to characters on an emotional level very differently in period pieces or sci-fi pieces or fantasy pieces, than I do in pieces that are more voyeuristic and present us with the world that we know.”


Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit opens in theatres on January 17 and also stars Chris Pine, Kevin Costner and Kenneth Branagh.







—By Sarah Khan



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