Filmmakers Defend Keira Knightley After John Carney's Criticism & It's Proof That She's A Hollywood Darling — UPDATE
Despite her astonishing, Helen-of-Troy-esque good looks, British actress Keira Knightley seems both hardworking and down to earth. So it came as a surprise when John Carney, the Irish director who worked with Knightley on the film Begin Again, criticized Knightley's acting skills and work ethic. But now the many directors and actors who have worked with her rushing to defend Keira Knightley on Twitter, proving that Knightley is popular enough to be voted prom queen when it comes to Hollywood. And it's hard not to agree with Knightley's supporters. She's popular for a reason, you guys: she's really damn good at what she does on the screen.
Update: On Wednesday, June 1, Carney tweeted an apology to Keira Knightley with the comment "from a director who feels like a complete idiot." According to the director, he "said a number of things about Keira which were petty, mean, and hurtful" and he was "trying to pick holes in [his] own work, [and] ended up blaming someone else." He also added that, "That's not only bad directing, that's shoddy behavior." The apology, which can be read in full below, and really serves to show how sincerely contrite Carney is about his words.
Before: The Keira Knightley Begin Again drama began when Carney divulged to the Independent that "Keira has an entourage that follow her everywhere so it's very hard to get any real work done." He began the interview on the attack when asked about the swooning reaction to his latest movie, Sing Street, a movie Knightley has zero connection to. His response was "Well, it’s fantastic. I’m very surprised; it’s a small personal movie with no Keira Knightleys in it. It’s really rewarding." Later, when asked about shooting the movie in Ireland (again, not necessarily a question with a strong Keira Knightley connection) he responded "I had just come back from making this far bigger movie in America and I was a bit disenchanted with working with certain movie stars in that movie and I wanted a break."
If we weren't sure quite who he meant when referring to this anonymous movie star, he spelled it out for us:
I think the real problem was that Keira wasn’t a singer and wasn’t a guitar player and it’s very hard to make music seem real if it’s not with musicians. And I think the audience struggled a little bit with that in Begin Again. And as much as I tried to make it work I think that she didn’t quite come out as a guitar-playing singer-songwriter. So I really wanted to work with musicians and actors that could play their instruments properly and sing and stuff like that.
But when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. And the one sweet thing to come out of this sour situation is how many people who have worked with Knightley have rushed to defend her. Mark Romanek, who directed Knightley in Never Let Me Go (2010) had this to say about Knightley's acting skills and "entourage":
Now that's the sort of entourage we can all get behind, right? The director of the play that constituted Knightley's Broadway debut, Thérèse Raquin, also weighed in:
Lynn Shelton directed Knightley in her 2014 film Laggies and had this to say:
I've been following Knightley's career since her first film, Bend It Like Beckham, and honestly? Like Carney, who said of Knightley that he would "never make a film with supermodels again," my first instinct was to dismiss Knightley for her looks. Surely she'd broken into the entertainment industry more thanks to her remarkable beauty than her acting talents? But, as Knightley racked up one astonishing performance after another (from Cecilia in Atonement to Lizzie in Pride and Prejudice to Joan in The Imitation Game), to me, the evidence felt indisputable. Knightley's looks aren't an asset; they're an issue. Knightley doesn't just act well; she has to act better than everyone else in the film so people won't just dismiss her as a pretty face.
Carney is a talented director, and it's still fairly early on in his career that the lukewarm reception to Begin Again shouldn't negatively impact it. But playing the blame game on the movie doesn't seem very generous of him. If a film is strong enough, one lackluster performance shouldn't be enough to sink it. And I've yet to see Knightley give a lackluster performance.