Begin Again (2013) director John Carney criticizes Keira Knightley‘s performance in the film. While doing an interview for his latest film, Sing Street (2016), John Carney expressed that he was excited for Sing Street because it allowed him to escape Knightley’s “movie star world.”
When asked about the significance of filming Sing Street in Ireland, Carney began by discussing his excitement to work on a quieter film, but that quickly devolved into a stark, honest, and negative view of Keira Knightley’s Begin Again performance:
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.
I didn’t enjoy that experience of paparazzi and fabulous openings. The movie star world is not something that ever appealed to me. I like working with actors and I wanted to come back to what I knew and enjoy film-making again – not that I didn’t enjoy Begin Again but Keira has an entourage that follow her everywhere so it’s very hard to get any real work done, and so I was very ready to come back to Ireland and make films that nobody cared about who was in it or any of that crap.
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.
It seems that Carney’s issue with Knightley may have been less about her fame and more about her methods as an actor; indeed, he continued his response by stating that the other famous actors on the film did not cause him the same problems:
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. 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. And working with the kids on this film and real instruments there was no hiding going on. It really was a bit of a journey of self-discovery for the actors in Sing Street and that appeals to me.
So it’s not like I hate the Hollywood thing but I like to work with curious, proper film actors as opposed to movie stars. 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.
It looks like, although Carney has a penchant for popular musical films- he also directed Once (2007)- he may not be a good match for the limelight that successful mainstream movies can bring. As for Keira Knightley’s acting in Begin Again, only future projects will tell whether the true issue is with her as an actor, or whether Carney dug himself into a hole in the first place by giving the lead in a musical film to a non-musician.
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