Keira Knightley talks about her role of Ruth | The Fan Carpet Ltd • The Fan Carpet: The RED Carpet for FANS • The Fan Carpet: Fansites Network • The Fan Carpet: Slate • The Fan Carpet: Theatre Spotlight • The Fan Carpet: Arena • The Fan Carpet: International

Keira Knightley talks about her role of Ruth

Never Let Me Go
08 February 2011

Now firmly established as one of Britain’s true global superstars, London-born Keira Knightley shot to fame thanks to her feisty, swashbuckling turn opposite Johnny Depp in the Pirates Of The Caribbean trilogy. A child actor, Knightley first made waves in Bend It Like Beckham which, along with a small but memorable part in Love Actually, launched her in Hollywood, and led to Pirates and the title role of bounty hunter Domino Harvey in Tony Scott’s Domino. Knightley returned home to star as Elizabeth Bennet in Joe Wright’s Pride & Prejudice, for which she earned her first Oscar nomination for Best Actress, and since then has continued to prove her versatility and talent with acclaimed performances both on stage and in films such as Atonement, The Duchess and The Edge Of Love. In Never Let Me Go, Knightley co-stars as Ruth whose relationship with Andrew Garfield’s Tommy drives an irrevocable wedge into her lifelong friendship with Carey Mulligan’s Kathy.



What attracted you to the part of Ruth? Some might be surprised that it’s only a supporting role.

I sort of felt a little bit trapped by the whole notion that I was only meant to do lead roles. I was reading a lot of stuff and I didn’t necessarily like the leads and I thought that the supporting roles were often very interesting, and so I thought, whose rules am I playing by here? It’s got to be the ones I make up for myself, and I’d like to play this role because I find it really interesting and I’d like to know what makes this person tick. I often have quite strong reactions to characters and morally I thought she was pretty reprehensible and I didn’t like her when I read it. And I thought that was quite interesting and I wanted to know why that person behaves the way they do and try and understand why she became the person that she did. I thought that was an interesting process and something I wanted to look into.


As a character, Ruth is not only reprehensible but incredibly manipulative.

Yeah, very. I think it’s always a terribly interesting thing when you look at a character and go, she’s manipulative, she does horrendous things, I don’t like her, I don’t think I’d like her if I met her and yet I want to understand this, because it’s important to understand how we can all make horrendous mistakes and cause incredible harm; because we all can, whether it’s intentional or not. I think one of the wonderful things about being an actress is trying to get into the head of somebody that can do that and understand exactly how that can happen, and why, and so I thought it would be an interesting journey to go on with her.


When it came to Ruth, did you ever think of playing her as anything less than human?

We all talked a lot about do you play the fact they’re clones, do you play something that’s slightly not human, do you make them more mannered? I think there is a certain mannerism anyway in saying that they’re from quite a posh boarding school. But we wanted them to be a mirror to humanity. So, through all of our discussions it became incredibly important that although they’re incredible innocent, because, obviously, they’re not allowed to have the experiences we take for granted, they are entirely human. They are institutionalised but, nevertheless, human beings.


Were you a fan of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel?

No. But so many friends of mine were huge fans of the book. Actually I’d never read any of his books. Afterwards, obviously, I read the book as soon as I said yes, and read Remains Of The Day as well, which again I’d known as a film and loved as a film, but I didn’t know his work. It’s a terrifying book, but it’s quite interesting coming to it just reading the script because I had no idea what it was when it landed on my door. It’s a very unique piece and it wasn’t terribly clear how it was going to be made into a film because it’s so quiet in its way and certainly when you read the book you think, wow this could be terrible, this could be one of those things that absolutely doesn’t work at all. But I always think those are the kind of things that it’s worth trying to do, because, potentially, they can also be the most exciting.


How would you describe the film?

I think Kazuo Ishiguro said an interesting thing to all of us, that actually it was about aging, which is very strange given it’s a group of people that all die by the time they’re 30 at the very latest. But he said it was an analogy for the life span, that they go through all the processes that we do in our lives, youth and middle age and old age, and yet it’s all condensed. And the idea of running away from death. We all face death, it’s the one certainty that everybody faces, and yet you can’t run away from it. Exploring that in the microcosm of this strange clone world, it’s like holding a mirror up to humanity in a way, yet through the eyes of people that are not seen as humans. I suppose it’s about a group of friends and the machinations of those friendships.


Talking of which, you and Carey Mulligan have been friends since you starred together in Pride & Prejudice and she’s said that closeness benefited the film. Do you agree?

I got sent [the script] about a year before we made it and at that point I was booked up to do something else which then fell through so I couldn’t do it. But nobody was attached to anything when they first sent it to me. Then the film that I was doing fell through, and I suddenly went, I don’t have a job, what’s around? And my agent said, This and they’re thinking about Carey for this role — what do you reckon? You rarely get opportunities to work with your friends and it’s amazing, it’s completely amazing, and particularly for actors because it’s a very strange thing to do with your life and it’s a very strange process, and very often on a film you don’t have rehearsals, so you’re asked to do these incredibly intimate scenes with people you absolutely don’t know. It’s wonderful that Carey and I have a six-year friendship now and we know each other very well, and we didn’t have that getting to know you ‘Are you going to fuck around? What are you going to be like? Is this a safe place that I can try and explore?’ It was instantly ‘Wicked, let’s get down to work and have coffees and talk about this’, and almost bring our friendship and our own relationship into the dynamic between these two characters. So yes, it was hugely helpful.


Alex Garland, who adapted the book, is more than the screenwriter on this project. He’s been the custodian of the novel, present every step of the way to make sure the film does the book justice.

He’s wonderful. I loved working with him. I really hope he directs; I think he would be brilliant. I’ve said that to him already. Not that he was directing this because he wasn’t but he’s a very, very special man and a very talented man and you can see that from the books he’s written and the films he’s done. He’s got very strong opinions and you can argue with him, and I always like somebody you can argue with and they don’t take offence. I think he’s wonderful and trying to make very interesting films and I have huge respect for him.

Having Alex, who is a friend of Kazuo and felt very strongly about protecting the book, that was a wonderful atmosphere and you just want to do your best work, and everyone wants to do their best work and you club together to make sure that happens for everybody, and it’s incredibly supportive. It did feel so very important and hopefully I think you can see that in the final piece, a lot of care was taken with it, a lot of thought went into it, and it did feel like everything at the time, and I hope people will get that from the world, that it was incredibly important in its quiet way.


What was the experience of working with Mark Romanek like?

He is a perfectionist and he is a visualist. I think a lot of filmmakers are. He’s wonderful. He’s terribly interesting to work with. I can never figure out how his brain works. I think, wow, what are you seeing right now? And I think the whole of the film is testament to what he saw in it. I have a huge amount of respect for him as well.


How did you find working with the actors who play your younger selves, in particular Ella Purnell who plays the young Ruth?

They were all great. [Carey and Andrew] went onto set and helped them out which I couldn’t do because I went straight off to do another film [after I finished shooting]. So I never helped Ella out with any of it, she did it entirely on her own — with Mark obviously. But it was great having them in the rehearsal rooms because you never really get an opportunity to do that and it is one person and you have to keep that kind of continuity going. It was actually incredibly helpful for us to read through the scenes, watch them do the scenes, to know where you’ve come from, and to see that relationship building between those three, so we knew what to take on. But again, I didn’t give as much help as the other two did because I was working on something else.


How did you find working with Andrew Garfield?

I’d heard of Boy A and knew he’d won the BAFTA for it. I watched it and it’s a mind-blowing piece of work and his performance in it is just sensational. So I was really excited about it, and he’s hilarious and lovely and incredibly talented and I think we all got a big kick out of working together. We had a laugh and played Scrabble together. It was a very, very happy set and they’re not always, and particularly, I think with young actors, they can get very boisterous, and it was really nice that it was a very supportive atmosphere.



Keira Knightley Photos | Never Let Me Go Film Page

Never Let Me Go opens cinemas nationwide 11th February 2011