Playing Joan Clarke in the historical thriller, The Imitation Game, the actress talks about off-screen chemistry and being true to her character
WESPITE 21 years in the industry, Keira Knightley is sometimes mistaken for other actresses like Anne Hathaway! But the Bend it like Beckham actress takes it like a sport. In the news recently for going topless in Interview magazine (photographed by Patrick Demarchelier) to protest the media’s use of Photoshop to modify women’s bodies, Knightley, 29, is also a soon-to-be- mum. Known for her period dramas and bio-pics like Atonement, Anna Karenina and A Dangerous Method, she is looking forward to her next, Morten Tyldums’ The Imitation Game, for which she has been nominated for a Golden Globe. She tells us about her co-star Benedict Cumberbatch, eerie sets and more:
How closely does The Imitation Game stick to the real events—especially in relation to your character, Joan Clarke?
The film deviates somewhat, in Joan’s story, from the truth of what happened. She was indeed Alan Turing’s fiancée, but actually that wasn’t how she got to Bletchley (where German secret codes were broken during WWII). They did recruit a lot of people for Bletchley like that, with the crossword, and I think the writer and all of us felt like that was such an amazing and weird way to get people in. In reality, it was her Oxford professor that put her forward for it. That makes her story even more incredible—she had this top Oxford professor that was saying to the people at Bletchley, ‘You need this woman,’ and it still took her a year of doing secretarial work to get into the room that she should have been in, with the other code breakers.
Do you feel more responsibility when playing a real character?
I think there are always questions of morality when you make a drama out of something. It’s never going to be completely accurate, but it is always something that you go, ‘Can we make it as close to reality as possible?’ The only thing you can do is just be open about the fact that this is a fascinating person, and that everyone should look her up and learn about her.
Did Joan Clarke receive any recognition for the work she did on Enigma?
She did get the MBE, but I don’t think that was really brought to public attention. I haven’t read the famous book that Enigma, the (2001) film, is based upon, but I’m sure she’s within that.
It’s surprising that there haven’t been more films about this.
That’s the thing that I remember when I read an article about it—just going, ‘What the –?’ and instantly thinking, ‘Is somebody making a film of this?’ Of course, I always think like that, but this story was just extraordinary.
Cumberbatch described the experience of shooting at the real Bletchley Park as ‘ghostly’. Do you agree?
Yeah, it was… particularly because it’s not the big tourist attraction that perhaps it should be. Even though it’s so close to London, I’d never thought of going.
You first worked with Cumberbatch on Atonement.
It’s always lovely to work with people that you’ve worked with before because you just have that lingo, and that quick, easy, rapport. We’re mates, and we’ve sort of been mates since then. I loved our scenes together. But my favourite moments were those we shared off-screen, like when we snuck outside and illicitly smoked cigarettes.
Is he enjoying his new-found star status?
He is 38, and has wanted this for such a long time and has worked so hard. As for his many admirers, his so-called “Cumberb***hes”, I think he rather enjoys the attention despite being a little bemused.
The Imitation Game is scheduled to release on January 16.