USA Today – 19 septembre 2018

‘Colette’ star Keira Knightley isn’t here for being a ‘muse,’ lawyers up for paparazzi

LOS ANGELES – Locked in a room in Paris and forced to write a scandalous best-seller?

Allow Keira Knightley to introduce you to the story of « Colette, » a new biopic that hits theaters Friday in Los Angeles and New York.

The actress makes a movie star of Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, the avant-garde French author who ghostwrote under her husband’s name to uncharted success at the turn of the century.

After wresting free of her marriage and fighting for the rights to her work, Colette would go on to literary icon status, penning the 1920 novel « Chéri » and 1944’s « Gigi, » the latter adapted into a movie musical that won nine Oscars in 1959, including best picture.

Don’t know her story? Neither did Knightley, 33, until she picked up the « Colette » script.

« I just feel like there’s a sense that we don’t know our history. We don’t know who our heroes are and were, » says the actress, taking in the late-day breeze while wrapped in an oversized blazer atop a diaphanous floral dress. « There are some amazing women in history, and they should be taught. »

Together, Colette and her notorious, showman-like author husband Henry Gauthier-Villars (known as « Willy » and played by Dominic West) were the toast of Paris. Privately, Willy would lock his young wife in a room until she turned over pages of work; their marriage became open, Colette fell in love with women and Willy dabbled in his own affairs.

Their power dynamic, too, began to shift with the success of their « Claudine » collaboration, a suggestive series of novels charting a girl coming of age in the French countryside. (The sensual nature of « Claudine » inspired a populist craze comparable to « Fifty Shades of Grey. »)

After their split, Colette became a sensation in her own right and was nominated for a Nobel Prize in literature in 1948.

Such themes are all too familiar to the two-time Oscar nominee.

« With female actresses and directors, there’s often this narrative I’ve always found pretty offensive, » she says. « Which is this Svengali-type creature with these sort of puppet-like women who do exactly what they’re told.

« I’ve been trapped in that before. Not necessarily with how I’ve been treated on set, because actually most of my experiences with directors have been hugely collaborative, but just in the kind of cultural dialogue around them, » Knightley says. « It’s been, ‘Oh, she’s the muse’ which always obviously has a kind of sexual connotation to it (and then he) brings out this amazing talent. »

In her own work, Knightley says she’s actively tried to avoid playing second fiddle in films. « If I wasn’t playing the lead, then I wanted the character to be well-rounded and not simply be supportive or sexual. » She shrugs with a half-smile. « They don’t come around all the time. »

Behind the curtain, there’s a reason you’ve never seen paparazzi photos of Knightley’s 3-year-old daughter, Edie, the actress’ first child with musician husband James Righton.

« I learned what all the laws were, and I got a lawyer, » she says. « And I spent a lot of money making sure that I was far too troublesome to bother. There’s a feeling of being followed and being watched that I just don’t want her to grow up with. »

Next, Knightley stars in Disney’s fantastical « The Nutcracker and the Four Realms » (in theaters Nov. 2) as the feathery voiced Sugar Plum Fairy, a character who « is the personification of femininity in a very pink, obnoxious way, » she chuckles.

Festooned with a cotton-candy pink wig, purple eyebrows and long, glittery eyelashes, « I love it because it was the only chance I’m going to get of being like a drag queen, » Knightley grins, affirming that imitation would be the ultimate compliment. « I’m really hoping some fabulous drag artist will, like, take it to a whole other level. »