Being out of the spotlight during the pandemic has taught Keira Knightley to reevaluate her priorities. Photographed in the splendour of Suffolk’s Wilderness Reserve, she talks to Lydia Slater about getting to know her local community, brushing up on feminist literature and bouncing on her children’s trampoline in head-to-toe Chanel.
It is an eye-opening experience, going for a stroll with Keira Knightley, a bit like doing a walkabout with the Queen. When we meet, it’s still not possible to gather indoors, so our interview is conducted wandering the streets of the north-London neighbourhood where we both live. As we walk past, people call out greetings to her, and when we stop for a takeaway coffee, the barista hands over her favourite brew unasked. Being world-famous doesn’t seem so bad, I say. Knightley looks surprised.
“Oh, I know them all,” she explains, waving at another passer-by. “That’s Chris, my lovely neighbour…” I have lived in this area for decades longer than she, but I still have to specify how I like my cappuccino, I reflect; it must be both because she’s exceptionally friendly, and even dressed down in black jeans, DM boots, a beanie hat and a mask, remains dramatically beautiful.
This interview, like so much else over the past year, has been deferred several times. We had initially planned to meet in 2020 to discuss her new film Silent Night, which has since been scheduled for release this Christmas. Now it is her role as the face of Chanel’s Coco Mademoiselle that is top of the agenda, with the launch of the limited-edition Collection Eté, and its accompanying campaign showing her looking ethereal in white gauze and pearls.
Knightley has been fronting the campaigns since 2007, when she was in her early twenties, and starring in the blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. She was flown from LA to Paris to meet Karl Lagerfeld, and principally remembers how jet-lagged she felt at the time. “I was probably too young to be terrified of him, and I didn’t know enough about fashion,” she recalls, laughing. “I was staying at the Ritz, and when I opened the wardrobe, I found all these Chanel clothes in there. I just thought the room hadn’t been cleaned, so I phoned down to reception to say someone had left their clothes behind, and they said they were for my stay. But not to keep,” she sighs. “It’s always a Cinderella moment.”