Maybe it's because we normally see her in pretty dresses and bonnets, speaking so exquisitely crisply, that it feels strange, paradoxical even, to be sworn at by Keira Knightley. Like a spurt of Special Brew from a fine Wedgwood teapot. Can she really have just told me to fuck off? When all I asked was who she went on holiday with?
But it's not long before the next one. In the hour I'm in Knightley's company, she tells me to fuck off six times. She uses the c-word, too. Sorry, yes, this is an 18-rated interview and contains strong language from the start - a bit late for that, I know...
Knightley has a new film out, about which more later. We are sitting in a posh London hotel where she drinks green tea, and sits, like a cat, in the middle of an impossibly plumped-up sofa cushion. There is something quite feline about Knightley. When we talk about her work, she purrs. No, not literally - that would be weird - but she speaks easily, and appears content and relaxed. When I attempt to steer the conversation towards her life outside work, the claws come out. In a very good-natured, playful way, it has to be said. At times the interview feels like a sparring match, and she gives as good as she gets, if not better. She's very entertaining company, and it's fun - trying to get under the guard of Keira Knightley.
This will sound like the tragic fantasy of a male journalist who has fallen under the spell of a very pretty young lady and somehow imagines he could be her friend, but although she does speak awful proper, there is something nicely unstarry about her. Perhaps it's being sworn at, but I'm finding it hard to remember that I am talking to the second highest-paid actress in Hollywood last year, although there seems be some debate about exactly how much she made.
"According to Forbes magazine, I earned 32 million last year," she says, though she can't remember if it's dollars or pounds (it's dollars).
Is that not true? "Unfortunately, no."
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