Advice in Hollywood is a tricky thing. You want to listen to the old masters of the past, but that doesn’t mean everything they say is a slice of golden info. That’s something Keira Knightley had to grapple with while preparing to take on classic literature with Anna Karenina in 2012.
Keira Knightley had already worked with Anna Karenina director Joe Wright several times, including some of her best movies based on books in Pride and Prejudice and Atonement. However, her role in the Tolstoy adaptation raised the question of whether she should attempt a Russian accent.
At the time, Knightley was promoting the underrated drama A Dangerous Method, directed by David Cronenberg. Cronenberg, of course, is among the best directors alive today and has made some of the best horror movies ever. If you haven’t watched Videodrome, go and do it now. But, despite his track record of hits, Cronenberg gave Knightley some terrible advice.
Knightley and Cronenberg spoke for an Interview Magazine article, with Knightley explaining her decision to avoid putting on a thick accent for Anna Karenina, having just done a similar accent for A Dangerous Method, with mixed results it’s fair to say.
She said: “I didn’t [do an accent], even though you told me that I should. I think you’ll remember at one point in Venice you said: ‘Go back to Joe and have a thick Russian accent’.”
Cronenberg, to be fair, understands looking back that it wasn’t the best bit of advice he has ever given.
“I’m so glad you didn’t, though,” said the director. “I feel very possessive now of both Sabina [Spielrein, Knightley’s character in A Dangerous Method] and you. I can’t bear the idea of you working with other directors. I’m assuming that constantly on the set, secretly you were thinking: ‘Oh, god, David wouldn’t have done it that way’.”
Knightley and Cronenberg haven’t worked together since, but we’d love to see them join forces again for new movies. But maybe she should just stick to her natural accent this time.
For more on the star, find out what Keira Knightley was banned from doing on one movie set. You can also learn what we thought of Cronenberg’s latest in our Crimes of the Future review.