Keira Knightley Avoids Modern-Day Films Because Female Characters Are "Nearly Always Raped"

"I always find something distasteful in the way women are portrayed."

Keira Knightley
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Keira Knightley's career has been full of sumptuous period roles—Atonement, The Duchess, Anna Karenina, and her Oscar-nominated performance in Pride & Prejudice—and now the 32-year-old actress has revealed the unsettling reason why she avoids films set in the modern day.

Noting the powerful female stories which have become prevalent with the rise of online streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon, Knightley decried films set in the present for "nearly always" depicting female characters as victims of rape.

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"With the rise of Netflix and Amazon we're seeing some strong female characters and female stories on streaming services," Knightley told Variety.

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"I don't know about films as much. I don't really do films set in the modern day because the female characters nearly always get raped," she said. "I always find something distasteful in the way women are portrayed, whereas I've always found very inspiring characters offered to me in historical pieces."

However, the star admitted that parts for women are slowly improving, and that she has been sent female roles that aren't merely reacting to the male characters around them.

"There's been some improvement," Knightley continued. "I'm suddenly being sent scripts with present-day women who aren't raped in the first five pages and aren't simply there to be the loving girlfriend or wife."

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Meanwhile, as the #MeToo movement and Time's Up campaign has seen women (and men) break their silence on sexual harassment, it's become commonplace for high-profile women to be asked whether harassment or abuse is something they've been subjected to during interviews.

Knightley responded to such a question by saying she's never been sexually harassed on a film set, but has experienced harassment in her personal life.

"I'm fortunate that I've never been sexually abused professionally or harassed on a film set, but in my personal life, when I've been in bars, I can count four times when I’ve been what I'd say was assaulted in a minor way," she recounted.

"I think everyone has battled their fair share of monsters. It's not just actresses. It's teachers; it's lawyers," Knightly said. "I'm not talking about rape, but I'm talking about the people who had been grabbed in pubs, or their breasts had been fondled by somebody they didn’t know or they'd had someone shove a hand up their skirt."

She added: "For too long, you really did go, 'Oh, this is just normal.' It's terrifying that was our response. It must have been awful for all of those brave women who have come forward and spoken publicly about their experiences. We're in a period of time in which it all has to come out. Then we need to move forward and figure out how to make sure that it doesn't happen again."

Knightley will feature next in biopic Colette, taking the titular role of the famous French novelist and actress who escapes her husband's control to claim her voice as an artist.

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