Colette | Film Q+A

Keira Knightley and Dominic West join writer/director Wash Westmoreland and producer Elizabeth Karlsen to discuss their new film Colette, about the French writer of the smash-hit Claudine series and her relationship with writing, her complex love life and herself. Listen to the end to hear what Keira really thought of performing that infamous sarcophagus scene! Find some of our favourite moments from the interview below.

Playing a complex, empowered female character

Knightley admires the strong-willed Colette, who in the film holds her own in a tumultuous marriage to cultural icon Willy despite his power plays and philandering. Colette sees herself on the same footing as her husband, and the trading of power between them is an important dynamic of their relationship.

I don't think she ever was a victim in that marriage. When she was, she got out.

How to choose which take to use

When she says Claudine is dead it's really about this fantasy figure that Willy has used psychologically to control her. It's no longer gonna hold her back.

Co-writer/Director Wash Westmoreland describes the process of shooting the scene in which Colette asserts her power regarding the semi-autobiographical figure "Claudine." Though they shot both sides of the conversation, Westmoreland ultimately decided to keep the camera on Knightley's face so the audience could experience her entire performance--only cutting to West once her diatribe is through.

Honouring the writer in her life

This is my love letter to my mum.

Knightley's mother, playwright and novelist Sharman Macdonald, was grateful for her daughter's heartfelt testament to the creativity and inner fortitude of the foremost female writer in her life.

Taking on a role that spans decades

Westmoreland asked Knightley to watch Coal Miner's Daughter, the 1980 biopic in which Sissy Spacek portrays country music sensation Loretta Lynn from her early teenage years all the way through to adulthood. At the end of the day, however, Knightley looked a little closer to home for inspiration.

Experience does always help, you know? I have been a 19-year-old. I have been uncomfortable in my skin, and I know what it is to then grow into yourself.