Page last updated at 07:35 GMT, Wednesday, 3 September 2008 08:35 UK

Knightley dismisses Diana parallel

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Keira Knightley discusses The Duchess

By Fiona Pryor
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

If there is one person Keira Knightley does not want to be compared to it is Diana, Princess of Wales.

The British actress, who plays one of Diana's real-life ancestors in her latest film, The Duchess, is adamant the movie recalls the historical journey of that character - and no one else.

"I was very much making a film about Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire and I think that she was an interesting enough person to warrant a film completely about her without comparisons," she scolds.

At recent previews and press junkets, word spread that it was unwise to ask Knightley about the parallels between the two late Royals.

But it became an inevitable question - especially as the tagline for the movie is: "There were three people in her marriage".

Diana Princess of Wales
Diana said she had "shared" her husband with Camilla Parker-Bowles
'Marketing device'

It's a play on the words famously uttered by Diana herself in a frank 1995 TV interview.

And it's a line the film's director, Saul Dibb, admits was carefully selected to attract audiences.

"The reality of it is there's the film-makers, which is all of us making the film, and then there's the marketing of the film afterwards. And they're two different things," he says.

"What they've done is make explicit what would have been written about by everybody anyway.

"It doesn't represent us and our approach to the film. If it gets more people in to see the film, which stands on its own, then perhaps they're right. It's just a marketing device."

He thinks comparisons could be drawn with "any number of particularly tragic female figures" using Marilyn Monroe as an example.

Dibb adds that critics and fans alike will only think of Diana purely because of the "ancestral link".

Maybe he missed the lingering shots of Diana in the trailer.

Unhappy

In fact, it seems hard to believe that anyone will watch this film without making the connection between its heroine's loveless marriage and the late princess, who said she shared Prince Charles with Camilla Parker-Bowles throughout her 15-year marriage.

Keira Knightley
It was a wonderful challenge and it was completely terrifying
Keira Knightley

But Knightley claims not to remember the controversial, and very public, royal relationship.

"I was 11 when Diana died so I really don't know what the actual story is, so I don't feel I can comment on the parallels," she tells a journalist who, bravely, raises the topic at a press conference.

"I knew when I was going into it [the film] that she was a distant relation but that is as far as my knowledge goes," Knightley says.

The film tells the story of Georgiana, the 18th century aristocrat, who was loved by the public and famed for her fashion.

Behind the scenes, she was terribly unhappy, living with her husband (Ralph Fiennes) and his lover (Hayley Atwell), unable to leave because of the way society viewed divorce.

Whether the parallels exist or not, the finished product provides an interesting insight into the life of Diana's great-great-great-great aunt.

'Absolutely phenomenal'

It was not an easy project for the actors, as Knightley reveals she spent two-and-a-half hours in make up daily and was often sewn into her costumes.

Keira Knightley and Ralph Fiennes
The candle scene caused nightmares for the production team

"The costumes were completely fantastic and obviously she was a very famous fashion icon, but they weren't particularly comfortable," she says.

Filming on location at various stately homes proved hard for the production team too.

Dibb recalls how staff insisted the actors remained more than 90cm away from the walls.

Touching any part of the venue was out of bounds, too.

Shooting the wedding scene, which involved hundreds of lit candles, was almost an impossibility - as Knightley explains.

"They wouldn't let the room get too hot, because every time it did we started melting the ceiling above so we all had to shut down and they had to cool down the room."

Despite not seeing the completed film (she was too embarrassed), Knightley says she is pleased she accepted the part.

"It was a wonderful challenge and it was completely terrifying," she says.

"There are fewer really great female roles than there are for actors so when one comes along and you get the opportunity to play it, it is absolutely phenomenal."




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