Page last updated at 18:26 GMT, Wednesday, 3 September 2008 19:26 UK

Knightley stars at Duchess launch

Keira Knightley
The actress was sewn into 27 separate dresses for the role

Actress Keira Knightley has graced the red carpet in London's Leicester Square for the world premiere of her latest costume drama The Duchess.

Wearing a shoulderless cornflower blue dress, the 23-year-old was greeted by screams and camera flashes.

In the film, she plays Georgiana Spencer, an 18th Century noblewoman who embarks on a loveless marriage.

Knightley said she was pleased by the positive reviews: "It's much better than people saying you're awful."

"It was a very exciting character to play," she added.

"I think she was an incredible woman and the fact that the film's getting good reviews is obviously really exciting."

Asked whether she had had reservations about signing up for another period drama, Knightley said: "No, not really."

"I think you've just got to go with the script and whether the character's interesting," she told BBC entertainment correspondent Lizo Mzimba.

Keira Knightley
Knightley stopped to sign autographs for fans
"And I thought the opportunity to work with Ralph Fiennes and Charlotte Rampling and Saul Dibb, the director, is one that I couldn't pass up.

"So I went for the corsets and the wig and just thought: 'I might as well.'"

Diana link

Knightley's real-life character endured a "lonely, vulnerable" marriage.

Her husband, the fifth Duke of Devonshire had several affairs, including one with his wife's best friend, and a love triangle developed.

Knightley has played down parallels between Georgiana and her real-life descendant, Diana, Princess of Wales.

However, publicity material has made an explicit link between the two women.

A tagline for the film reads, "there were three people in her marriage", echoing a phrase used by Diana in a 1995 television interview.

Dominic Cooper and Ralph Fiennes
Dominic Cooper (left) and Ralph Fiennes also walked the red carpet
Dominic Cooper, who plays future prime minister Charles Grey in the film, said Georgiana Spencer's story stood on its own merits.

"I was fascinated by her and her life," he said, adding that she had been an "iconic figure" in the 18th century.

"She was into gambling, there were affairs that took place, the desperate passion.

"It was those truthful heartfelt moments at the heart of the story that I really connected with."

Other celebrities at the premiere included Ralph Fiennes, Anna Popplewell, Camilla Rutherford and Tara Palmer-Tomkinson.

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