Keira Knightley has enjoyed a long film career with high notes like Bend It Like Beckham, Pirates of the Caribbean, Atonement, and so much more. That means at this point in her life, Knightley, a 35-year-old mom of two, gets to call the shots more than ever before in her career, and it wasn’t hard for the actress to zero in on where she wanted to make some changes. Per a new conversation with Lulu Wang and Diane Solway shared on the CHANEL Connects podcast, Knightley has written a certain genre of sex scenes off entirely, adding a “no nudity” clause to her film contracts in 2015 and expanding here on the reasoning behind that shift. It’s not that the actress is offended by the naked form or put off by the inclusion of these scenes — under the right circumstances. But for her personal comfort and artistic interests, you won’t find Knightley stripping down for anything that channels the “male gaze,” whether that’s the gaze through which the story is being shown or the gaze of a group of men on set.
With that in mind, Knightley chooses her moments of nudity carefully these days.
“I don’t have an absolute ban [on filming nude scenes], but I kind of do with men,” she says. “It’s partly vanity and also it’s the male gaze. I don’t want it to be that kind of — oh, horrible sex scenes where you’re all greased up and everybody is grunting. I’m not interested in doing that.”
Describing her rise to stardom at a young age, Knightley explains that she was inundated with a male view and misogynistic expectations during some of her most vulnerable years.
“Between the age of 17 and 22, I had this incredible run of success,” she said. “But when you do that in the public, it’s a pretty brutal place to do that particularly if you’re a woman. So my growing up on screen and that realization of the kind of misogyny that existed in a totally worldwide way, both within the industry and within the media industry’s portrayal of women…it is brutal for young women.”
Knightley describes being immensely proud of herself for overcoming those years when the outside world valued her appearance above all else. She is in awe of the strength of her body that produced two children, Delilah and Edie, and she’s finally getting to tackle roles that remind her why she got into the business to begin with.
“At the time, I think I just felt guilty that I wasn’t feeling grateful,” Knightley says of those five years of scrutiny. But today, she’s taking her feelings seriously.
“There’s times where I go, ‘Yeah, I completely see where this sex would be really good in this film and you basically just need somebody to look hot,’” she admits of looking at film scripts. “So therefore you can use somebody else. Because I’m too vain, and the body has had two children now, and I’d just rather not stand in front of a group of men naked.”
Before you go, click here to see actors who have spoken out about pressure to get naked for a role.
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