Keira Knightley arrived at Roy Thomson Hall Sunday night, prancing along the red carpet and indulging hordes who were eager to see what she was wearing, how well she'd been eating and whether the go-to girl for period costume dramas speaks in Victorian riddles in real life as well.
Oh, Ralph Fiennes and Dominic Cooper were there too, and the movie was called The Duchess.
Director Saul Dibbs's feature debut is a period piece about the Duchess of Devonshire Georgiana Spencer, a woman who rocked the fashion and politics of her time like no celebrity before her. Spencer also happens to be ancestor to Princess Diana, which is a minor footnote that became the entire angle of a British marketing campaign that draws parallels between both women's lives.
None of the talent could put the Di angle to rest at a mini-press conference held earlier on that rainy Sunday afternoon. A young Dibbs - looking like he was giving testimony - had to repeat himself for the Park Hyatt room of thirty or so international journalists, who didn't seem satisfied with his answer that the parallels between Diana and Georgiana were not considered during the production of the film.
But even the "People's Princess" took a backseat to the real belle of the ball. With a rotating roster that saw Dibbs and lively co-star Dominic Cooper (of Mamma Mia fame) repeat their answers about working with Knightley, there was no question about who everyone was eagerly waiting to see. We were even warned that if we left during the preliminary rounds and returned for the Knightley finale, we would not be allowed back in.
The smart-aleck Pirates of the Caribbean star, capable of cracking the whip along with the jokes, glided in with the firm purpose of discussing her work and was taken aback by the very first question.
"What are you wearing?"
She hesitated and then glanced down at the tags of a dark purple jacket, fluffy white blouse and black necktie thingy (I'm not really cut out for fashion police), and inaudibly mumbled out the names of designers before sarcastically commenting: "That was interesting."
She was keener on discussing the clothing in the film, mentioning how the tight corsets and the great big panniers would help her forget about her own life and escape into the realm of the fiction.
"They do completely change the way you hold yourself, the way you walk, the way you breathe, definitely the way you talk. It's a fabulous way to get into character. ... It's quite obvious why women are called the weaker sex, because they can't breathe."
Just watching Knightley in a twenty minute interview is a show on its own, as the young and jittery talent offers up a range of expressions to every question. She swaths the bangs from her face, shifts her nimble body, leans, twitches and chomps down on her bottom lip, all while discussing how she considers Georgiana a survivor instead of a victim and how she thinks the leftovers from Amanda Foreman's source novel would make excellent material for a television series.
But the real entertainment is watching Knightley rolls her eyes (3 times!) while batting away the foolish questions, making you almost want to field one just to see her reaction. Her jaw drops and twists in an excruciating way when someone asks about whether an airbrush boob job was considered for the film's poster. "I don't remember it ever coming up," she responds, "which is rather nice."
And then there's the inquiry about whether she would be as forgiving of infidelity as Georgiana is in the film. Knightley shifts so hard it looks as though she's about to fall out of her chair. She's laughing while blasting off, "I'm not answering that question! Don't be ridiculous!"
She's certainly a class act.