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an up-to-date and in-depth fan resource for the talented actress. Serving fans since 2004, we are now the longest running fansite dedicated to Keira. Nominated for two Academy Awards, Keira is recogised worldwide for her memorable big screen roles that include 'Pride & Prejudice', 'Atonement', 'The Imitation Game' and Disney's 'Pirates of the Caribbean' franchise. Our aim is to bring you all the latest news, articles, and photos relating to Keira's career, and strive to remain 100% gossip-and-paparazzi-free. Thank you for visiting!.
Quoting Keira
"All through my life what I've loved doing is watching movies. I love the escapism of film, I love stories. So it is incredible to be able to be in them as much as I am, to see them from the first stitch in a costume to the end product."
Atonement
Home » Career » Filmography | 2000-2009

Tagline: You can only imagine the truth.
Keira as: Cecilia Tallis
Genre: Drama
Duration: 123 minutes
Written by: Christopher Hampton (screenplay), Ian McEwan (novel)
Directed by: Joe Wright
Other cast: James McAvoy, Saoirse Ronan, Benedict Cumberbatch, Romola Garai
Release date: January 11, 2008
Production budget: $30m
Total worldwide gross: $129.2m
Filming locations: Onibury, Shropshire, England, UK

Filmed on location in the U.K., the story of Atonement spans several decades. In 1935, 13-year-old fledgling writer Briony Tallis (Saoirse Ronan) and her family live a life of wealth and privilege in their enormous mansion. On the warmest day of the year, the country estate takes on an unsettling hothouse atmosphere, stoking Briony’s vivid imagination. Robbie Turner (Mr. McAvoy), the educated son of the family’s housekeeper, carries a torch for Briony’s headstrong older sister Cecilia (Ms. Knightley). Cecilia, he hopes, has comparable feelings; all it will take is one spark for this relationship to combust. When it does, Briony–who has a crush on Robbie–is compelled to interfere, going so far as accusing Robbie of a crime he did not commit. Cecilia and Robbie declare their love for each other, but he is arrested–and with Briony bearing false witness, the course of three lives is changed forever.

Briony continues to seek forgiveness for her childhood misdeed. Through a terrible and courageous act of imagination, she finds the path to her uncertain atonement, and to an understanding of the power of enduring love.

Production Info
  • Director Joe Wright wanted to recapture the naturalism of actors from the 1930s and 1940s, and showed his cast films such as Rebecca, Brief Encounter, and In Which We Serve, to name a few.
  • James McAvoy considered the script the best he had ever read.
  • Only eight U.K. military ambulances from WWII remain, and Atonement made use of them all.
  • Saoirse Ronan was only 12-years-old when this production began shooting and turned 13 by the time she received her first Oscar nomination.
  • Shooting the five minute Dunkirk beach scene was arguably the toughest portion of shooting. The shooting schedule dictated that the scene must be completed in two days, because the crew has limited time with the 1000 extras. However the location scouts report indicated the lighting quality at the beach was not good enough until the afternoon of the second day. This forced director Joe Wright to change his shooting strategy into shooting with one camera. The scene was rehearsed on the first day and on the morning of the second day. The scene required five takes and the third take was used in the film. On shooting, Steadicam operator Peter Robertson shot the scene by riding on a small tracking vehicle, walking off to a bandstand after rounding a boat, moved to a ramp, stepped onto a rickshaw, finally dismounting and moving past the pier into a bar.
  • Joe Wright had originally wanted Keira Knightley to play the role of Briony in her late teens, but Knightley immediately liked the character of Cecilia, and also wanted to get away from playing girls on the brink of womanhood and play a more mature character.
  • According to a BBC article, in order to achieve one aspect of the film’s extraordinary visual style, Christian Dior stockings were stretched over the camera lens to achieve a soft focus.
  • Briony’s appearance next to the stained glass window featuring Saint Matilda, may also be a reference to the saint’s status as patron of falsely accused people.
  • In the DVD commentary, Director Joe Wright reveals a moment of luck that was caught on camera during the scene just before Robbie (James McAvoy) discovers the school girls massacre. At the point where he removes his helmet, the weather was cloudy. As he looks up the sky, the sun started shining, and then got cloudy again the moment he put his head down.
  • The small English town of Redcar stood in for the French city of Dunkirk, and the Dunkirk set built there was the most expensive one in the film, costing an estimated 1 million pounds.
  • Joe Wright conducted three weeks of rehearsals prior to filming, ensuring that by the time the cameras rolled all the actors were comfortable with their characters and the environments they inhabited.
  • The opening film of the 2007’s Venice Film Festival. Director Joe Wright, at 35, was the youngest director to have a film open the prestigious event.
  • Local government in Redcar gave permission for a bandstand to be erected and for a shipwreck to be placed on the beach for authenticity. A number of houses along the beach front were painted to suit the era. The cinema, which looked the part already, merely had an advertisement painted on the side of the building to complete the set dressing. Everything was undone after filming was complete and Redcar seafront now looks like a normal seaside town again.
  • Vanessa Redgrave noted that she, Saoirse Ronan and Romola Garai did improvisations on body language, among other things, to create the character of Briony. Joe Wright, known for establishing good working relationships with his actors–was able to pick and choose what he wanted to focus on during the filming.
  • Since Atonement is a novel about novels, it shouldn’t be a surprise that it’s based on another novel. Specifically, McEwan cribbed the plot in part from Henry James’s ‘What Maisie Knew’, another story about a child who gets involved in an adult sexual relationship that she doesn’t understand.
  • In one early scene, Paul Marshall says that army conscription is inevitable “if Herr Hitler doesn’t pipe down, and he’s about as likely to do that as buy shares in Marks and Spencers”. British retail chain Marks and Spencer was co-founded by Jewish immigrant Michael Marks, and many senior-management staff have been members of his family; Jews were the ethnic group which was the prime target of Adolf Hitler’s genocidal purges.
  • Filming of the film’s three acts was completed almost entirely in sequence.
  • Richard Eyre was originally attached to direct the project. However, as time passed he became busy with another film project and stage play. The producers and himself decided that, if they could find a director they all approved of, he would hand the project over.
  • This was the last HD DVD release by Universal Studios.
  • It took around three weeks to prepare the Redcar beach and seafront area for the Dunkirk sequence. This included removing all street furniture, tons of sand brought in to cover the promenade, road and pavement, boarding up of all sea facing windows and installation of ferris wheel, band stand and army vehicles etc. After nearly a week of rehearsals for the extras, actors and crew then the actual filming it took a over two weeks to put everything back to normal all for five minutes of screen time.
  • The Dunkirk street scenes and generator room scenes were filmed on Grimsby Docks.
  • Release prints were delivered to theaters with the fake title, Saturday – the title of another Ian McEwan novel.
  • According to Sandra Lean, widow of legendary filmmaker Sir David Lean – Joe Wright was apparently so impressed by Sir David’s epic work that he screened most of it before making Atonement, and then instructed cinematographer Seamus McGarvey to also watch Lean’s oeuvre, with the hope of being able to match some of the director’s power. Ultimately however, Lady Lean felt she ‘just didn’t like the movie. I thought it was terrible and badly directed. Everyone goes on about the long shot of the beach at Dunkirk, but I thought it was boring and laborious.’ Obviously they were trying to get the feel of a David Lean epic but they failed. Without David, it’s not so easy.’
  • The distinguished English actor John Normington, a veteran of stage and screen, has a minor role as a vicar but sadly died before the film’s UK release.
  • Joe Wright envisioned that Cecilia would not be sexually experienced and therefore losing her virginity to Robbie in the library scene, even though a historian informed him that given the time, place and her background she probably would have been sexually active during her college years.
  • Director Joe Wright appears during the lengthy tracking sequence on Dunkirk beach.
  • Filming Locations
  • Stokesay Court, Shropshire
    Stokesay Court is a Victorian house which forms part of the privately owned Stokesay estate in the county of Shropshire. All the exteriors and interiors of the Tallis home and Robbie and Grace’s cottage were filmed at Stokesay.
  • London Locations
    The London locations include The Old Town Hall, Bethnal Green, which was used for the scene where Cecilia and Robbie meet for the first time since 1935 at the tea house.

    The Balham underground station scene in which Cecilia seeks shelter during the bombing was filmed at the closed tube station, Aldwych. The scene where Robbie sees Cecilia walk to the bus was filmed at Whitehall.

    A street in Streatham was dressed and used for the scenes set in Balham when Briony at 18 years of age is looking for Cecilia’s flat.
    The St Thomas’s hospital ward interior and corridors were built as a studio set at Shepperton studios; the storeroom, day room and nurses’ dormitory were filmed at Park Place, Henley Upon Thames, and the exteriors at University College, London.

    Paul Marshall and Lola’s wedding scene was filmed at St John’s Church, Smith Square and the television interview in 1999 when older Briony is interviewed about her book was filmed at the BBC Wood Lane.

  • French countryside
    The scenes during which Robbie, Mace and Nettle make their way through the French countryside to Dunkirk were filmed on location in Coates and Gedney Drove End in Lincolnshire, as well as Walpole St Andrew and Denver in Norfolk, and March and Pymore in Cambridgeshire. The poppy field scene was shot in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. The light industrial quarter scenes were filmed at Grimsby fish docks.

    Redcar beach took the place of Bray dunes, Dunkirk, including the old Regent Cinema which is on the pier and the marshland and heavy industrial quarter scenes were filmed at Corus steelworks, also in Redcar.

  • Character Quotes
  • Wasn’t there an envelope?
  • It’s been there for weeks, and then this morning by the fountain… I’ve never done anything like that before. And I was so angry with you, and with myself. I thought if you went away to medical school, then I’d be happy, but I don’t know how I could have been so ignorant about myself, so… So stupid. You do know what I’m talking about, don’t you? You knew before I did.
  • I wouldn’t necessarily believe everything Briony tells you. She’s rather fanciful.
  • Come back. Come back to me.
  • Briony. There isn’t much time. Robbie has to report for duty at 6:00, and he’s got a train to catch. So sit down. There are some things you’re going to do for us.
  • Briony: Cee.
    Cecilia: Yes?
    Briony: What do you think it would feel like to be someone else?
    Cecilia: Cooler, I should hope.
    Briony: I’m worried about the play.
    Cecilia: I’m sure it’s a masterpiece.
    Briony: But we only have the afternoon to rehearse. What if the twins can’t act?
    Cecilia: You have to be nice to them. I wonder how’d you feel if your mother had run off with Mr. What’s-his-name who reads the news on the wireless?
  • Briony: Cee.
    Cecilia: Yes?
    Briony: Why don’t you talk to Robbie anymore?
    Cecilia: I do. We just move in different circles, that’s all.
  • Robbie: Are you enjoying your book?
    Cecilia: No, not really.
    Robbie: It gets better.
    Cecilia: I prefer Fielding any day. Much more passionate.
  • Cecilia: I suppose he’s what you might call eligible.
    Leon: Rather.
    Cecilia: He certainly seems to think he’s the cat’s pajamas. Which is odd, considering he has pubic hair growing out of his ears. I should imagine he’d give you a lot of very noisy, boneheaded sons.
    Leon: He’s quite a good egg, actually.
    Cecilia: You say that about everyone.
  • Cecilia: What was in the version I was meant to read?
    Robbie: I don’t know. It was more formal. Less…
    Cecilia: Anatomical?
  • Briony: I know what I did was terrible. I don’t expect you to forgive me.
    Cecilia: Oh, don’t worry, I won’t. You’re an unreliable witness. They’ll never reopen the case.
    Briony: Well, at least I could tell everyone else what I did. I can go home and explain to Mummy and Daddy and Leon…
    Cecilia: So what’s stopping you?
    Briony: Well, I wanted to see you first.
    Cecilia: They don’t want to hear any more about it. That unpleasantness is all tidied away in the past, thank you very much.
  • Quoting: Keira Knightley

    on her character: I think that she is a good person, but she’s just behaving badly. She’s got very obvious flaws in her personality that are not particularly nice traits, but that still doesn’t mean that she’s a bad person. I think it’s always interesting to look at the flaws because that’s what makes characters, and people, interesting. You want to have negative aspects, so that you can look at the positive as well. I think that she’s a fascinating character.

    on the script: Christopher Hampton’s done a really beautiful job on it. And again, it’s always great if you’ve got something based on a book, it’s great to have something with that much internal dialogue that you can go, “Okay, well, that’s what my character’s thinking at this point.” And it’s very clear where the characters have come from. And I think that’s what Joe (Wright) is great at, is making sure that every actor sees the story from their character’s point of view.

    on her favorite scene: The one that I found, perhaps, most challenging was the scene in the Swallows Tea Shop, when Cecilia and Robbie haven’t seen each other for five years, and they see each other again, but it’s also my favorite. If you did that in a modern day piece, they’d be able to say exactly what they wanted to say to each other. It would all come out, and it would be rather melodramatic. And, the fact that they can’t find the words, and they can’t speak to each other, suddenly this time that they’ve been separate, even though they’ve been writing all the time and they’ve been waiting, and she’s sacrificed so much, and he’s been in jail, it suddenly becomes a physical thing between them, and they suddenly realize that they don’t know each other anymore. It was always my favorite scene, between Robbie and Cecilia, when I read the script, but it was difficult because you have to know, I suppose, the emotions that they would be going through, but you can’t play them. It was a really interesting exercise in keeping the lid on everything, which I have to say the whole film was. It’s all about what isn’t said. But, that was a particularly interesting scene about really underplaying everything and not letting it come out.

    on the source material: The book is very filmic. The images in the book are really strong, but it’s an incredibly difficult thing to adapt because what it’s playing with is reality, non-reality, and then time scales, and lots of internal monologues.

    on her attraction to the role: The reason I liked this character is because she is a woman, of the kind Bette Davis might have played. She knows who she is, yet she doesn’t know which direction to go in, so she’s quite conflicted. She doesn’t realize that actually she fancies Robbie; she’s grown up with him, and at first won’t admit that there’s anything between them beyond a kind of brother-and-sister relationship. But, there is, and when we meet them they’re on the brink.

    on the filming locations: Stokesay Park has been a bit of a gift, really. You wouldn’t normally find so many locations in one place. Normally you’d have to change, so to have the lake here, to have the fountain here, to have all these grounds, to be able to do all the interiors here is extraordinary. It’s a really creepy house. It’s beautiful, but it’s quite austere. It looms over you. And that’s perfect, I think, for this part of the story, is to kind of have that slightly uneasy feel to it, even though it’s beautiful. Joe brought us in a day ahead of the shoot, so we could spend time in our bedrooms and walk around the grounds. To be able to do all the interiors there as well was extraordinary.

    on Joe Wright’s direction: Joe would direct us to deliver our lines swiftly; he wanted the dialogue scenes to play as they did in classic British movies. He likened it to rain pattering down, or bullets firing. Doing that informed our performances and showed us who our characters were; it was exciting to play, because that particular style of speaking is now lost. It’s like doing an accent, yet it made everything easier.

    on working with co-star James McAvoy: I think he’s extraordinary. He came in to audition for the part, along with some really, really great British actors, who were really top notch. And, everybody read it wonderfully. And then, James came in. Joe was very specific about the physical type that he wanted for the role. And, we’d talked about James before. I knew his work. I thought he was sensational. But, physically, it wasn’t what Joe had described to me. So, he came in and I’ve never seen a screen test like it. He grew to 6’6″. He just morphed. And, he left the room and we were completely silent for about 10 minutes afterwards, and just went, “Right, well, that’s him.”

    on working with co-star Vanessa Redgrave: I think she’s absolutely extraordinary. That last shot, which I think they did in three takes — it’s two different shots — which is the twist, if you like, when it explains about herself, is one of the most beautiful performances I’ve ever seen. I think it’s absolutely stunning. I find her so exciting. And, the fact that she’s still excited about what she does, and believes in what she does, is very inspirational.

    on working with director Joe Wright: I think Joe’s really taking everything one step further, certainly than Pride & Prejudice. He’s playing around with a lot of very dark emotions and a lot of… He’s being quite courageous. I think Atonement, for him, was a really interesting choice of movie to do, and one that… I remember reading the script and going, “I don’t know how they’re going to do this, but if anyone can do it, Joe can.” Because he’s a very clever man.

    Quoting: Cast and Crew

    Director Joe Wright: When I was thinking about Cecilia I immediately thought about Keira and I just felt that she was ready for it. It’s a character role rather than simply being a pretty leading lady. It is a very complex role and Cecilia is not a particularly likeable person to start with and then she is redeemed by her love of Robbie and his of her. One of the things I really think is amazing about Keira’s performance is that she was not afraid of playing someone who’s actually quite cold and difficult and awkward. I think she was brave in taking the role as many actors are terrified of being disliked in the characters they play on screen. The resulting performance is, I believe, her boldest and strongest to date.

    Co-star James McAvoy: She’s a great person to work with. She’s a fantastic girl. i realized that we were there to back each other up and we had someone willing to kind of fight for each other if we needed it. And also we realized that artistically speaking we were very much on the same page from day one and when that happens you feel quite safe. You feel like you have a collaborator you know and someone you can really bounce off of so it was great working with Keira.

    Novelist Ian McEwan: Keira and James are superb together. I particularly liked the scene in the library. This is a wonderful release of tension for Cecilia – a brittle upper class young woman, divorced from her own feelings. In the library she confronts them in a flood of strong emotion and erotic charge.

    Hair designer Ivana Primorac: Keira has less vanity than anyone I’ve ever met. When we were working guidelines out for Cecilia in 1935 – how stiff the waves in her hair would be, for example – Keira was ready for whatever was right for our story. When the war starts, we had to convey how Cecilia doesn’t have as many resources; she still does her hair, though not as often. The temptation was to go outright from glamorous in the first section to dowdy in the second section. But that’s not Cecilia; she would still put on lipstick if she could get one, or had one left over.

    Critical Response

    Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle:

    Knightley, a miracle of adult confidence at 22, brings an appealing directness and certainty to Cecilia, and Romola Garai (“Amazing Grace”) conceals her attractiveness as the 18-year-old Briony.

    Derek Elley, Variety:

    It’s Knightley and McAvoy’s film, with both showing impressive star poise and physical elan. As the more controlled Cecilia, Knightley hints at the rebel behind the upper-middle-class mask, while McAvoy shows a sheer emotional range that’s completely new to his career. Like Irish thesp Ronan, the Scots actor also turns in an immaculate southern English accent.

    Ray Bennett, The Hollywood Reporter:

    With compelling and charismatic performances by Keira Knightley and James McAvoy as the lovers, and a stunning contribution from Romola Garai as their remorseful nemesis, the film goes directly to “The English Patient” territory and might also expect rapturous audiences and major awards.

    Ty Burr, Boston Globe:

    Wright seemed to come out of nowhere with 2005’s Pride & Prejudice, an assured debut in which Knightley gave her first real performance. Both director and star advance on that triumph, he with a smoothly propulsive commercial filmmaking style that combines acting, production design, camerawork, and music in ways that sometimes seem breathtakingly fresh; she with a portrait of privileged youth shoved off the ledge of shallowness into adulthood.

    Peter Travers, Rolling Stone:

    And as Atonement shifts into the battlefield, McAvoy and Knightley deepen their performances. Cecilia, now a nurse caring for the wounded in a British hospital, arranges a brief, awkward meeting with Robbie before he ships out that only intensifies the poignance of their broken lives. Life has hardened them to pain, but not to each other. Knightley’s star has never shone this brightly. And McAvoy is a dynamo, nailing every nuance in a complex role. They are heaven-sent acting partners, radiating a heroic spirit that insists on the primacy of love.

    Awards and Nominations

    Below is a list of all accolades Keira has received for her role in the film.

    NOMINATED: Awards Circuit Community Awards – Best Actress in a Leading Role
    NOMINATED: Awards Circuit Community Awards – Best Ensemble Cast
    NOMINATED: BAFTA Awards – Best Leading Actress
    NOMINATED: Dublin Film Critics Circle Awards – Best Actress
    NOMINATED: Evening Standard British Film Awards – Best Actress
    NOMINATED: Golden Globes – Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture (Drama)
    NOMINATED: Gold Derby Awards – Ensemble Cast
    NOMINATED: International Online Film Critics’ Poll – Best Actress in a Leading Role
    NOMINATED: International Online Cinema Awards – Best Ensemble Cast
    NOMINATED: Irish Film and Television Awards – Best International Actress
    NOMINATED: London Critics Circle Film Awards – British Actress of the Year
    NOMINATED: Online Film & Television Association – Best Ensemble
    NOMINATED: Satellite Awards – Best Actress in a Motion Picture (Drama)

    WON: Empire Awards – Best Actress
    WON: Rembrandt Awards – Best International Actress