Since her 2002 breakout performance in Bend it Like Beckham, Keira Knightley has starred in 18 films, but it was only recently she realized something about her acting process.
“I suffer very badly from stage fright,” she says.
“I didn’t find it out until I had actually been on stage that that’s what the feeling was.
“It’s literally like having a wall in front of you. You know you have the ability to break through but for some reason you can’t on that day.
“It’s very strange that you can work as much as I do and still have a problem with that.”
She has found a way to circumvent her fears, a method that came in handy while making her newest film A Dangerous Method, the story of the fathers of psychoanalysis, Carl Jung (played by Michael Fassbender) and Sigmund Freud (played by Viggo Mortensen), and Sabina Spielrein, the intelligent but troubled patient who causes a falling out between the men.
“I found only in the last few years that research helps,” she says.
“As far as getting over that fear of stage fright I find that preparation is the key.”
To play Spielrein, a woman wracked by tics and repression, Knightley threw herself into the exploration of the character.
“There was nothing that linked me to her,” she says.
“I had no idea about it. So I phoned Christopher Hampton because he did the adaptation of Atonement, which I did a few years ago, and said, ‘I’m going to do this, so help. Just help.’
“I went round to his house and thought he was going to give me a talk for a couple of hours and give me all the answers but he just handed me a pile of books and said, ‘Start reading. It’s all in there.’”
She eased her nerves with the research and further support was supplied during shooting by the film’s director, David Cronenberg.
“Sets… are very difficult creative spaces,” she says, “and trying to get the space so you can use your imagination and get yourself so you are not frightened by however many hundreds of people are on the set is quite a difficult thing.
“What David does is entirely creative. As much as it is technical it is also creative, collaborative and everybody is incredibly respectful of each other.
“He’s a magician. He’s absolutely extraordinary.”
Viggo Mortensen on research
“With David (Cronenberg) I know I’m going to have a good time shooting and the movie is probably going to be really interesting and original. As is the case this time again. A lot of cases with other directors the shoot is maybe fraught with tension and disorder but the research period can always be interesting. I love that.”
Now that Santa’s naughty and nice list has been put away for another year, it’s time to have a look at another list, Canada’s Top 10, the Toronto International Film Festival’s annual tally of the best Canadian features. In alphabetical order, here are the winners as chosen by a panel of industry experts.
Café de flore
The main pleasure in this story about the uncompromising power of true love is watching Vanessa Paradis throw glamour out the window and deliver a gritty, but lovingly rendered performance as a protective mother.
A Dangerous Method
Here two pioneering psychoanalysts, played by Michael Fassbender and Viggo Mortensen, have a falling out over an intelligent, beautiful but troubled patient (Keira Knightley). The movie is an enticing stew of psycho-sexuality and repression that challenges commonly held beliefs about what is normal and what is not.
The story of Canada’s John Dillinger is an entertaining romp through three decades in the life of a notorious homegrown folk hero.
Hobo With a Shotgun
This is like what would have happened if Roger Corman made Death Wish with a fake blood budget the size of a James Cameron movie.
Guy Maddin’s homage to 1930’s gangster melodramas is exactly what we expect from the eccentric director. It’s an expressionistic, beautifully grotesque story that demands multiple viewings.
This lush looking story of the hardships of rural life and keeping a family together is slow moving but rewarding.
Canada’s official entry to the Oscar race, this schoolroom drama — think To Sir with Love, with a suicide subplot — is one of the best films of the year, Canadian or otherwise.
A charming movie about a man — winningly played by Patrick Huard —who discovers his sperm bank donations unwittingly made him the father of 533 children, 142 of whom have filed a class action lawsuit to learn their biological father’s real identity.
Take This Waltz
This second feature from director Sarah Polley is a bittersweet Canadian kitchen sink drama about being trapped in a marriage with someone who can’t speak his mind.
This looks at what happens to life in a small town when the largest employer is about to shut down. It is a Main Street drama seen through the eyes of a kindly car salesman.
When TIFF 2011 raises its curtain on David Cronenberg’s new film, “A Dangerous Method,” audiences will ask: Can the controversial director finally win an Oscar?
It he does, it’ll be a long time coming.
Cronenberg, 68, first found fame in the 1970s for cult horror movies like “Shivers,” “Rabid,” and “The Brood.” Three decades later, he has transcended a genre seldom favoured by Oscar voters to become a filmmaking auteur equal to art-house favourites like Jean-Luc Godard.
His films increasingly encroach into the mainstream, while retaining Cronenberg’s unmistakable penchant for disturbing violence. In 2005, he gripped audiences with one man’s secret past in the crime thriller, “A History of Violence.” The protagonist was played by one of Hollywood’s top heartthrobs, Viggo Mortensen.
He got down and dirty with the Russian mob in 2007’s Russian mob drama, “Eastern Promises.” That film also starred Viggo Mortensen, who won his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor.
TIFF co-director Cameron Bailey said Cronenberg has never strictly been a horror filmmaker, “even when he was making horror movies.”
“With films like ‘Eastern Promises’ and ‘A History of Violence’ Cronenberg showed that he could work in different genres and still bring really challenging elements to these stories,” Bailey told CTVNews.ca. “But these aren’t horror movies at all, and even less so at this point in his career.”
Now comes “A Dangerous Method,” a film about the power of ideas generated by two titans in the field of psychiatry: Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung.
Set in Vienna on the eve of the First World War, “A Dangerous Method” has an impressive cast headlined by Mortensen, Michael Fassbender and Keira Knightley.
The script is based on Christopher Hampton’s 2002 play of the same name. It digs into the turbulent relationship between Jung (Fassbender) and his mentor Freud (Mortensen). That relationship implodes after one patient (Knightley) undergoes their treatment and takes these giants to the dark side of genius.
“Oscar voters love films like these,” said Canada AM movie critic Richard Crouse.
“It’s got great actors, a great story and historical gravitas. It’s is also being launched at a major international film festival. You know Oscar voters will give it some consideration,” said Crouse.
Even so, Cronenberg’s horror roots may still be too dangerous for some Academy members. A shocking 1981 film like “Scanners” — where a character uses telekinetic powers to make a man’s head explode — is difficult to forget.
“Once you’ve earned a reputation for making people’s heads explode on film, it’s hard to get the Academy to think of you as an Oscar contender,” said Crouse.
That may explain why Cronenberg was denied a Best Director’s nod for “Eastern Promises” in 2008. Whether that matters to Cronenberg is another matter.
“Cronenberg stays true to himself. Telling a great story will always be his real satisfaction,” said Crouse.