Casting Keira Knightley as Jackie Price
Co-star Keira Knightley read the Jacket
script while on location in Dublin , filming the role of Guinevere in producer Jerry Bruckheimer's medieval action drama King Arthur
. "It was an exciting, imaginative script, and a role I wanted to play immediately," recalls Knightley, who rose to stardom on the strength of her roles in Bend It like Beckham
and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
. "The other eight scripts on my pile were variations of the same pretty, uptight British girl, but Jackie was this damaged character who meets a guy going through trauma. It's very rare that a film will show people who are in the process of self-destructing."
On a rare day off from the King Arthur
shoot, Knightley, despite a debilitating case of food poisoning at the time, traveled to London to discuss The Jacket
with Director John Maybury and the producers, only to arrive at what turned out to be a lunch meeting. "I spent most of my energy trying not to projectile vomit on these people I desperately wanted to work with," she says.
Maybury's words did little to abate the young actress' queasiness. "He told me that he did not think I was right for the role, and he didn't want me," she says. "At that moment, I had nothing to lose. I declared that if I didn't get the part of Jackie I could be stuck in corsets for the next 20 years, and asked him to let me read. He agreed, and promised if he was convinced, then he would hire me. We shook on it. I read the part, he gave me some notes, then gave me his phone number and offered me the job."
"I didn't want Keira Knightley for the role," admits Maybury. "I'd met 15 to 20 young American actresses, and there were at least two or three that I thought would be terrific as Jackie, so very reluctantly I met with her. I knew she was an interesting, pretty girl, but that was it as far as I was concerned. The fact that she had food poisoning at the audition actually served to make her act and look even more Jackie like. Then, when she read, she was excellent, and I realized that she was a very intelligent girl and a very good actor. She comes across almost like a young Jane Fonda."
Reflecting on Jackie, Knightley says, "She is stuck in her past, carrying a huge amount of guilt from the death of her mother. Even as a child, she felt responsible for Jean, trying to protect her from her problems, looking after her. And when we first see Jackie, she is becoming her mother-stuck in a small town, drinking too much, in a dead-end job. When she meets Starks she has nothing to lose, and she has no self-protection instinct. She picks up a stranger in a car park, offers him a ride, then lets him stay at her apartment, while she drinks and takes a bath. She is almost inviting harm in a reckless way."
Gradually, as Jackie begins to believe Starks' unlikely story, focusing on someone else's problems gives her a new lease of life: "She chooses to take a chance; to let something happen to her."
To achieve a believable transformation from sophisticated British beauty to small-town American diner waitress, Knightley relied on cultural cues provided by Maybury. "Jackie doesn't look after herself, and uses her makeup as a mask-dark circles around her eyes, smudged mascara, messy hair," explains Knightley. Maybury supplied examples of the influences he wanted her character to reflect, including Edie Sedgwick, a fixture of Andy Warhol's Factory and star of his film Ciao Manhattan
, who eventually self-destructed through alcohol and drugs. Aspects of Courtney Love are reflected in Jackie's low, lazy voice, as well as a bit of Marlene Dietrich's languidity. Maybury also gave her a tape of Laura Marano, who plays Jackie as a child, so that Knightley could connect in attitude and gesture with her younger self. "Laura has a direct way of talking, and a certain stance that I could carry through to the older Jackie," says Knightley.
To reinforce Jackie's isolation, Maybury encouraged Knightley to spend time alone when she was not working on set. The actress explains that this may have backfired on her director: "We decided that Jackie would listen to a lot of loud music, alone at home, and since I was living in the apartment above John, he got to hear a lot of Jeff Buckley, White Stripes, Nirvana and the Strokes." Recalls Maybury, "It was a like living underneath a noisy teenager, as Keira liked to dance around her apartment."
This film information was taken from the film's Official Production Notes.
This film is rated R for violence, language and brief sexuality/nudity.
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