‘Sing Street’ Director John Carney Trashes ‘Begin Again’ Star Keira Knightley
With Sing Street currently charming the pants off of critics and moviegoers alike, we’ve come one step closer to forgetting all about Begin Again — John Carney’s misstep between the beloved 2007 musical Once and his latest effort. You’d think that Carney would be proud of his acclaimed new musical and thrilled that it’s been so well-received. You’d think this guy couldn’t possibly have anything negative to say at this moment in time. You’d think that he might also be happy that most people seem to have forgotten about Begin Again. Your thinking could not be more wrong.
Unable to accept responsibility for making an underwhelming and flawed musical with Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley, Carney spends a good chunk of his interview with The Independent effectively throwing Knightley’s name under a huge bus labeled Begin Again. Carney starts off throwing some passive-aggressive shade at Knightley, using the term “movie star” like an insult:
I like working with actors and I wanted to come back to what I knew and enjoy film-making again – not that I didn’t enjoy Begin Again but Keira has an entourage that follow her everywhere so it’s very hard to get any real work done.
Although Carney is supposed to be promoting Sing Street — a joyful, heartwarming musical! — he just can’t stop talking about Begin Again and trashing Keira Knightley. All the more agonizing is the way Carney seemingly goes off on these tangents unprompted, like he’s holding the saddest grudge you’ve ever seen. When asked what he learned from making Begin Again, Carney says, “that I’ll never make a film with supermodels again.”
Despite the fact that Knightley learned to sing and play guitar for his film (and did a pretty decent job of both), Carney criticizes her for not being a real musician, and goes from implying that she’s not a real actor to flat-out saying it while inappropriately psycho-analyzing her in the process:
…it’s not like I hate the Hollywood thing but I like to work with curious, proper film actors as opposed to movie stars. I don’t want to rubbish Keira, but you know it’s hard being a film actor and it requires a certain level of honesty and self-analysis that I don’t think she’s ready for yet and I certainly don’t think she was ready for on that film.
It’s like that moment in Clueless when Tai spitefully tells Cher, “You’re a virgin who can’t drive.” Except Carney is like, “You’re a super model who can’t act.” And to properly kick her while she’s firmly placed under that bus, Carney heaps praise on Knightley’s male co-stars, including Adam Levine — of all people:
Mark Ruffalo is a fantastic actor and Adam Levine is a joy to work with and actually quite unpretentious and not a bit scared of exposing himself on camera and exploring who he is as an individual. I think that that’s what you need as an actor; you need to not be afraid to find out who you really are when the camera’s rolling. Keira’s thing is to hide who you are and I don’t think you can be an actor and do that.
What a strange, sad little hill to die on. Look, Begin Again is a disappointing and occasionally frustrating film, made all the more so by the misuse of great actors like Mark Ruffalo AND Keira Knightley. The problems with that film, however, have nothing to do with the actors — Ruffalo is eerily believable and Knightley is as charming as she can be — but with Carney’s script. And has Carney ever even seen Atonement? Or A Dangerous Method? Or Never Let Me Go? She’s a great actor, and if your movie wasn’t very good, that’s probably not her fault.
Instead of standing behind his creation or humbly conceding that it had some flaws, or graciously keeping the focus on his current film — which is quite good — Carney takes a far more baffling and downright tacky approach. “I don’t want to rubbish Keira,” he says, while blatantly throwing her name in a garbage fire and drowning it in lighter fluid.