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The conversation, according to Keira Knightley, started on the set of Atonement. Her director, Joe Wright, asked her who she thought was one of the most-important female roles in classic literature. When Knightley answered with Anna Karenina, based on the novel by Leo Tolstoy, the wheels began turning on what now stands as a vibrant, contemporary, yet still reverential adaptation of Tolstoy’s tones and themes.

Do not be tricked into believing this is another dry period piece with Knightley in gorgeous gowns. Thanks to Wright’s outside-the-box preparations, the stunning Anna Karenina leaps off the screen as it takes audiences behind the scenes of a makeshift Russian theater to capture the soap-opera dramas of the nation’s elite class. (Read Katey Rich’s five-star review right here.)

At the Toronto Film Festival, we were able to sit down with Knightley and explore the film’s emotional components, the difference in live-theater performance techniques, her favorite sets, and the intimidation that comes with adapting Russian literature. Here’s Keira Knightley:

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