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What Keira Knightley Learned From Women’s Activist Sally Alexander While Preparing For Misbehaviour

Keira Knightley as Sally Alexander in Misbehaviour
(Image credit: (20th Century Fox))

Keira Knightley has a knack for taking us back in a time machine with her roles, sometimes making us aware of real women throughout history we may have not otherwise known about with films such as The Imitation Game, Colette or The Duchess. In her latest performance in Philippa Lowthorpe’s Misbehaviour, Knightley plays an activist in the Women’s Liberation Movement of the ‘70s, Sally Alexander. And for the first time in her career, she got to sit down with the person she’d be portraying.

When speaking with Keira Knightley for an exclusive virtual interview for CinemaBlend, the Oscar-nominated actress spoke about the time she had with Sally Alexander and other women involved in protesting the 1970 Miss World pageant during second-wave feminist efforts to promote equality between men and women. Check out what Knightley learned from the experience below:

Keira Knightley met with Sally Alexander in her home ahead of beginning production on the latest based-on-a-true-story title, Misbehaviour. She described a lovely time between them full of “very good coffee” as she went into depth about her perspective on the experience that has now been adapted to film. While Knightley enjoyed getting inside Alexander's head ahead of playing her, she felt like she needed to set the record straight with her that she’d be playing a version of her, rather than trying to encompass her note for note.

Misbehaviour centrally follows Sally Alexander’s journey with the Women’s Liberation Movement, with Alexander having been a history professor living in London. She helped organize the first conference for the movement in the UK in 1970 before joining them at Royal Albert Hall in November of 1970 to disrupt the Miss World pageant after Bob Hope (played by Greg Kinnear in the film) made a sexist comment amidst the huge television event’s live broadcast.

Keira Knightley and the cast, including I’m Thinking of Ending Things Jessie Buckley and The Morning Show’s Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Miss World 1970, Jennifer Hosten, spoke to a number of women involved in the protest and part of the Miss World pageant during the process of making Misbehaviour. Watching the film, its set-up almost feels like fiction, but as Knightley said, having the actual women part of it made her and the cast realize the weight of the event itself as it gets told 50 years after it happened.

What’s particularly interesting about the story of Miss World through Misbehaviour is how it also shifts to the perspective of the contestants in the competition. While the feminist activists were fighting against the objectification of women across a very popular broadcast of the age, some of the women involved in the competition were using the experience to gain new opportunities for themselves. That year, the first and second place crown were given to the first Black women, of Grenada and South Africa, serving as a landmark year for the competition.

Misbehaviour is available to see on VOD platforms starting September 25. Check out what else is coming in 2020 with CinemaBlend’s release calendar here and stay tuned for more exclusive interviews.

Sarah El-Mahmoud

YA genre tribute. Horror May Queen. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.