After Garbo, Leigh, no defining "Anna Karenina": Knightley

Fri Nov 16, 2012 9:55am EST
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By Zorianna Kit

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Film adaptations of "Anna Karenina" have featured the likes of Greta Garbo and Vivien Leigh, but Keira Knightley isn't fazed about measuring up to such silver screen luminaries with a new cinematic take on Leo Tolstoy's classic novel.

The British actress's turn in the title role in the timeless story about a beautiful married socialite in 1870s Russia who embarks on a passionate affair with a cavalry officer, follows the 1935 version starring Garbo and the 1948 film with Leigh. It is released in the United States on Friday.

"Although there have been many famous actresses play her, there's never been a definitive version of 'Anna Karenina,'" Knightley said in an interview. "I think it's partly because of the relationship you have with the character. She poses more questions than she answers, so it's always open to different interpretation."

Knightley stars opposite Jude Law as her husband, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson as the dashing Count Vronsky, and teams up again with filmmaker Joe Wright in their third film together after previous book-to-film collaborations with 2007's "Atonement" and 2005's "Pride & Prejudice."

The film debuted at the Toronto film festival to warm reviews for Knightley's performance. Critics have said the film is overall technically and visually accomplished but lacks a cohesive emotional punch.

Adapted by playwright Tom Stoppard, Wright's "Anna Karenina" takes place mostly in a theater setting and sees the title character more high-strung and less sympathetic than in previous incarnations.

The director said he cast Knightley, 27, because he felt she could tap into all the internal elements of Anna.

"She was 18 when we made 'Pride & Prejudice', just a kid," said Wright. "I've seen her develop from stunning ingénue to great actress. I felt that she was stronger, braver, even less conforming than she had been before."   Continued...

Keira Knightley and Director Joe Wright attend the after party for the premiere of the movie "Anna Karenina" at the Greystone Manor Supper Club in Los Angeles, California November 14, 2012. REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon