Keira Knightley talks playing Iraq War whistle-blower Katharine Gun in political thriller ‘Official Secrets’

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Keira Knightley is portraying Katharine Gun, a real-life Iraq War whistle-blower, in the political thriller “Official Secrets.” IFC Films photo

Keira Knightley is portraying Katharine Gun, a real-life Iraq War whistle-blower, in the political thriller “Official Secrets,” opening Friday in the United States and in October in the U.K.

In the early 2000s, Gun was a translator at the British government’s communications headquarters, and while there, she leaked a confidential United States National Security Agency email exposing illegal activities to a British newspaper, according to the Associated Press.

The memo proved that the U.K. and U.S. governments were in collusion over spying on countries that were wavering in their support for the Iraq War. Gun confessed and was subsequently arrested and charged under the Official Secrets Act after the information hit the front pages of newspapers.

Although she was a politically engaged 18-year-old at the time of the Iraq War, Knightley told the AP she had no memory of Gun’s story.

“I was sort of fascinated that either I’d forgotten, or I’d never known about Katharine Gun and I’d never known about this memo. So, I felt like, you know, just as far as kind of a historical piece in sort of shedding light on that, the lead up to that conflict, I thought it was a very important story to tell,” she said.

But Gun still can’t speak freely about what happened.

“It was the first time I’ve ever met somebody, and I was asking questions and I thought, ‘Oh they actually legally cannot answer the question,’ because of course she is still bound by the Official Secrets Act,” Knightley said. “So, I can’t say that you know I got anything that isn’t in the public domain but she is a fascinating, extraordinary woman.”

The biopic chronicles Gun’s arrest and landmark criminal trial, and the two-time Oscar nominee said she was most concerned with accurately depicting Gun’s actions.

“When you meet Katharine, her point of view is absolutely clear and you know my job in this was telling this story from her point of view completely,” Knightley said.

Knightley’s said her decision to sleep train her 3-year-old daughter Edie during filming meant she wasn’t faking it when it came to the emotional side of the role.

“I felt very on edge, but for different reasons. So, I used it all,” Knightley joked during her AP interview.

She added, “Any actresses out there, do not move the child from the cot to the bed when you’re just about to play a lead role in a film that has a lot of words in it because remembering them is quite tricky.”

“Official Secrets” co-stars Matt Smith as newspaper journalist Martin Bright, Matthew Goode as fellow journalist Peter Beaumont and Ralph Fiennes as defense lawyer Ben Emmerson.


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