Keira's Royal Pain in the Neck

Keira Knightley plays 18th-century Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, in "The Duchess." She spoke to Ramin Setoodeh.

Some people say this character reminds them of Princess Diana.
When I first read the script, I didn't see any parallels with Diana because I didn't know her story well enough. I was 11 when she died.

Did you read the book that the movie is based on?
A couple times. And I was lucky enough to go to Chatsworth and the now Duchess of Devonshire showed me a lot of Georgiana's things—I had a look at her actual letters and her actual gambling books and some of her jewelry, beautiful paintings of her with the kids. I read history books around that time, because it was near the change-over between George III and George IV. That whole period, historically and politically, is really fascinating. The reason I love period films is you can dive into a complete fantasy. For me as an actress, I love getting as far away as possible.

Did you like wearing the wigs?
They were like birdcages made of metal, with hair at the top, stuck to my forehead. I couldn't keep my head up very long. There was one particular one, with two feet of feathers, that was really tricky. I was dancing around and the guys were shouting "Timber!" as I danced past, which was f–––ing cruel.

What about the dresses?
The dresses mean you can't breathe, you can never get a deep breath, only a shallow one. You can kind of understand why we were known as the weaker sex—all wigged up and all the rest of it, it's difficult to function.

When you were younger, did you ever dream about being royalty?
No. I was a tomboy. When I was a child, I made mud pies—sort of just adding water to mud and squishing it together. I didn't wear a skirt until I think I was 14. The princess thing was the last thing on my list.

But aren't you a big shoe shopper now?
No. Everyone says I like shoes. I gave an interview when I was 18, and was unbelievably excited about a new pair of shoes I bought, and now I've turned into the new Imelda Marcos.

How many pairs do you have?
I don't know. I think I probably have 10 pairs, which isn't excessive, I don't think.

I'm a little disappointed. I read a profile of you where you cursed a lot, and you've been so polite.
Ask me a question that needs a "f––– off" answer, and I've got no problem giving it to you.

What should I ask you?
What would you like to ask me? Go on, give it a go!

Are you dating anyone?
F––– off. There you go! It's easy, actually.

Whenever you give an interview, you always talk about your teeth being crooked.
Always? Always is a bit of an exaggeration, isn't it?

They look fine to me.
I don't want to give you too close a look, because I know I have spaghetti Bolognese stuck in them. [Opens her mouth] That one's chipped and that one's bent. I'm not saying I've got buck teeth, but as far as perfect goes ...

Have you thought about braces?
No. I like imperfections. I think they're more interesting. I don't like perfectly white things. They look a bit weird.