Keira Knightley says her new movie Misbehaviour “feels like a conversation” rather than preachy.
The film, directed by Philippa Lowthorpe, tells the story of the controversial Miss World pageant in 1970, which saw a protest by women’s liberation activists.
Knightley plays Sally Alexander who, along with fellow protesters, threw flour bombs at the stage during the live TV broadcast while the host — comedian Bob Hope — was performing.
The 1970 Miss World pageant was watched by more than 20 million people in Britain alone.
“I didn't realise how huge [Miss World] was and is really still,” Knightley told Yahoo Movies UK.
“At the time of this film, it had more viewers than the Olympics and the World Cup.
“This intersectionality between feminism and racism happened in the middle of this pageant, in front of 100 million viewers. I thought it was just fascinating.”
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Lowthorpe’s film focuses not just on the feminist protests, but also on the contestants themselves including the surprise winner from Grenada — Jennifer Hosten, played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw.
The movie raises issues around the differing perspectives of the protesters and the Miss World competitors, including one crucial scene between Knightley and Mbatha-Raw.
The 34-year-old star added: “What I loved was that the film felt very much like a conversation. It's not preaching.
“It's going 'this is the point of view of the women's libbers and this is the point of view of the beauty queens'.
“They both have a really good point and it's not trying to condemn either side. We're still grappling with it.”
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Misbehaviour also stars Jessie Buckley, Rhys Ifans, Keeley Hawes and Lesley Manville.
American character actor Greg Kinnear portrays Bob Hope, who hosted Miss World on several occasions, as well as holding the record for the most stints in charge of the Oscars telecast.
Misbehaviour is in UK cinemas from 13 March.