Archive for Saturday, March 10, 2001

Legend of Robin Hood gets a makeover

March 10, 2001

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When Keira Knightley was 3 years old, she told her parents that she wanted an agent. "My parents always had agents and were talking with them all the time, and I thought, I want one, too. I went to musicals as a child and wanted to act. My parents were against it at first, but I was adamant."

And when she was 5, she and a friend sometimes played a game in which they pretended they were Robin Hood's children. Now 15, Knightley has had an agent for years and also has the lead role as Robin Hood's daughter, Gwyn, in ABC's "Princess of Thieves" at 6 p.m. CST Sunday on "The Wonderful World of Disney."

"It's an adventure story with lots of girl power and lots of heart," she said. "It was such fun to make I hope that comes across in the film."

Born and raised in London, Knightley was familiar with the legend of Robin Hood (popularly known as the outlaw who robbed from the rich and gave to the poor) when she was cast in the role. Her preparation centered around learning archery, sword fighting and riding.

"It was such great fun, sword fighting," she said. "I loved doing that and wish there had been more."

Riding was another matter. "I had done some riding but not a lot," she said. "The horses for the movie were thoroughbreds, and I had ridden stable ponies. The first time I was on a horse, it started bucking."

Also challenging were Gwyn's scenes with Robin Hood, played by Stuart Wilson, because of the many layers of emotion. "There is such a struggle between father and daughter he's never been there for her and she adores him and hates him at the same time."

Although the story takes place in 12th-century England, the movie was shot in Romania last fall.

"And we also worked in Transylvania, an amazing place," Knightley said. "I learned about the country by being there. ... It's a country picking itself up and you can see that. There are a lot of kids on the street that takes you aback."

The movie opens with the birth of Gwyn, daughter of Robin and Marion. The villainous Sheriff of Nottingham, played by Malcolm McDowell, is worried that a child might follow in Robin's rivalrous footsteps but he laughs when he finds that the newborn is a girl. Amid a plot involving a struggle over succession to the throne, Knightley's Gwyn ultimately gives McDowell's sheriff more trouble than he'd reckoned on.

Knightley has been acting since she was about 7 years old.

Her mother, Sharman Macdonald, is a writer, and her father, Will Knightley, is an actor who is starting to write, she said. She also has an older brother, Caleb, who is a musician.

When the agent question was in the air, school was not going well for Knightley, she said. So her mother told her: "If you come in every day with a book in your hand and a smile on your face, we will get you an agent." She got her agent at age 7.

Her credits since then have included Sabe in "Star Wars: Episode 1 The Phantom Menace."

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