Gwyneth Paltrow and Keira Knightley 'too whiney and wooden' for Jane Austen movies

Ben Arnold
UK Movies Writer
Wooden… Knightley’s performance in Pride and Prejudice is slammed by Austen expert – Credit: Working Title

Gwyneth Paltrow and Keira Knightley were both thoroughly unsuitable to star in movie adaptations of Jane Austen novels, according to an expert on the celebrated novelist.

Paula Byrne, while speaking about her book ‘The Genius of Jane Austen: Her Love of Theatre and Why She is a Hit in Hollywood’ at the Hay Festival, slated the two actresses, Paltrow for her ‘nasal whine’ and Knightley for being ‘wooden’.

Knightley scored an Oscar nomination for her Elizabeth Bennet in Joe Wright’s 2005 version of ‘Pride and Prejudice’, while Paltrow played the lead in the 1996 adaptation of ‘Emma’, alongside Ewan McGregor and Toni Collette.

But neither were up to snuff, Byrne said.

“I didn’t like Keira Knightley at all. I thought she was completely wrong for Elizabeth Bennet,” she said, according to the Daily Telegraph.

“She has a great back, a beautiful back, and all we can see is her back. I found her quite wooden and she doesn’t articulate very well.

“And she is way too beautiful for Elizabeth because the one thing we know about Elizabeth is that her sister is very beautiful but Elizabeth just has ‘fine eyes’ and that’s all we know about Elizabeth, that she has fine eyes.

“Elizabeth Bennet is a very interesting character for her vivacity. She is a very unusual character for the 18th century. But she is not beautiful.

“Jane Austen made it clear she was not writing heroines who were drop dead beautiful, she was writing about a new kind of heroine. Keira Knightley was not just right for the role.”

(Credit: Miramax)

Then taking aim at Paltrow, she zeroed in on Paltrow’s supposedly ‘whiney’ voice.

“Then there’s Gwyneth Paltrow in ‘Emma’ – that voice, that nasal whine,” she went on.

“It just drives me mad! It’s like Keira Knightley – she’s got that nasal thing going on too.

“You don’t really want to feel like strangling Emma – you get annoyed with her, the character, because she’s such a horrible snob and gets things wrong.

“But we find her lovable as well and Gwyneth Paltrow was not lovable enough for me.”

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