'Misbehaviour' star Keira Knightley: 'It felt like a conversation, it's not preaching' (exclusive)

Tom Beasley

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.

Read more: Knightley on the “timely” story of Misbehaviour

“I didn't realise how huge [Miss World] was and is really still,” Knightley told Yahoo Movies UK.

Keira Knightley as activist Sally Alexander in 'Misbehaviour'. (Credit: Pathe)

“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.”

Read more: The faux feminism of 2019 blockbusters

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.

English historian and feminist activist Sally Alexander of the Women's Liberation Movement at a demonstration in Bow Street by the newly-formed Gay Liberation Front, London, UK, 4th February 1971. (Photo by Hilaria McCarthy/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

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'.

Keira Knightley and Gugu Mbatha-Raw in Miss World drama 'Misbehaviour'. (Credit: Pathe)

“They both have a really good point and it's not trying to condemn either side. We're still grappling with it.”

Read more: Mbatha-Raw on why she loves historical roles

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.