Tuesday, 1 July 2014 | MYT 7:10 PM

Keira Knightley sings on the streets of New York in 'Begin Again'

From the director of Once comes a new movie that finds the British actress singing on the streets of New York.

Keira Knightley, known for playing tragic heroines in period dramas, strays into new territory with her first major singing role in Begin Again, a feel-good film about the music industry and starting over. The film, which opens in the US in July, was written and directed by Ireland’s John Carney, whose 2006 indie musical Once nabbed the best original song Oscar for Falling Slowly.

Like its predecessor, Begin Again is laced with music, much of it sung by Knightley, along with Maroon 5’s frontman Adam Levine, who is making his film debut. For Knightley, singing on screen was definitely not something she was born to do. "The whole thing was out of my comfort zone. I am not a singer. I didn’t know how to do that," Knightley, an Oscar Best Actress nominee in 2006 for her role in Pride & Prejudice, said in an interview.

One more time: Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo in a scene from Begin Again, which sees the actress playing a down-on-her-luck ingénue who is persuaded by a down-on-his-luck producer to collaborate on recording her music on the streets of New York. 

"A lot of the film was improvised, and I had never done that before. I’d say that those two were major things to be grappling with," added the 29-year-old actress, who took voice lessons to prepare for the film.

New beginnings

In the film, Knightley plays Gretta, a British songwriter and reluctant singer who arrives in New York with her long-time boyfriend Dave, played by Levine, just as he is about to hit the big time. As fame clouds his judgement, Dave strays and leaves a bereft Gretta on the verge of returning home. 

That is, until she’s discovered by a chain-smoking, down-and-out record producer named Dan, played by Oscar nominee Mark Ruffalo. Dan persuades Gretta to record her songs live on the streets of New York for a CD to revive his non-existent career. Along the way, the two strike up an unusual friendship. 

"Essentially, what it is about is people falling down in life and trying to pick themselves back up, whether that is romantically or whatever," said Knightley.

Ruffalo describes his own character’s transformation. "I like the meditation on the character’s journey back to his creative self from this material world, and coupled with a mid-life crisis and a marriage that is going through a transition," Ruffalo said about the role. "There is just a lot of fertile ground," he added about the film that premièred at the Toronto Film Festival last year.

The cast of Begin Again is rounded out by an embarrassing wealth of talent: Catherine Keener plays Dan’s estranged wife, Oscar nominee Hailee Steinfeld his rebellious daughter, and 2012 best actor Tony winner James Corden is Gretta’s struggling musician friend Steve. Meanwhile, Grammy-winning singer CeeLo Green and Yasiin Bey (formerly known as hip hop artist Mos Def) play Dan’s music colleagues. 

Ruffalo, whose career started in the theatre, wouldn’t mind if like Once  which was adapted into a Broadway show and won eight Tony awards, including best musical — Carney’s new film gets adapted for the stage. "I think this could be an easy move," he said. "So much of the work is already done." — Reuters

Tags / Keywords: Lifestyle , Entertainment , Movies , Entertainment , Movies , Musical , Begin Again , Keira Knightley , Mark Ruffalo , Adam Levine , John Carney , Once , starting over , reinvention


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