Keira Knightley can do no wrong in my book. For most millennials, the English actor has been as constant as the moon, appearing in some of the most beloved and highest-grossing films of the 2000s. After bagging an early break in Star Wars The Phantom Menace in which she played Sabé, the decoy for Natalie Portman’s Queen Padmé, Knightley rose to fame with her role in Bend It Like Beckham. Over the next few years, she cemented herself as one of Hollywood’s most cherished young talents, appearing in both The Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise and Richard Curtis’ Love Actually. Since then, she has starred in a number of critically acclaimed period dramas, including The Duchess, Atonement, and Collete.
Speaking to MTV, Knightley opened up about her favourite film of all time: “I think my favourite movie has to be [director Patrice Chéreau’s] La Reine Margot (Queen Margot),” she said, adding: “I think it’s the one that I come back to all the time and still completely love. I think it’s probably because it crosses so many genres. I think one of my least favourite things is the idea that a film has to fit into a pigeonhole. And with this one you have romance and action and adventure and history and its breadth is huge, and it’s beautiful and the acting is wonderful.”
Release in 1994, La Reine Margot is an ornate adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ historical novel of the same name. Set during the bloody religious conflict of the late 16th century, director Patrice Chereau presents his audience with a blood-soaked and sexually explicit costume drama unlike anything else in the genre. The sheer spectacle of Chereau’s film would have been enough to cause controversy, had it not been for the premiere of Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, which was released just a few days after La Reine Margot at the Cannes Film Festival.
That’s not to say that Chereau’s gilded offering didn’t catch the attention of the Cannes panel. La Reine Margot saw Italian Actress Virna Lisi win the award for Best Actress, while Chereau bagged the Special Jury Prize. The film also won five Cesar Awards. Its popularity amongst European audiences clearly wasn’t enough for Miramax Films, which promptly bagged the American distribution rights, chopped 20 minutes from its 161-minute run time, and asked Chereau to implant a restored scene that he had previously cut to emphasise the romantic subplot. Still, La Reine Margot survived as one of the most intoxicating period dramas of the 1990s. Even with the rise of gory, sex-filled historical drama like Game of Thrones, it still packs one hell of a punch.