Director John Carney Slams Keira Knightley’s Work In ‘Begin Again’

Coming out strong from its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January, and warmly embraced by critics, “Sing Street” is seen as a return to form for “Once” director John Carney after his starry, but far less well received “Begin Again.” So you might think the filmmaker would just put that poorly-reviewed film behind him and move on, but oddly enough, he used a recent interview to celebrate his latest achievement by putting some of the blame of “Begin Again” on the shoulders of a two-time Oscar nominee.

READ MORE: Review: John Carney’s Terrific And Joyous Musical ‘Sing Street’

“It’s fantastic. I’m very surprised; it’s a small personal movie with no Keira Knightleys in it. It’s really rewarding,” Carney told The Independent, answering the first question they asked him about the positive reception to “Sing Street.” And it’s not the last time he puts the actress in the crosshairs, in a conversation that makes it seem like he weirdly has it out for her.

At length, the filmmaker states that Knightley’s lack of musical talent was a problem on “Begin Again,” claiming that audiences couldn’t get past that fact, and says the actress and her team hindered his creative mojo.

“…not that I didn’t enjoy ‘Begin Again,’ but Keira has an entourage that follow her everywhere so it’s very hard to get any real work done, and so I was very ready to come back to Ireland and make films that nobody cared about who was in it or any of that crap,” Carney said.

“I think the real problem was that Keira wasn’t a singer and wasn’t a guitar player and it’s very hard to make music seem real if it’s not with musicians,” he continued. “And I think the audience struggled a little bit with that in ‘Begin Again.’ And as much as I tried to make it work I think that she didn’t quite come out as a guitar-playing singer-songwriter. So I really wanted to work with musicians and actors that could play their instruments properly and sing and stuff like that.”

It’s certainly far easier for Carney to pin the blame on Knightley rather than take a hard look at his own predictable screenplay for “Begin Again” that presents a music industry that no longer exists, and has a number of completely forgettable songs, a fact that wouldn’t change no matter who sung them. And yet, Carney goes on to say that perhaps Knightley just didn’t have the talent required to portray what was required for the movie.

“I think that that’s what you need as an actor; you need to not be afraid to find out who you really are when the camera’s rolling. Keira’s thing is to hide who you are and I don’t think you can be an actor and do that,” he said. “I don’t want to rubbish Keira, but you know it’s hard being a film actor and it requires a certain level of honesty and self-analysis that I don’t think she’s ready for yet and I certainly don’t think she was ready for on that film.”

I also think it requires a certain level of honesty and self-analysis for a director to truly understand why a movie didn’t work, beyond just finding someone else to point the finger toward. And there is something very distasteful reading Carney target a collaborator who stepped outside their comfort zone, promoted the movie, and did the work (the director even concedes that Knightley and James Corden improvised the best moment in the film). It comes off as petty, especially when it’s a couple years now after the fact.

Thoughts? Let us know below.