Keira knightley made a very memorable Christmas movie, the endlessly memorable, beloved and star-studded Richard Curtis 2003 rom-com set Love in fact. She also made a memorable apocalypse comedy, Lorene Scafaria’s two-handed movie in 2012. Looking for a friend for the end of the world, who linked the actress to Steve Carell as aliens on a road trip as an asteroid nears Earth.
His latest film manages to blend these two genres quite impressively. Silent night, written and directed by Camille Griffin, imagines a typical Christmas Eve dinner hosted by Nell (Knightley), her husband Simon (Matthew Goode) and their sons at a UK country house attended by a group of their emotional college friends . Only, as we’ll find out, it’s not Christmas Eve – it’s the eve of an extinction level event on Earth. As a rapidly moving poison gas quickly wiped out mankind, the friends gathered the night before as they all agreed to take government-issued “exit pills” to avoid gruesome deaths.
As gloomy as it sounds, Griffin (mother of Bunny Jojo the breakout Roman Griffin Davis, portrayed with his twin brothers in real life as the children of Nell and Simon) draws a lot of end-time laughter. And Knightley, the 36-year-old play it like Beckham and Pirates of the Caribbean alum who recently announced she battles COVID-19 with her own husband and children, delivers another winning performance as a mother trying to keep it all together.
The two-time Oscar nominee (Pride and Prejudice, the imitation game) spoke to Yahoo Entertainment about her latest apocalypse movie, laughing not to cry and about the most memorable (if not very uncomfortable) experience she’s had with a Love in fact superfan.
Yahoo Entertainment: One of the last times we spoke was for Looking for a friend for the end of the world, your apocalypse comedy with Steve Carell. What brings you back to the apocalypse?
Keira Knightley: Well, I mean, it’s pretty dramatic, isn’t it? You know, what I find more interesting about these two films is that they are two writer-directors. And I feel like there’s something incredibly feminine about this way of seeing the apocalypse. No one can run, you have to sit right now and face it. Because I feel like a lot, not always, but the male version of this would be if you would try to fix it, you would try to Don’t die. And in both cases, you say to yourself: “This is it” [laughs].
With this one in particular, I think it takes that kind of dark side of the maternal psycheâ¦ I was incredibly pregnant when I first read this script and found it absolutely hilarious. There’s this amazing thing when you’re pregnant or having a child for the first time where obviously you bring life to the world, but you become incredibly aware of death. And you become incredibly aware of the fragility of this life and the responsibility you have to protect this life and the ease with which you could lose it. I feel like that really spoke to itâ¦ But I also loved, as a parent, that you spent your last night on Earth. Yet you still have a responsibility as a parent and you are still stuck in your family dynamic.
Okay, and your twins are still arguing over who gets more coke in their drink as the world is about to end.
I feel like there’s a reason why gallows humor is called gallows humorâ¦ You wait for something that you know is going to happen and you know it’s inevitable, but it’s is also inconceivable. So you go through times like, âOh, that’s really sad, and it’s really horrible. But then you’re still there, and you’re still with your friends. And so you’re still having a fun time and you’re always back in the kind of dynamic that you always are in. And then you suddenly remember [whatâs happening]. I thought it all felt very real and very true to any kind of very dramatic moment that I had in my life. It’s like finding out that someone is dead and ending up laughing, because it’s so impossible to imagine that you have this weird thing [reaction].
In the film, the world ends because of this very rapid ecological disaster. There is a lovely line from one of the children berating adults for “not listening to Greta”, of course a reference to young environmental activist Greta Thunberg. With everything going on right now and what seems like a lot of inaction in the face of the looming climate change catastrophe, have you taken that as a fairly obvious caveat?
Oh yes, sure. And that’s also what I liked about him. When we were talking about doing it, it was absolutely because of an ecological disaster and, you know, the potential destruction of the planet and the human race no longer exists – you know, all of that. Personally, I find it absolutely terrifying, so yeah, it was one hundred percent an uplifting tale. And it was also a way of [recognizing] the kids in this movie are largely from a generation of Greta Thunberg who are activists and trying to fix it and trying to push. And, you know, that absolutely condemns my generation and the generation above for our inaction. And it is awful. But there’s that layer of the movie, and on purpose.
On a lighter note, it’s also a return to the Christmas movies for you. How do you look back Love in fact 18 years later?
I think I’ve only seen him once yet. You know, I think it’s amazing. It was so interesting because when he first came out he didn’t do what everyone thought he was going to do. It didn’t really work out that well. And so the fact that over the years – and really in America, first of all – has had this incredible following and this huge kind of life afterwards, it was really amazing, you know? It’s amazing, it’s a Christmas classic. And as something that didn’t work out as well as everyone thought it was when it was released, I think it’s a really amazing thing.
So you’re not the sentimental type who wants to revisit it during the holidays?
No it’s just that I don’t watch any of my movies [laughs]. I just don’t like looking at myself. It’s kinda weird. I’m sure it’s completely awesome and everyone loves it and it’s so awesome. But it’s not just that one, I literally only see most of my movies once.
I’m sure you’ve seen some of the parodies and memes, however, involving your famous cards on the doorstep scene.
You know I actually got stuck in traffic once [in London] and someone in the car next to me did all the sign stuff. It was pretty scary, but it was also enough [laughs]â¦ It was a bit awkward to be stuck in traffic nearby. But it was also pretty sweet, there was nothing [scary].
So it was that perfect combination of sweetâ¦ and scary.
And scary, yeah [laughs]. I mean, it would have been a lot better if I could have driven straight ahead, but I couldn’t. We were very stuck there for a while.
Silent night is now in theaters and on AMC +.