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18 October 2019 18:39

Keira Knightley portrays Iraq War whistleblower Katharine Gun in political thriller 'Official Secrets'.

Keira Knightley on Official Secrets

Please log in Register with your social account or click here to log in I would like to receive the best London offers and activities every week, by email Update newsletter preferences Gavin Hood's last film, Eye in the Sky, about the decision as to whether or not to order a drone strike, was naturally cinematic. If Eye in the Sky was primarily concerned with the moral dilemma of ordering a missile strike, with its collateral damage, it was nonetheless intensely watchable as a special kind of action movie, being about looking and seeing, living and dying, through what's on a screen. Official Secrets, directed by Hood and produced by Ged Doherty's Raindog Films (its previous credits being Eye in the Sky and Jeff Nichols's lovely Loving), is very clearly in the same mould, a film about integrity, decency and personal responsibility in a challenging situation. But, critically, it lacks action and visual excitement, for the key event it depicts is the leaking of a single email. Not, I am afraid, by making it as diligently true to life as Official Secrets.

In early 2003, Katharine Gun, then in her late twenties, a translator at GCHQ in Cheltenham, read an email at work from one Frank Koza, a chief of staff at the US National Security Agency. Koza was asking for help in illegally bugging the offices of the smaller nations sitting on the UN Security Council, which was about to vote on whether or not to approve the 2003 invasion of Iraq, in order to exert pressure on them, presumably through blackmail or bribery. Gun, strongly opposed to the war, was shocked by the email, printed it out and gave it to a friend with journalistic contacts. In March 2003 it was published on the front page of The Observer and a few days later Gun confessed to her supervisor that she had leaked it. She was arrested and spent one night in police custody, not being charged under the Official Secrets Act until November of that year.

Official Secrets opens with Gun (Keira Knightley) in the dock. "How do you plead — guilty or not guilty?" But the film that follows is never suspenseful, try as it might to make the printing out and the handing over as tense as possible. The greatest dramatic reversal here comes when the Observer newsroom realise to their horror that the email might not be believed because, having accidentally been put through spellcheck by an intern, its American spelling has been corrected to English (recognize/recognise). Knightley, for some of us, is endlessly watchable (I'm afraid I once wrote in this paper that I'd be happy to watch her for an hour and 50 minutes doing whatever she fancied, as it might be, the washing up). Matt Smith is perky as Observer reporter Martin Bright, who broke the story.

Although Gun did not succeed in stopping the Iraq War as she had hoped, the UN did not give its blessing. A new blockbuster film partly shot in Yorkshire hits the cinemas today in the latest boost for the region's screen industry. Official Secrets, which stars Keira Knightley and Matt Smith, us now out on general release in the UK. Filming took place at Bradford's City Hall - which doubles as the Old Bailey - Leeds and around North Yorkshire. Knightley portrays GCHQ whistleblower Katharine Gun in the film, which is based on true events.

Leeds-based Screen Yorkshire supported the film through its Yorkshire Content Fund, a resource that has helped more than 40 projects since 2012, when it backed Peaky Blinders. Raindog Films had already secured funding from a Chinese investor, which Screen Yorkshire then matched. Bradford City Hall doubles for the Old Bailey in Official Secrets. This meant that when Raindog Films approached studio Entertainment One about the movie, having the finances in place meant that the decision to take on the project was a "no-brainer," according to Screen Yorkshire Ged Doherty, producer of Official Secrets, previously said: "Screen Yorkshire shared our ambition for this film to be both a commercial and creative success. They were very supportive and film-maker friendly." Meanwhile, Knightley has also delved into the debate about whistle-blowing and espionage for the film.

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-> Yorkshire shines at BFI London Film Festival with Hope Gap, The Personal History of David Copperfield and Official Secrets Knightley, who plays the whistle-blower, said that far from being punished for wrongdoing, many are rewarded. The actress hopes her latest film will explore these areas of moral ambiguity, and give the audience something to think about. She believes the issue of whether whistle-blowers should be punished or rewarded is an important one. Knightley said: "How much do we want our secret services to be morally accountable for their actions, how much is that possible, should people be whistle-blowing, should that information come out? Keira Knightley on her new film Official Secrets. She talks about watching the film from an audience's perspective where they can question the morals of her character. Knightley plays a British whistleblower who leaked information to the press about an illegal NSA spy operation designed to push the UN Security Council into sanctioning the 2003 invasion of Iraq. I'd never heard of Katherine Gun. And I remember a lot about the lead up to the 2003 war, but I was just kind of fascinated that I didn't know this piece of the puzzle. And so I read it and just felt like it was kind of quite an important story to tell. In 2003 I was anti-war and I was on some of the anti-war marches, but not the biggest one because I was also filming Pirates of the Caribbean. During the biggest [march], I was actually in LA on the phone to friends of mine who were there, as I was dressed as a pirate. I think that's all politics is, looking at the world around you. It's a very interesting time for this film to come out. Why is it that now was the time to tell this story? I think all of a sudden people are more politically aware right now. I know that they've been trying to tell this story for a number of years and they couldn't get financing for it or one way or another it didn't come together. But right now there is a thirst for more of a political kind of conversation. The film is about how Katherine Gun tries to stop the Iraq war, but she often talks about her mission as a failure. It's a heroic failure, but yeah, of course [it failed] because the Iraq war happened. What she was trying to do was stop a war. But I think where she absolutely isn't a failure is that very few of us stand up. Keira Knightley has said her upcoming comedy movie Misbehaviour is a "pretty timely" story about feminism in the 1970s, set around an infamous edition of the Miss World competition. In an interview to promote her new political thriller Official Secrets, which tells its own tale with modern relevance, Knightley said the new film is every bit as resonant. Read more: Cast and crew reveal the true story behind Official Secrets The 34-year-old star will portray historian and feminist activist Sally Alexander in the film, which is being directed by Philippa Lowthorpe, who is best known for her work at the helm of hard-hitting BBC drama Three Girls. "Misbehaviour is about the 1970 Miss World competition," Knightley tells Yahoo Movies UK. "The Women's Lib protested it and actually stopped the show and managed to throw some flour bombs at Bob Hope. So the film is about that."Comedian Bob Hope crowns Jennifer Hosten as the winner of the Miss World 1970 beauty pageant at the Royal Albert Hall in London, 20th November 1970. The rest of the cast includes Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Jennifer Hosten — the Grenadian beauty queen who won Miss World — as well as Jessie Buckley, Lesley Manville, Keeley Hawes and Rhys Ifans. Read more: The pattern of faux feminism in blockbuster movies Greg Kinnear will portray stand-up comedian Hope, who was caught up in the chaos of the protest. Knightley said: "It's a really interesting one about feminism and hopefully it's a lot of fun as well." 21st November 1970: The Miss World contest causes a feminist storm as demonstrators invade the Royal Albert Hall where the contest was held. In Official Secrets, Knightley portrays Iraq War whistleblower Katharine Gun, who leaked a memo revealing US/UK plans to influence member states on the United Nations Security Council to vote for war. Matt Smith co-stars as the Observer journalist Martin Bright, while Ralph Fiennes portrays human rights lawyer Ben Emmerson. Keira Knightley portrays Iraq War whistleblower Katharine Gun in political thriller 'Official Secrets'. Read more: Knightley has banned her daughter from watching these Disney films Official Secrets will be released into UK cinemas on 18 October and Misbehaviour is due for release next year.