Keira Knightley: What's next after 'Anna Karenina'?

Keira Knightley won out against several other actresses for one of her next roles. Knightley stars in 'Anna Karenina,' an adaptation of the Tolstoy novel that was released this month.

Laurie Sparham/Focus Features/AP
Keira Knightley stars as the title character in 'Anna Karenina.'

Kenneth Branagh is moving full-steam ahead on his Jack Ryan franchiser restart, wherein he’ll portray a malevolent financial strategist whose attempts to lay ruin to the U.S. economy are complicated by a pre-CIA Ryan (Chris Pine). Branagh is, of course, also directing the project – taking over from long-attached helmer Jack Bender – and working from David Koepp’s script draft.

The actor/filmmaker is searching for an actress to portray Ryan’s (future?) wife, and Keira Knightley is said to be the frontrunner for the role. Knightley strayed into new territory this summer with the indie dramedy Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, but she’s back to working on lavishing period drama fare this fall with Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina adaptation.

Deadline reports that Felicity Jones (Like Crazy) and Evangeline Lilly (Lost) were in the mix for Branagh’s Jack Ryan movie (which is still without an official title). Total Recall co-headliners Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel had previously been offered the role with an option to return for two sequels (should they happen), but both took a pass. That could be interpreted as a sign that the role amounts to little more than moral support and/or a passive love interest.

UPDATE: Heat Vision says Knightley has officially entered negotiations to co-headline the Jack Ryan reboot. Branagh auditioned several actresses over the past few weeks, before re-approaching Knightley – who was the first actress considered by Paramount.

Jones is experienced at playing refined and dignified characters in period pieces (Brideshead RevisitedHysteria), whereas Lilly has a history of portraying more modern female archetypes in films like The Hurt Locker and Real Steel. Knightley actually meets them somewhere in the middle, thanks to her period drama work and efforts in films like Domino and Pirates of the Caribbean. So, perhaps the character of Ryan’s wife calls for someone who can play prim and proper, without coming off as an outdated representation of such a woman.

Paramount’s struggle to get the Jack Ryan reboot going has been further hampered by Pine’s schedule, as the project was pushed back in order to allow him time for filming on J.J. AbramsStar Trek sequel. The studio has also burned through several writers to get the story right, as a result of competing interests from Pine, Paramount heads, and producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura (who’re pushing for the film to be a character-oriented espionage drama, an action flick, and a thriller, respectively).

Koepp has (it seems) found a way to satisfy the demands of all concerned parties, while also delivering a script draft that was solid enough to catch Branagh’s eye. The final film is shaping up to be worth the heavy-lifting required to reach this point (in this writer’s opinion, that is).

We’ll continue to keep you updated on the Jack Ryan reboot as the story develops.

Sandy Schaefer blogs at Screen Rant.

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