There are plenty of reasons why audiences should watch Colette, a new film starring Keira Knightley and Dominic West about the French author who ghostwrote hugely successful books for her husband. Firstly, there’s its relevancy – a young talented woman is exploited by a domineering man, a story that feels timely in a Time’s Up era, and a marriage between two people who gave up their privacy for fame and status.
“My character Willy was essentially trying to create the Kim and Kanye of Belle Epoque Paris,” says Dominic West. “Without Colette and Willy, no party was a party. They cannibalised their lives for notoriety, so nothing that happened in their lives was private – everything was fair game for public consumption.”
Then there’s its female lead, an engaging mix of intelligent, funny and pioneering. Then there’s the unarguable chemistry between its two stars – the relationship between Knightley’s Colette and West’s Willy is a convincing love affair that offers a complexity that goes beyond a victim-abuser narrative.
“From my point of view, it was dead easy falling in love with Keira Knightley,” said West. “It’s not hard to imagine that you’d feel gutted if she was leaving you or wanted a divorce.”
The two spent two weeks in rehearsals together before shooting started, where they learnt to Polka dance, which West says broke the ice.
“There’s nothing like a bit of ballroom to bring a couple together as we know from Strictly,” says West. “Keira is very easy to love.”