‘Boston Strangler’ Director Wanted Keira Knightley and Carrie Coon to “Stay Away” From Boston Accents

Stop the presses, because the new Keira Knightley movie on Hulu, Boston Strangler, is not a British period piece. It is, in fact, an American period piece. And Knightley is every bit at home in it as she is on sweeping English manors and ornate British naval ships, proving that it doesn’t matter which side of the pond Knightley is on, she’s still a period piece queen.

Written and directed by Matt Ruskin, Boston Strangler is based on the true story of the grizzly murders of 13 women in the Boston area in the early 1960s. Knightley stars as Loretta McLaughlin, a real-life, award-winning investigative journalist who covered the murders alongside fellow journalist Jean Cole (played by Carrie Coon in the film) for the Boston Record American. As Loretta, Knightley is sharp, driven, and ambitious; fighting to make a name for herself in a male-dominated newsroom. Knightley is certainly known for playing fiercely independent women—hello, Elizabeths Bennett and Swan—but it’s both unusual and refreshing to see her as a middle-class, working girl.

In an interview with Decider, director Matt Ruskin said he thought Knightley was “the perfect person to play Loretta. She had all the characteristics that we were looking for—this incredible outward strength, but also this ability to convey a compelling interior life. And I think she identified on a personal level with Loretta’s story, as a woman who has a demanding career and a family. She could identify with some of those challenges.”

‘boston strangler’ director wanted keira knightley and carrie coon to “stay away” from boston accents
Photo: HULU

And yes, Loretta is American, and Bostonian to boot. This isn’t the first time Knightley put on her American voice—she also did so in 2005’s The Jacket and again in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit—but it still takes a moment to adjust to the notoriously British actress speaking without her signature posh voice. Once you get used to it, though, you won’t even blink, because Knightley’s accent flows effortlessly. She does not, however, attempt to do the Boston accent, despite the title and setting of the film. You won’t hear Loretta talking about any “cahs” or “killahs” in this movie. That was a deliberate choice, Ruskin—a Boston native himself— told Decider.

“I wanted to stay away from it,” Ruskin said. “She definitely could do it. But coming from Boston, I felt like I didn’t want people to be talking about the accents. I wanted them to be talking about the story and the characters.”

In a separate interview with People, both Coon and Knightley expressed their disappointment that didn’t get to try out their Mark Wahlberg impressions. “Matt Ruskin, our writer/director, is from Boston and very insistent that anybody who is not from Boston was not going to be doing an accent, because he claims he’s from Boston and he doesn’t have an accent. But he does,” Coon said with a laugh.

Knightley agreed, adding, “All of the actors were very disappointed. We all tried to talk Matt Ruskin, our lovely writer/director, into letting us do the Boston accent, and he was like, ‘Absolutely not.’ So we failed, but I kind of hear him, because as I found out, people are very opinionated about that accent. There’s a lot around it. So he was just like, ‘We’re not touching that.’”

Honestly, it was probably the right call. It’s startling enough to see Knightley as an American, but reader, she pulls it off. It helps that Boston Strangler isn’t a modern Boston movie. Something about Knightley’s look is so distinctly old-fashioned, perfect for the classic look of the late ’50s and early ’60s fashion. Personally, I’m not convinced that Knightley isn’t a time-traveler who accidentally got stuck in the future, and has learned to make the most of it through a career in films set in the past. Whether she’s playing British or American, Knightley is truly the period actress. Even if she’s not quite ready for the Boston accent just yet.

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