Keira Knightley - Biography
Keira Christina Knightley, born 26
March 1985) is an English film actress. She began her career as a child
and came to international prominence in 2003 after co-starring in the
films Bend It Like Beckham and the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy.
Knightley has appeared in several Hollywood films and earned nominations
for the Academy Award for Best Actress and Golden Globe Award for Best
Actress for her role as Elizabeth Bennet in Joe Wright's 2005 adaptation
of Jane Austen's novel Pride and Prejudice. Two years later she again was
nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress, as well as the
BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her performance in
In 2008, Forbes claimed Knightley to be the second highest paid actress in
Hollywood (behind Cameron Diaz), having reportedly earned $32 million in
2007, making her the only non-American person on the list of highest paid
actors or actresses.
Knightley was born in Teddington, Greater London, England, the daughter of
Sharman Macdonald, an award-winning playwright, and Will Knightley, a
theatre and television actor. Her father is English, and her mother is
Scottish and of half Welsh ancestry. She has an elder brother, Caleb, who
was born in 1979. Knightley lived in Richmond, attending Stanley Junior
School, Teddington School and Esher College. She has dyslexia, but
nevertheless was successful in school and was thus permitted to acquire a
talent agent and pursue an acting career. She requested an agent as early
as the age of three and got one when she turned six, from her mother as a
reward for studying hard. Knightley has noted that she was "single-minded
about acting" during her childhood. She performed in a number of local
amateur productions, including After Juliet (written by her mother) and
United States (written by her then drama teacher, Ian McShane, no relation
to the Deadwood actor).
Knightley appeared in several television movies in the mid to late
1990s—as well as ITV1's The Bill—before being cast as Sabé, Padmé
Amidala's decoy, in the 1999 science fiction blockbuster Star Wars Episode
I: The Phantom Menace. Knightley was cast in the role due to her close
resemblance to Natalie Portman, who played Padmé; the two actresses'
mothers had difficulty telling their daughters apart when the girls were
in full makeup. Knightley's first starring role followed in 2001, when she
played the daughter of Robin Hood in the made-for-television Walt Disney
Productions feature, Princess of Thieves. During this time, Knightley also
appeared in The Hole, a thriller that received a direct-to-video release
in the United States. She appeared in a miniseries adaptation of Doctor
Zhivago that first aired in 2002 to mixed reviews but high ratings.
Knightley's breakthrough role was in the football-themed film, Bend It
Like Beckham, which was a success in its August 2002 UK release, grossing
$18 million, and in its March 2003 U.S. release, grossing $32 million.
After Bend It Like Beckham's UK release raised her profile, she was cast
in the big budget action film, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the
Black Pearl (along with Orlando Bloom and Johnny Depp) which was produced
by Jerry Bruckheimer and opened in July 2003 to positive reviews and high
box office grosses, becoming one of the biggest hits of summer 2003 and
cementing Knightley as the new "It" girl.
Knightley had a role in the British romantic comedy Love Actually, which
opened in November 2003. Her next film, King Arthur, opened in July 2004
to negative reviews. In the same month, Knightley was voted by readers of
Hello! magazine as the film industry's most promising teen star.
Additionally, Time magazine noted in a 2004 feature that Knightley seemed
dedicated to developing herself as a serious actress rather than a film
2005 saw the release of three films, the first of which was The Jacket.
The complex thriller starring Adrien Brody was derided by critics as
unoriginal, silly and messy. Knightley was taken to task for her American
accent but was otherwise dismissed by critics. Next came Tony Scott's
Domino, an action film based on the life of bounty hunter Domino Harvey.
The film has been Knightley's greatest critical flop to date. Knightley's
critics often suggested she was nothing more than a pretty face, which led
the young starlet to comment to Elle magazine, "I always feel like I’m the
one with everything to prove."
Pride & Prejudice rounded out 2005. Variety wrote about her portrayal of
Elizabeth Bennet: "Looking every bit a star, Knightley, who's shown more
spirit than acting smarts so far in her career, really steps up to the
plate here, holding her own against the more classically trained Matthew
Macfadyen, as well as vets like Brenda Blethyn, Donald Sutherland,
Penelope Wilton, and Judi Dench with a luminous strength that recalls a
young Audrey Hepburn. More than the older Jennifer Ehle in the TV series,
she catches Elizabeth's essential skittishness and youthful braggadocio,
making her final conversion all the more moving." The film grossed more
than $100 million worldwide, and Knightley earned a Golden Globe
nomination and an Oscar nomination (the Oscar ultimately went to Reese
Witherspoon). The Academy Award nomination made her the third-youngest
performer ever nominated. BAFTA's decision not to nominate her drew
criticism from Pride & Prejudice producer Tim Bevan.
In 2006, Knightley was invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts
and Sciences. Her biggest financial hit thus far, Pirates of the
Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, was released in July.
2007 saw the release of several films starring Knightley: Silk, an
adaptation of the novel by Alessandro Baricco, Atonement, a feature film
adaptation of Ian McEwan's novel of the same name (co-starring James
McAvoy, Vanessa Redgrave, and Brenda Blethyn), and Pirates of the
Caribbean: At World's End, which was released in May 2007. Knightley's
performance in Atonement began to generate buzz before the film was
released; she was nominated for a Golden Globe Award in the Best Dramatic
Actress category for the role, as well as a BAFTA Award. Critic Richard
Roeper was puzzled by both Knightley's and McAvoy's Academy Award snubs,
stating "I thought McAvoy and Knightly were superb."
In the late spring of 2007, Knightley shot The Edge of Love with Cillian
Murphy as her husband, Matthew Rhys as her childhood sweetheart, Welsh
poet Dylan Thomas, and Sienna Miller as Thomas' wife Caitlin MacNamara.
She received, for the most part, very positive reviews for her role. The
2008 release was penned by her mother, Sharman Macdonald, and directed by
John Maybury. She then filmed The Duchess, based on the best-selling
biography, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman in which she
played Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire; the film was released
in cinemas on 5 September 2008 in the U.K.
Knightley appears in the present-day drama Last Night, in which she
co-starred with Eva Mendes, Sam Worthington, and Guillaume Canet; it was
directed by Massy Tadjedin. In April 2009, Knightley began work on an
adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro's dystopian novel, Never Let Me Go. Filming
took place in Norfolk and Clevedon.
Upcoming films for 2010 include London Boulevard with Colin Farrell, the
script of which is written by William Monahan, who will also make his
Knightley successfully auditioned for the role of Eliza Doolittle in the
Columbia Pictures planned remake of the stage musical My Fair Lady to be
produced by Cameron Mackintosh, although no release date has yet been
scheduled. She will also work on The Beautiful and the Damned, a biopic
about the life and relationship of American novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald
and his novelist wife Zelda Sayre. The film is directed by John Curran and
scheduled for release in 2010.
In 2008, she was attached to play Cordelia in a big screen adaptation of
King Lear, which was subsequently abandoned. Knightley has confirmed that
she will not be starring in the fourth installment of Pirates of the
Knightley made her West End debut in Martin Crimp's version of Molière's
comedy, The Misanthrope, at the Comedy Theatre in London alongside Damian
Lewis, Tara Fitzgerald, and Dominic Rowan. in December 2009. Reviews for
her portrayal of Jennifer in the play were generally positive. The Daily
Telegraph described her performance as revealing "both power and
poignancy" and The Independent called her performance "not only strikingly
convincing but, at times, rather thrilling in its satiric aplomb" The
Guardian, however, noted that due to the nature of the role "one could say
that she is not unduly stretched" and The Daily Mail described her as
"little better than adequate".
As a result of her rapid rise to fame, Knightley has been the focus of
significant media attention. She has been described by press reports as
"famously open with media," although Knightley herself has stated "I don't
talk about my private life."
Knightley has appeared many times in FHMs UK 100 Sexiest Women in the
World list. Ranked #79 in 2004 she climbed to #18 in 2005, and was named
"the sexiest woman in the world in 2006." In 2007 she was 12th, 10th in
2008 and came 36th in 2009. The US edition ranked her #54 in 2004, #11 in
2005, and #5 in 2006. In May 2006, she was #9 on Maxim's 2006 Hot 100. She
was also named "the number one beauty icon of 2007" by a poll of 2500
people conducted by UK high street chain Superdrug. Knightley appeared
nude, along with Scarlett Johansson, on the cover of Vanity Fair
magazine's March 2006 "Hollywood" issue.
Knightley was the celebrity face for the luxury goods brand Asprey, as
well as Lux haircare products in Japanese television commercials. In April
2006, she was confirmed as the new celebrity face of Chanel's perfume Coco
Mademoiselle, though the first photo from the campaign was not released
until May 2007.
Knightley's Valentino gown at the 2006 Golden Globe Awards won her much
acclaim and even landed her the top spot on Steven Cojocaru's "Best
Dressed List" on Entertainment Tonight, while the dress she wore to the
2006 Academy Awards was donated to the charity Oxfam, where it raised
Knightley has warned children who dream of the celebrity life that it's
not all what it seems to be. "It frightens me when kids go, 'I want to be
famous.'" In a recent interview with the BBC Knightley said that she feels
"de-humanised." She also said that when a person becomes a celebrity, the
public doesn't care that the person's life is constantly watched.
While she has no current plans to leave the world of film, Knightley has
said that she could not imagine subjecting a child to the media. She is
quoted as saying, "I'm not planning to have children at the moment...
everyone changes, and I'm sure there will be a time I will want to do
something different. I could completely see myself moving away [from
Knightley, who lives in London, is involved with her Pride & Prejudice
co-star Rupert Friend. Knightley has stated she has no plans to be married
in the near future. She previously dated Northern Irish fashion model
Knightley has denied rumours she is anorexic, although she did say—after
her appearance at the Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest premiere
led to media speculation that her extremely slender figure was due to an
eating disorder—that her family has a history of anorexia. Knightley sued
the Daily Mail after they claimed she lied about having anorexia; the
article said that a teenage girl died from anorexia, indicating that
Knightley's physical appearance may have influenced her in some way. She
was awarded a settlement.
In July 2006, Knightley said she has become a workaholic, detailing that
"the last five years have blended into one. I can't tell you what was last
year and what was the year before" and specifying that she was "working
too much" and was "quite frightened that if I continue at this rate I will
start to hate what I love," even suggesting that she would take a one-year
break from acting to travel and focus on her personal life.
Keira Knightley - Personal Quotes
"The problem for me was that
by being in the film the magic was broken. I loved the first Star
Wars film and my mum was really into it too, that's why I took the
part. But the Force wasn't there when we were filming it, and they
didn't have real light sabres, which annoyed me."
About wearing a corset on Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the
Black Pearl (2003): "I had a Scarlett O'Hara thing, she gets her
waist down to 18 and a half inches--so I thought I would try that.
For five minutes, it's fantastic--you have this tiny waist and
fantastic cleavage, but oxygen deprivation is a big problem!"
(About kissing Orlando Bloom in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse
of the Black Pearl (2003)) There were these teen-aged girls off-cam,
and they were ready to kill me because I kissed Orlando Bloom!
"I feel less blonde now and, er, smarter!"
"There's no point having an 18th birthday in America."
"I've always been a snob about qualifications."
on Bend It Like Beckham (2002): "I thought there would be
doubles--stunt doubles--and I would just run in for the close-ups,
but unfortunately they didn't have the money for that."
(After being called the new Hayley Mills) "That was cruel! Nothing
against Hayley Mills, but I'm trying to be cool here. I'm trying to
"Do you know that on all the sets I've been on, nobody has ever made
a pass at me?"
(on shoes) "I see a pair of shoes I adore, and it doesn't matter if
they have them in my size. I buy them anyway."
(On "The View" (1997)) "I met Barbara Walters backstage and didn't
know who she was. She's an American phenomenon, I was told later.
I'm just sooo English".
(at a photo shoot) "I'm a hooker in these pictures, and I must be a
high priced one because I'm staying at the Ritz, which is good."
"I'm a tomboy beanpole? I can't use a computer, so maybe I'm a bit
out of the loop. I don't know whether to be flattered or not
flattered. The beanpole bit, is that good? Can you be a sexy
"Katharine Hepburn and Vivien Leigh are my heroes. Not because of
their ability, but because of their perseverance".
"When in doubt, faint."
on making Love Actually (2003): "We had kind of done all our wedding
and we felt like the stars of the show, then sudden you've got all
these other people with story lines and you think: Excuse me, I know
you're Alan Rickman, but get out of my film, please, thank you."
I know for a fact the work is going to dry up, and people will get
bored of me. That's not bitterness, just the truth.
(On her conception) I was a bet. My mum was desperate for another
child, and my dad told her that the only way they could afford to
have one was if she sold a play. So Mum wrote When I Was a Girl, I
Used to Scream and Shout.
I don't think I can call myself an actress yet. I just don't think
my skill level is that high. I hope that with every job it gets
better. But until I'm good, I can say I'm trying to be an actor, but
I don't think I've completely made it.
As a moviegoer and a woman, I want to see that, so it's great to get
to play parts like that. But Guinevere is a terrifying creature. If
I saw a battle, I'd run in the other direction. I'm not strong in
that way at all. But I'm certainly someone who has always known what
I wanted and tried to get it.
In this business, fame lasts for a second. You can be blown up and
be blown down. People keep losing interest in faces because new ones
come along every single second. I'm one at the moment. Tomorrow I
won't be. That's cool. I'm not saying that when it does end, I'll be
like, 'Yay! It's ending.' But I'll move on and do something else
because that's what has to be done. It's about survival. If you're
sad about it, then you're in the wrong job.
(On actresses living in Hollywood) I take my hat off to actresses
there, particularly the young ones, because the emphasis is on
trying to find perfection. But I think it's the imperfections in
people that make them perfect. I don't find perfect faces very
Acting requires me to be very observant, which means being able to
sit in cafes for hours and watch people.
"I don't have a problem with my body. I'm not just going to strip
off all my clothing, but if the part calls for it and I don't think
there's any way round, I'm absolutely fine."
"I'm a bit of a tomboy so the action stuff was fantastic."
It's also strange when people recognise you in the street and they
know you but you don't know them. It's a little weird, but nothing
to complain about.
"I'd wanted to get stuck into the action on Pirates of the Caribbean
and I asked Jerry [Jerry Bruckheimer if I could have a sword fight
in that, and he more than made up for it in King Arthur (2004) by
giving me axe fights, knife fights, and all the rest of it. I
absolutely loved it. It was like being 11 years old and in the
"It was part of the job. There's no point in being embarrassed about
it, because that is the name of the game. It was just another day at
the office. A very nice day at the office." [On the love scene with
Clive Owen in King Arthur (2004)]
I don't think about nutrition. The very thought of a diet makes me
want chips and ice cream. And I just hate going to the gym. I cannot
The fact that we haven't focused on the love triangle between
Arthur, Lancelot and Guinevere was actually one of the things that
made me want to do the film. It's interesting to tell it in a
completely new way.
"Every part I've ever got, I always thought it was completely
ridiculous that I was up for it. With Pirates, I only packed for a
week because I was sure that I was going to get sacked. I thought
they'd made the hugest mistake."
"We're all fans of cinema, you know. Forget about being an actor, I
love watching films. I really do. That's what I love doing, as a
hobby. I find the whole process fascinating, as do my parents, they
go to the cinema a lot."
"I don't do a thing to keep fit, I just cannot make myself work out.
My abs are just luck - my mum has good ones so it's a family trait."
"I don't read any magazines or newspapers any more, because I find
it really scary and I get really scared when I'm followed by
photographers. I have, on many occasions, broken down in tears
because I find it terrifying. I dropped out of school when I was 16
so there's nothing else that I can do."
"I don't like parties very much. I'm not a very sociable being."
"I've always been quite tomboyish."
"In LA, I'm twice the size- height and everything else- of most of
the other actresses who are going for an audition."
"I think I always disappoint people because they always expect
someone very pretty, very done."
"Three years after that I was diagnosed as dyslexic, and we struck a
deal: I was allowed to start acting on condition that I would read
constantly and get good grades at school."
"I always feel like I'm the one with everything to prove."
"I paint and draw, but very badly."
Talking about her possibly being anorexic: "I've got a lot of
experience with anorexia. It was in my family. My grandmother, and
my great-grandmother suffered from it and I had a lot of friends at
school who suffer from it so I don't think it's anything to be taken
"A newspaper here voted me one of the scruffiest people in Britain.
I'm quite proud of that. It's completely true."
"I suppose I'm more of a tomboy than the girly-girl, which is why I
can't walk on stilettos very well."
"I do remember, at six, thinking I should be earning my own living.
My mum says I was born 45."
"The most fantastic date I've ever had was going bowling, because I
don't bowl and I'm awful."
"There are pressures to conform to a certain type, tall, blonde,
thin, big breasts, you know - The Type."
"Last year I went to the Vanity Fair party after the Oscars and I
stood in the corner and had a lot of champagne. It's very, very
"I'm dyslexic, and at six years old they realized I couldn't read a
word and had been fooling them. My mum said to me: 'If you come to
me with a book in your hand and a smile on your face every day
through the summer holiday, I'll get you an agent.' "
"I don't court attention, which is why I've never been to nightclubs
"I'm not a social person, so I really have very few friends in the
"To be honest, I'd sooner be with my mates having a pint."
"If I have a dark side, I haven't discovered it yet. How very boring
"Producers usually hire a stylist for me when I got to premieres
because they think I'm so pathetic."
"I'm incredibly self-conscious about my body."
"There's no individuality on the red carpet. That's why I loved
Björk's Oscar swan dress. I wish I had the courage."
[Guinevere] "She's very manipulative and calculating and would use
whomever to get her own way, whether it was with her sexuality or by
killing someone. It felt very empowering playing her!"
"People send over dresses for me to wear to these functions, but I
often feel like a 5-year-old in my mom's clothes. So I just wear
jeans and a top every single time."
"People said to me yesterday, 'How does it feel to be anorexic?' I
had no idea that I was. I can safely say that I'm not. I've got a
lot of experience with anorexia. My grandmother and
great-grandmother suffered from it. In a way it's good that it's out
there and people are talking about it. It's quite interesting
because it's normally high-achieving women who suffer from it
because, I guess, they're control freaks."
"Nudity frightens me, but I will do it when I think it's necessary -
or when it makes me giggle."
"The most exercise I do is turning on the television."
"I'm naturally an extremely lazy person, so if someone did
everything for me, I really think I would do nothing at all."
"I don't read anything and I don't look at newspapers. It's too
weird, so I'm not really aware of hype anywhere."
I think I always disappoint people, because they always expect
someone very pretty. Very done. There's so much pressure to be thin,
blonde and busty. I'm skinny, but even I couldn't fit into some of
the clothes there (in L.A.)!" In a funny kind of way, I think you
create it yourself. I think it's much better to go with the flow and
embrace your body, whatever shape it is, and just be happy.
"The Celts would've been fighting naked and painted blue, but there
was no way I was going to do that. Having a bare midriff and running
around killing people was fun. But you don't want to see boobs
bumping up and down on a battlefield. It would be distracting" On
modesty over historical accuracy in King Arthur (2004).
Keira Knightley - Filmography
The Beautiful and the Damned
(2010) .... Zelda Sayre
Never Let Me Go (2010) .... Ruth
London Boulevard (2010) .... Charlotte
Last Night (2010) .... Joanna Reed
The Continuing and Lamentable Saga of the Suicide Brothers (2009)
.... The Fairy
Looking Over: The Edge of Love (2008) (V) .... Vera Phillips
The Duchess (2008) .... Georgiana
... aka La duchessa (Italy)
The Edge of Love (2008) .... Vera Phillips
Robbie the Reindeer in Close Encounters of the Herd Kind (2007) (TV)
(voice) .... Em
Silk (2007/I) .... Hélène Joncour
... aka Seta (Italy)
... aka Silk (Japan: DVD title)
... aka Soie (France)
Atonement (2007) .... Cecilia Tallis
... aka Reviens-moi (France)
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007) .... Elizabeth Swann
... aka P.O.T.C. 3 (USA: promotional abbreviation)
... aka Pirates 3 (USA: informal short title)
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006) .... Elizabeth
... aka P.O.T.C. 2 (USA: promotional abbreviation)
... aka Pirates 2 (USA: informal short title)
Domino (2005) .... Domino Harvey
... aka Domino (France)
Pride & Prejudice (2005) .... Elizabeth Bennet
... aka Orgueil & préjugés (France)
... aka Orgueil et préjugés (France)
The Jacket (2005) .... Jackie Price
Stories of Lost Souls (2005) .... Leah (segment "New Year's Eve")
... aka Historias de almas perdidas (Argentina: DVD title)
King Arthur (2004) .... Guinevere
... aka King Arthur: Director's Cut (USA: DVD title (director's
Love Actually (2003) .... Juliet
Pirates of the Caribbean (2003) (VG) (voice) .... Narrator
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) ....
... aka P.O.T.C. (USA: promotional abbreviation)
Gaijin (2003) (V) (voice) .... Kate
The Seasons Alter (2002) .... Helena
Doctor Zhivago (2002) (TV) .... Lara Antipova (neé Guishar)
... aka Doktor Schiwago (Germany: DVD title)
New Year's Eve (2002) .... Leah
Pure (2002) .... Louise
Thunderpants (2002) (uncredited) .... Music School Student
Bend It Like Beckham (2002) .... Juliette 'Jules' Paxton
... aka Kick It Like Beckham (Germany)
The Hole (2001) .... Frances 'Frankie' Almond Smith
... aka After the Hole (USA)
Princess of Thieves (2001) (TV) .... Gwyn
Deflation (2001) .... Jogger
"Oliver Twist" .... Rose Fleming (3 episodes, 1999)
- In Which All Is Revealed... (1999) TV episode (as Kiera Knightley)
.... Rose Fleming
- Wherein Oliver Is Educated by His Friend Fagin and Delivered Over
to Mr. William Sikes (1999) TV episode (as Kiera Knightley) ....
- Containing Fresh Discoveries, and Shewing That Surprises, Like
Misfortunes, Seldom Come Alone (1999) TV episode (as Kiera
Knightley) .... Rose Fleming
Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999) .... Sabé
... aka Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace (USA: video box title)
... aka The Phantom Menace (USA: short title)
Coming Home (1997) (TV) .... Young Judith
... aka Heimkehr (Germany)
... aka Rosamunde Pilcher - Heimkehr (Germany)
... aka Rosamunde Pilcher's Coming Home (Australia: DVD title)
The Treasure Seekers (1996) (TV) .... The Princess
"The Bill" .... Sheena Rose (1 episode, 1995)
- Swan Song (1995) TV episode .... Sheena Rose
Innocent Lies (1995) .... Young Celia
... aka Les péchés mortels (France)
A Village Affair (1995) (TV) .... Natasha Jordan
... aka Joanna Trollope's A Village Affair (UK: DVD title)
"Screen One" .... Little Girl (1 episode, 1993)
- Royal Celebration (1993) TV episode .... Little Girl
Keira Knightley - Related Links
Wikipedia: Keira Knightley
YouTube: Keira Knightley