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Keira Knightley

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Keira Knightley

Knightley at the 2005 Toronto Film Festival
Born Keira Christina Knightley
(1985-03-26) 26 March 1985
Teddington, London, England
Occupation Actress and Model
Years active 1993–present

Keira Christina Knightley (pronounced  /ˌkɪərəˈnaɪtlɪ/ (deprecated template); born 26 March 1985) is an English film actress and model. 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 Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.

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 Atonement.

In 2008, Forbes claimed Knightley to be the second highest paid actress in Hollywood, having reportedly earned $32 million in 2007, making her the only non-American on the list of highest paid actresses.

Early life

Knightley was born in Teddington, 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 Scottish-born mother is of half Welsh ancestry. She has an elder brother, Caleb. Knightley lived in Richmond, attending Stanley Junior School, Teddington School and Esher College. She is dyslexic, 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).


Film and television work

Knightley at the 2008 BAFTAs.

Knightley appeared in several television films 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. Though the majority of the Queen Amidala scenes were shot with Portman, all of the Queen's dialogue was dubbed over with Knightley's voice. This was to hide the fact that Padmé (Amidala's handmaiden) was actually the Queen until it was disclosed at the end of the film. However, Natalie Portman's voice was used for the Queen's dialogue in the teaser and theatrical trailers for the film. 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, however in preparation for the role she took fighting and horseback-riding lessons. 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 star.

Knightley at a London Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest premiere in July 2006

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. For her performance in Atonement, Knightley 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 Knightley 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 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.


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".

Knightley has been nominated for the Laurence Olivier Award as Best Supporting Actress as Jennifer in The Misanthrope, recognising her theatre debut. Knightley also received for an Evening Standard Award nomination for the Natasha Richardson Award for Best Actress.

Upcoming roles

Knightley is filming under the direction of David Cronenberg in the feature film A Dangerous Method, where she plays the role of Sabina Spielrein, the real-life psychoanalyst who worked with people like Sigmund Freud and primarily Carl Jung. Viggo Mortensen, Michael Fassbender and Vincent Cassel will be co-starring. She is slated to appear in The Emperor's Children with Eric Bana and Richard Gere. The film, reportedly a dark comedy, will be directed by Noah Baumbach.

Knightley will star in London Boulevard with Colin Farrell, written by William Monahan, who will also make his directing debut. She 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.

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 Caribbean.

On November 11, 2010, it was confirmed that Knightley along with six other actresses will meet with director, Christopher Nolan to audition for one of the two female leads in the upcoming film, The Dark Knight Rises, the third and final film in Nolan's Batman trilogy. One of the roles will be as the love interest to Bruce Wayne while the other will be as a villain.

Charity work

Knightley is the face of an Amnesty International campaign to support human rights, marking the 60th anniversary of the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As part of the campaign, the star also made a short film. Knightley stated she wanted help raise awareness of the UDHR and human rights abuses. She said "The UDHR is something that everyone should be aware of and be proud of as a statement of our common humanity."

Knightley contributed her voice to a 2007 Robbie the Reindeer animation, all profits of which will be donated to Comic Relief. In 2004, she travelled to Ethiopia with a group that included Richard Curtis, who had directed her in Love, Actually, on behalf of that charity.

In April 2009, Knightley appeared in a video to raise awareness of domestic abuse entitled Cut. The video was directed by Joe Wright, who directed Knightley in Pride and Prejudice and Atonement, and shot for " Women's Aid", a U.K. based women and children aid group. The video has created controversy, with some sources calling it too graphic, while other groups support the video for showing a realistic depiction of domestic violence.

In November 2010, Knightley became patron of The SMA Trust, a UK based charity that funds medical research into the children's disease Spinal Muscular Atrophy.


Feature films
Year Film Role Notes
1995 Innocent Lies Young Celia
1999 Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace Sabé (Decoy Queen)
2001 Deflation Jogger
The Hole Frances 'Frankie' Almond Smith Nominated — Empire Award for Best Debut
2002 Thunderpants Music school student Uncredited
Pure Louise
Bend It Like Beckham Juliette "Jules" Paxton Golden Wave Award for Best Actress
London Film Critics' Circle Award for Best Newcomer
Nominated — Empire Award for Best British Actress
Nominated — Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Breakthrough Performance
New Year's Eve Leah
The Seasons Alter Helena
2003 Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl Elizabeth Swann Audience Award for Best International Actress
Nominated — Empire Award for Best British Actress
Nominated — Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress
Nominated — Phoenix Film Critics Society Award for Breakout Performance on Screen
Nominated — Visual Effects Society Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male or Female Actor in an Effects Film
Love Actually Juliet Nominated — Phoenix Film Critics Society Award for Breakout Performance on Screen
Nominated — Phoenix Film Critics Society Award for Best Ensemble Acting
2004 King Arthur Guinevere Audience Award for Best International Actress
Nominated — Empire Award for Best British Actress
2005 The Jacket Jackie
Domino Domino Harvey
Pride & Prejudice Elizabeth Bennet Nominated — Academy Award for Best Actress
Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Drama
Nominated — Satellite Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
Nominated — Empire Award for Best Actress
Nominated — Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress
Nominated — Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress
Nominated — London Film Critics' Circle Award for British Actress of the Year
Nominated — Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Actress
Nominated — Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress
2006 Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest Elizabeth Swann Nominated — Empire Award for Best Actress
2007 Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End Elizabeth Swann People's Choice Award for Favorite Female Action Star
Nominated — National Movie Award for Best Performance by a Female
Silk Hélène Joncour
Atonement Cecilia Tallis Empire Award for Best Actress
Nominated — BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role
Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Drama
Nominated — Satellite Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Drama
Nominated — Audience Award for Best International Actress
Nominated — London Film Critics' Circle Award for British Actress of the Year
2008 The Edge of Love Vera Phillips
The Duchess Georgiana Cavendish Nominated — British Independent Film Award for Best Actress
Nominated — People's Choice Award for Favorite Female Movie Star
2009 The Continuing and Lamentable Saga of the Suicide Brothers The Fairy
2010 London Boulevard Lillian Palmer
Never Let Me Go Ruth Nominated — British Independent Film Award for Best Supporting Actress
Last Night Joanna Reed
2011 A Dangerous Method Sabina Spielrein Post-Production
Television appearances
Year Film Role
1993 Screen One Little Girl
1995 A Village Affair Natasha Jordan
The Bill Sheena Rose
1996 The Treasure Seekers The Princess
1998 Coming Home Young Judith Dunbar
1999 Oliver Twist Rose Fleming
2001 Princess of Thieves Gwyn (daughter of Robin Hood)
2002 Doctor Zhivago Lara Antipova
2003 Gaijin Kate (voice)
2007 Robbie the Reindeer in Close Encounters of the Herd Kind Em (voice)


Theatre appearances
Year Production Theatre Role Awards
2009/2010 The Misanthrope Comedy Theatre, London Jennifer (Celimene) Nominated — Laurence Olivier Award for Best Performance in a Supporting Role
Nominated — Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best Actress (The Natasha Richardson Award)
2011 The Children's Hour West End Karen Wright
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