Written by Paul Fisher for
entry in the Internet Movie Database (IMDb).
It was published there on August 16th 2008. (Revised October 24th 2009)
Keira Christina Knightley was born
in the South London suburb of Richmond on March 26th 1985. She is the daughter
of actor Will Knightley and actress turned playwright Sharman Macdonald.
An older brother, Caleb, was born in 1979. Brought up immersed in the acting
profession from both sides - writing and performing - it is little wonder
that the young Keira asked for her own agent at the age of three. She was
granted one at the age of six and performed in her first TV role as Little
Girl in Royal Celebration, aged seven. It was discovered at an early age
that Keira had severe difficulties in reading and writing. She was not
officially dyslexic as she never sat the formal tests required of the British
Dyslexia Association. Instead she worked incredibly hard, encouraged by
her family, until the problem had been overcome by her early teens.
Her first multi-scene performance came in A Village Affair, an adaptation of the lesbian love story by Joanna Trollope. This was followed by small parts in British crime series The Bill, an exiled German princess in Treasure Seekers and a much more substantial role as the young Judith Dunbar in Giles Foster's adaptation of Rosamunde Pilcher's novel Coming Home, alongside 'Peter O' Toole' , Penelope Keith and Joanna Lumley. The first time Keira's name was mentioned around the world was when it was revealed (in a plot twist kept secret by director George Lucas) that she played Natalie Portman's decoy Padme to Portman's Amidala in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace. It was several years before agreement was reached over which scenes featured Keira as the queen and which Natalie!
Keira had no formal training as an actress and did it out of pure enjoyment. She went to an ordinary council-run school in nearby Teddington and had no idea what she wanted to do when she left. By now she was beginning to receive far more substantial roles and was starting to turn work down as one project and her schoolwork was enough to contend with. She reappeared on British television in 1999 as Rose Fleming in Alan Bleasdale's faithful reworking of Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist, and travelled to Romania to film her first title role in Disney's Princess of Thieves in which she played Robin Hood's daughter Gwyn. Keira's first serious boyfriend was her Thieves co-star Del Synnott, and they later co-starred in Peter Hewitt' 's 'work of fart' Thunderpants. Nick Hamm's dark thriller After the Hole kept her busy during 2000, and featured her first nude scene (15 at the time, the film was not released until she was 16 years old).
In the summer of 2001, while Keira studied and sat her final school exams (she received six As) she filmed a movie about an Asian girl's (Parminder Nagra) love for football and the prejudices she has to overcome regarding both her culture and her religion. Bend It Like Beckham was a smash hit in football-mad Britain but it had to wait until another of Keira's films propelled it to the top end of the US box office. Bend It cost just £3.5m to make, and nearly £1m of that came from the British Lottery. It took £11m in the UK and has since gone on to score more than US$76m worldwide. Meanwhile, Keira had started A-levels at Esher College, studying Classics, English Literature and Political History, but continued to take acting roles which she thought would widen her experience as an actress. The story of a drug-addicted waitress and her friendship with the young son of a drug-addict, Pure, occupied Keira from January to March 2002. Also at this time, Keira's first attempt at Shakespeare was filmed. She played Helena in a modern interpretation of a scene from A Midsummer Night's Dream entitled The Seasons Alter. This was commissioned by environmental organisation Futerra, of which Keira's mother is patron. Keira received no fee for this performance, or for another short film, New Year's Eve, by award-winning director Colin Spector.
But it was a chance encounter with
producer Andy Harries at the London premiere of Bridget Jones's Diary which
forced Keira to leave her studies and pursue acting full-time. The meeting
lead to an audition for the role of Larisa Feodorovna Guishar - the classic
heroine of Boris Pasternak' 's novel Doctor Zhivago, played famously in
the David Lean movie by Julie Christie. This was to be a big-budget TV
movie with a screenplay written by Andrew Davies. Keira won the part and
the mini-series was filmed throughout the Spring of 2002 in Slovakia, co-starring
Sam Neill and Hans Matheson as Yuri Zhivago. Keira rounded off 2002 with
a few scenes in the first movie to be directed by Blackadder and Vicar
of Dibley writer Richard Curtis. Called Love Actually, Keira was to play
Juliet, a newlywed whose husband's Best Man is secretly besotted with her.
A movie filmed after Love Actually but released before it was to make the world sit up and take notice of this beautiful fresh-faced young actress with a cute British accent. It was a movie which Keira very nearly missed out on altogether. Auditions were held in London for a new blockbuster movie called Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, but heavy traffic in the city forced Keira to be tagged on to the end of the day's auditions list. It helped - she got the part. Filming took place in Los Angeles and the Caribbean from October 2002 to March 2003 and was released to massive box office success and almost universal acclaim in the July of that year. Meanwhile, a small British film called Bend It Like Beckham had sneaked onto a North American release slate and was hardly setting the box office alight. But Keira's dominance in Pirates had set tongues wagging and questions being asked about the actress playing Elizabeth Swann. Almost too late, Bend It's distributors realised one of its two stars was the same girl whose name was on everyone's lips due to Pirates, and took the unusual step of re-releasing Bend It to 1,000 screens across the US, catapulting it from no. 26 back up to no. 12. Pirates, meanwhile, was fighting off all contenders at the top spot, and stayed in the Top 3 for an incredible 21 weeks. It was perhaps no surprise, then, that Keira was on producer Jerry Bruckheimer's wanted list for the part of Guinevere in a planned accurate telling of the legend of King Arthur. Filming took place in Ireland and Wales from June to November 2003.
In July Keira had become celebrity face of British jeweller and luxury goods retailer Asprey. At a photoshoot for the company on Long island New York in August Keira met and fell in love with Northern Irish model Jamie Dornan. King Arthur was released in July 2004 to lukewarm reviews. It seems audiences wanted the legend after all, and not necessarily the truth. Keira became the breakout star' and 'one to watch in 2004' throughout the world's media at the end of 2003. Keira's 2004 started off in Scotland and Canada filming 'John Maybury 's time-travelling thriller The Jacket with Oscar-winner Adrien Brody. A planned movie of Deborah Moggach's novel, Tulip Fever, about forbidden love in 17th Century Amsterdam, was cancelled in February after the British government suddenly closed tax loopholes which allowed filmmakers to claw back a large proportion of their expenditure. Due to star Keira and Jude Law in the main roles, the film remains mothballed. Instead, Keira spent her time wisely, visiting Ethiopia on behalf of the Comic Relief charity, and spending summer at various grandiose locations around the UK filming the first big-screen adaptation of Jane Austen's classic novel Pride and Prejudice for 65 years, alongside Matthew MacFadyen as Mr. Darcy, and with Donald Sutherland and Judi Dench in supporting roles. In October 2004, Keira received her first major accolade, the Hollywood Film Award for Best Breakthrough Actor - Female, and readers of Empire Magazine voted her the Sexiet Movie Star Ever. The remainder of 2004 saw Keira once again trying a completely new genre, this time the part-fact, part-fiction life story of model turned bounty hunter Domino.
2005 started with the premiere of
The Jacket at the Sundance Film Festival, with the US premiere in LA on
February 28th. Much of the year was then spent in the CAribbean filming
both sequels to Pirates Of The Caribbean. Keira's first major presenting
role came in a late-night bed-in comedy clip show for Comic Relief with
presenter Johnny Vaughan. In late July, promotions started for the September
release of Pride & Prejudice, with British fans annoyed to learn that
the US verion would end with a post-marriage kiss, but the European version
would not. Nevertheless, when the movie opened in September on both sides
of the Atlantic, Keira received her greatest praise thus far in her career,
amid much talk of awards. It spent three weeks at No.1 in the UK box office.
Domino opened well in October, overshadowed by the death of Domino Harvey
earlier in the year. Keira received Variety's Personality Of The Year Award
in November, topped the following month by her first Golden Globe nomination,
for Pride & Prejudice. keiraweb.co.uk exclusively announced that Keira
would play Helene Joncour in an adaptation of Alessandro Baricco's novella
Pride & Prejudice garnered six BAFTA nominations for Pride & Prejudice in 2006, but not Best Actress for Keira, a fact which paled soon after by the announcement she had received her first Academy Award nomination, the third youngest Best Actress Oscar hopeful. A controversial nude Vanity Fair cover of Keira and Scarlett Johanssen kept the press busy up till the Oscars, with Reese Witherspoon taking home the gold man in the Best Actress category, although Keira's Vera Wang dress got more media attention. Keira spent early summer in Europe filming Silk opposite Michael Pitt, and the rest of the summer in the UK filming Atonement, in which she plays Cecilia Tallis, and promoting the new Pirates movie (her Ellen Degeneres interview becomes one of the year's Top 10 'viral downloads'). Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest breaks many box office records when it opens worldwide in July, becoming the third biggest movie ever by early September.
Keira sued British newspaper The Daily
Mail in early 2007 after her image in a bikini accompanied an article about
a woman who blamed slim celebrities for the death of her daughter from
anorexia. The case was settled and Keira matched the settlement damages
and donated the total amount to an eating disorder charity. Keira films
a movie about the life of Dylan Thomas, with a screenplay written by her
mother Sharman Macdonald. Her co-star Lindsay Lohan pulls out just a week
before filming began, and was replaced (much to the relief of many Keira
fans) by Sienna Miller. What was announced to be Keira's final Pirates
movie in the franchise, At World's End, opened strongly in June, rising
to all-time fifth biggest movie by July. Atonement opens the Venice Film
Festival in August, and opens worldwide in September, again to superb reviews
for Keira. Meanwhile, Silk opens in September on very few screens and disappears
without a trace. Keira spent the rest of the year filming The Duchess,
the life story of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, based on Amanda Foreman's
award-winning biography of the distant relation of Princess Diana. The
year saw more accolades and poll-topping for Keira than ever before, including
Women's Beauty Icon 2007 and gracing the covers of all the top-selling
magazines. She wins Best Actress for Atonement at the Variety Club Of Great
Britain Showbiz Awards, and ends the year with her second Golden Globe
nomination. Christmas Day saw - or rather heard - Keira on British TV screens
in a new Robbie The Reindeer animated adventure, with DVD proceeds going
to Comic Relief.
At the start of 2008, Keira received her first BAFTA nomination - Best Actress for Atonement, and the movie wins Best Film: Drama at the Golden Globes. Seven Academy Award nominations for Atonement soon follow. Keira wins Best Actress for her role as Cecilia Tallis at the Empire Film Awards. In May, Keira's first Shakespearean role is announced, when she is confirmed to play Cordelia in a big-screen version of King Lear, alongside Naomi Watts and Gwyneth Paltrow, with Sir Anthony Hopkins as the titular monarch. After two years of rumours, it is confirmed that Keira is on the shortlist to play Eliza Doolittle in a new adaptation of My Fair Lady. The Edge Of Love opens the Edinburgh Film Festival on June 18th, and opens on limited release in the UK and US. A huge round of promotions for The Duchess occurs throughout the summer, with cast and crew trying to play down the marketers' decision to draw parallels between the duchess and Princess Diana. Keira attends the UK and US premieres and Toronto Film Festival within the first week of September. The Duchess opens strongly on both sides of the Atlantic. Two more movies are confirmed for Keira during September - a tale of adultery called Last Night, and a biopic of author F Scott Fitzgerald entitled The Beautiful & The Damned. Keira spends October on the streets of New York City filming Last Night alongside Sam Worthington and Guillaume Canet. Keira helps to promote the sixtieth anniversary of the UN's Declaration of Human Rights, by contributing to a series of short films produced to mark the occasion.
In January 2009 it was announced Keira had signed to play a reclusive actress in an adaptation of Ken Bruen's novel London Boulevard, co-starring Colin Farrell. Keira continues her close ties with the Comic Relief charity by helping to launch their British icons T-shirts campaign. In the same week King Lear was revealed to have been shelved, it was announced that Keira would instead star alongside her Pride & Prejudice co-star Carey Mulligan in an adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro's novel Never Let Me Go. A new short film emerges in March, recorded in the January of 2008 in which Keira plays a Fairy! The Continuing and Lamentable Saga of The Suicide Brothers was written by Keira's boyfriend Rupert Friend and actor Tom Mison. It goes on to be shown at the London Film Festival in October and wins Best Comedy Short at the New Hampshire Film Festival. Keira continued to put her celebrity to good use in 2009 with a TV commercial for WomensAid highlighting domestic abuse against women. Unfortunately UK censors refused to allow its broadcast and it can only be viewed on YouTube. May and June saw Keira filming Never Let Me Go and London Boulevard back-to-back.
In October, a new direction for Keira's career emerged, when it was announced she would appear on the London stage in her West End debut role as Jennifer, in a reworking of Moliere's The Misanthrope, starring Damian Lewis and Tara Fitzgerald. More than $2m of ticket sales followed in the first four days, before even rehearsals had begun! The play ran from December to March 2010 at London's Comedy Theatre, and resulted in Keira receiving her first Olivier Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
Question marks over a number of Keira's
projects started 2010 off to an unsure start, with The Beautiful &
Damned missing its Spring start in Croatia, and Last Night's distributor
Miramax being closed down. In addition, she ruled herself out of My Fair
Lady due to the continuous delays. Keira made an appearance in a video
art installation for her friend Stuart Pearson-Wright, called Maze, which
formed part of a London retrospective of his worked entitled I Remember
You. In May, Keira started filming A Dangerous Method, formerly called
The Talking Cure, and directed by DAvid Cronenberg from a screenplay by
Christopher Hampton. It tells the story of the professional and personal
relationships of psychologists Jung and Freud. Filming wrapped on Lake
Constance on July 23rd. Miramax's unreleased slate was finally sold in
July, and Last Night was announced as the closing film of the Toronto Fim
Festival. Moreover, Never Let Me Go was also to get its premiere screening
there, and it was revealed to be the launch movie for the London Film Festival
in October too.
(c) Paul Fisher 2010. Reproduction prohibited.