Keira Knightley Biography
Keira Christina Knightley is a Golden Globe-, BAFTA-, and Academy Award-nominated English film and television 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 Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy.
Knightley has appeared in several Hollywood films and earned an Academy Award nomination for her role as Elizabeth Bennet in Joe Wright's 2005 adaptation of Jane Austen's novel Pride and Prejudice. She received critical praise for her newest role as Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, in The Duchess.
As of 2008, Forbes claims 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, however has denied such a figure.
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 most of her life in Richmond, attending Teddington School and Esher College. Knightley 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 but 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. Though charismatic, her performance was overlooked in the crowded A-List cast. 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 star.
2005 saw the release of 3 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 and Prejudice rounded out 2005. For her portrayal of Elizabeth Bennet, Knightley received the greatest reviews of her career thus far. Variety wrote: "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 and 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 2006.
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 was praised for her portrayal of Cavendish. Critic and Co-Chair of the Toronto International Film Festival, Cameron Bailey, stated that "The Duchess Of Devonshire... is a beautiful film and she gives a really mature performance. You're seeing her really turn into something beyond the kind of pretty face that we've seen her do already so well. But she's actually a very serious actress and she's turning into a great, great performer." Critic Edward Douglas wrote "we were blown away by Keira Knightley's performance in the costume drama The Duchess...Knightley is even better in it than Atonement and Pride & Prejudice."
Knightley appeared 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
Upcoming films for 2009 include the scifi drama Never Let Me Go by Alex Garland and London Boulevard, with Colin Farrell, the script of which is written by William Monahan, who will also make his directing debut.
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 appear in The Beautiful and the Damned, a biopic about the life and relationship of American novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald and his novelist wife Zelda Sayre.
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.
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 was ranked #79 by FHM in the magazine's UK Edition 2004 100 Sexiest Women in the World list, #18 in 2005, and was named "the sexiest woman in the world in 2006". The U.S. Edition ranked her #54 in 2004, #11 in 2005, and #5 in 2006. Knightley appeared nude along with Scarlett Johansson, on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine's March 2006 'Hollywood' issue. In May 2006, Knightley was #9 on Maxim's 2006 Hot 100. She was also named 'the number one beauty icon of 2007' by a poll of 2,500 people conducted by UK high street chain Superdrug.
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 £4,300.
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.
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 Ethopia with a group that included Richard Curtis, who had directed her in Love, Actually, on behalf of that charity.
Knightley, who lives in London, is involved with her Pride and 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 Jamie Dornan, as well as actor Del Synnott, who, according to some reports, attempted suicide after their relationship ended, although Synnott and Knightley deny these claims.
Knightley has denied rumors she is anorexic (she also claimed recently in Vanity Fair magazine her slim physique was due to the Rhubarb diet), 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. Keira 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 for it. 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.
Knightley is a lifelong supporter of football team West Ham United F.C. and watches games in her local pub whenever possible. She has said that her favourite book is War and Peace and her favourite film is All About Eve. She is a fan of the English soap opera Emmerdale. Both Damien Rice and Jeff Buckley are among Knightley's favourite musicians, with the latter's album Grace being one of her all-time favourites.