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 (1993) (TV)_ , 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 (1994), an adaptation of the lesbian love story by Joanna Trollope. This was followed by small parts in British crime series “The Bill” (1984), an exiled German princess in _Treasure Seekers (1996) (TV)_ and a much more substantial role as the young Judith Dunbar in Giles Foster’s adaptation of Rosamunde Pilcher’s novel Coming Home (1998) (TV), 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 (1999).
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” (1999) (mini), and travelled to Romania to film her first title role in Disney’s Princess of Thieves (2001) (TV) 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 (2002). Nick Hamm’s dark thriller The Hole (2001) 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 (2002) 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 (2002), 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 (2002). 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 (2002), 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 (2001) 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” (2002) (mini)_ , 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 (2003), Keira played 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 (2003), 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 (2002) 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 (2004) 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 (2005) 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 what promises to be a faithful adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic novel _Pride and Prejudice (2005)_ , 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. 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). Her pre-contracted sequel clause from the original Pirates movie meant the production of not one, but two sequels were already in the works. Pre-production started in February, and Keira started filming – again in Los Angeles and the Caribbean – from mid-March onwards. Filming is expected to wrap in January of 2006 with _Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest_ (2006) due for a Summer 2006 release and _Pirates of the Caribbean 3_ (2007) for Summer 2007.