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- Keira Knightley has been acting since she was a child.
- She overcame dyslexia as a kid.
- The actress rose to fame in her teens because of her roles in “Bend It Like Beckham” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.”
- She has since gone on to receive two nominations for the Academy Awards.
Keira Knightley broke out as a teen actress, but her journey hasn’t been easy.
The 33-year-old started acting when she was a child, around the same time she was diagnosed with dyslexia. After a few years of hard work, she rose to fame when she was a teenager thanks to “Bend It Like Beckham” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.”
The actress earned her first Oscar nomination for “Pride and Prejudice” and is well-known for starring in period movies. In 2018, Knightley also revealed that she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder following her abrupt rise to fame.
Here’s how the actress went from a young child in London to a two-time Oscar nominee.
Keira Knightley was born in London, England, on March 26, 1985. Both her parents were actors, and she fell in love with the craft at a young age but struggled to read.
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Knightley was born in an area of South West London called Teddington to parents Sharman Macdonald, a Scottish actress and playwright, and Will Knightley, an English actor. She also has an older brother named Caleb.
Knightley said she wanted to be an actress when she was a child and requested an agent when she was only 3. Her parents waited until she was 7. She was also diagnosed with dyslexia when she was 6.
“I am a slow reader,” she told The Independent. “I always loved words, which is a strange thing given that I couldn’t actually read them. By the time I was 11, they deemed me to have got over it sufficiently.”
She started acting in a number of small roles as a child. After six years, she was cast as Sabé in “Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace”
- 20th Century Fox
She was cast because she resembled Natalie Portman, who played Padmé in the prequel movies. Sabé served as Padmé’s handmaiden and decoy.
Knightley was only 14 years old when the movie was released in 1999.
Knightley finally had her breakout role in the 2002 romantic comedy “Bend It Like Beckham.”
- Fox Searchlight Pictures
Knightley trained for three months to prepare for her role as a soccer player.
The movie went on to earn a Golden Globe nomination.
But it was 2003’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” that made Knightley recognizable around the world. She was only 17 years old.
- Buena Vista Pictures Distribution
According to CBS, Knightley wondered if the movie, which was based on an amusement park ride, would be successful.
“I remember being on set just sort of going, ‘OK, what is this? Is this any good?'” she said.
The movie ended up being a box-office smash, bringing in more than $305 million in the domestic box office. She would go on to star in 2006’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” and 2007’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.” She also made a cameo in the 2017 movie “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.”
Knightley was also part of the ensemble cast of “Love Actually” in 2003.
- Universal Pictures
The British romantic comedy is often played during the Christmas season.
Knightley revealed during a BBC Radio 1 interview that she wore a hat in the movie to hide a zit on her face.
“This is the problem with being 17 and being in films,” she said. “It was humongous, so there was no choice but to find a hat to cover it ’cause there was no lighting, there was no makeup that was gonna cover it.”
Knightley had a few flops in the years between 2004 and 2005, like “King Arthur” and “Domino,” but she scored a hit and critical acclaim with “Pride and Prejudice.”
- Focus Features
Knightley played Elizabeth Bennet in the movie adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel of the same name. The actress earned her first Oscar nomination for her part.
The actress told Elle that earning the Oscar nomination got critics to back off from her acting for a while.
“For ages and ages, everybody was going, ‘Oh, she’s just a pretty face. She absolutely can’t act,'” Knightley said. “And I was always going, ‘Well, maybe they’re right; I don’t know.’ So that at least shut them up for a while.”
“Pride and Prejudice” director Joe Wright told the magazine, “I think she was underestimated for a while, and I think she set out to disprove that when playing Elizabeth. She wanted to make sure she was getting the kind of attention that she deserves for a reason. She’s not particularly into this whole celebrity bulls— thing. Keira actually really loves the craft of acting and just wants to be the best craftswoman she can be.”
With the success of “Pride and Prejudice,” Knightley became known for starring in period films, like “Atonement,” “The Edge of Love,” and “The Duchess.”
- Focus Features
She also returned for the second and third “Pirates of the Caribbean” films during this time.
But her quick rise to fame wasn’t easy on the young actress, and she stepped away from larger roles during her mid-20’s.
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The actress revealed in a 2018 interview that she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder at the age of 22 because of the pressures she faced in her career.
“I had PTSD and panic attacks,” the actress told The Sunday Times. “I literally couldn’t work for a year and I didn’t know whether there would be an end to that. I have a super-solid background and thank f— for that. My family and my small but very close group of friends just wrapped me up. And I think, without that, it would have been a very different story. … Ultimately, I didn’t want them [the media and paparazzi] to win. The only thing I want to do is make films.”
She turned her focus on indie movies and stage roles.
In 2011, she met her future husband, musician James Righton, and the couple wed in 2013.
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They welcomed a daughter, Edie, in 2015.
Knightley has spoken out about banning certain Disney movies in their home.
During an appearance on “ The Ellen Show,” she explained that her daughter can’t watch “Cinderella” because “she waits around for a rich guy to rescue her.” She also can’t watch “The Little Mermaid.”
“Do not give your voice up for a man,” she said.
The actress turned to “Begin Again,” a movie in which she starred alongside Mark Ruffalo, for a fresh start.
- Exclusive Media Group
“I very much wanted to do something which had hope in it because there hadn’t been any,” she told The Scotsman. “I mean, not for me, for the characters. So it seemed like a good idea. It’s a totally different style of acting and style of filmmaking. And it was fun and challenging.”
Three years after the movie’s release, Knightley found herself in the news following comments made by the film’s director, John Carney.
In an interview with The Independent, Carney criticized Knightley’s acting in the movie.
“I don’t want to rubbish Keira, but you know it’s hard being a film actor and it requires a certain level of honesty and self-analysis that I don’t think she’s ready for yet and I certainly don’t think she was ready for on that film,” he said.
Some directors who formerly worked with the actress voiced their support for Knightley on their social media.
Carney later apologized for his comments.
“I’m ashamed of myself that I could say such things and I’ve been trying to account for what they say about me,” he wrote on Twitter. “In trying to pick holes in my work, I ended up blaming someone else. Keira was nothing but professional and dedicated during that film and she contributed hugely to its success.”
Knightley went on to earn her second Oscar nomination a year later for her role in the 2014 movie “The Imitation Game.”
- The Weinstein Company
Knightley played Joan Clarke, a cryptanalyst who worked with Alan Turing to decrypt German intelligence codes for the British government during World War II.
Knightley’s movie choices in recent years have been hit or miss, though she did receive praise for her role in 2018’s “Collette.”
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Though both “Collateral Beauty” and “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” have rotten ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, “Colette,” a biographical drama about a French novelist, holds an 88%.
In December 2018, Knightley was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE).
She received the honor for her contributions to drama and charity.
Knightley is currently starring in “The Aftermath,” a drama based on Rhidian Brook’s novel of the same name.
- Fox Searchlight Pictures
The movie takes place in post-World War II. Knightley plays Rachel, the wife of a British colonel who is tasked with post-war reconstruction efforts. When she arrives in Germany, she learns that they are living with a German widower and his daughter.