Actress Keira Knightley was born on March 26, 1985, in London, England. She made her film debut at the age of 9 in A Village Affair (1994). Her first major part came in Star Wars: Episode 1-The Phantom Menace and she then became well-known for her performance as tomboy footballer Juliette "Jules" Paxton in Bend It Like Beckham. Her later films include Atonement, Pirates of the Caribbean, A Dangerous Method and Anna Karenina. She has also earned Oscar nominations for her roles in Pride & Prejudice and The Imitation Game.
Early Life and Career
Born in London, England, on March 26, 1985, Keira Christina Knightley grew up in a show-business family. Her father is actor Will Knightley and her mother is playwright Sharman Macdonald. She grew up in a London suburb with her older brother Caleb. Knightley later told Marie Claire that playing with doll houses may have influenced her career choice: "Doll houses were a big thing in my childhood," she said. "I was always making up stories, playing with them for hours. I guess that's why I'm an actress: I never stopped wanting to play."
Knightley first asked for her own agent at the age of three and finally got one when she was six years old. School was not easy for Knightley as she struggled with dyslexia.
Knightley had her first professional acting job at the age of 7, and went to make a string of appearances on British television. In her mid-teens, she landed her first major role in the film Star Wars: Episode 1-The Phantom Menace (1999). That same year, Knightley had a supporting role in the television miniseries Oliver Twist with Sam Smith, Julie Walters and Robert Lindsay.
In 2002, Knightley had a career breakthrough with Bend It Like Beckham. She played tomboy soccer player Juliette "Jules" Paxton in this surprise hit. She also showed herself to be a risk-taker that same year, playing the female lead in the TV film Doctor Zhivago. Knightley tackled a role that Julie Christie made famous in the 1962 feature film.
Blockbuster Film Star
Knightley landed her first blockbuster hit in 2003 with Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Based on a ride at Disneyland, this adventure tale starred Johnny Depp as the notorious pirate, Captain Jack Sparrow. Knightley's character, Elizabeth Swann, got caught up in the action along with Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), and she reprised her role in the film's 2006 and 2007 sequels.
With her classic good looks, Knightley became the go-to girl for period dramas. She played Guinevere in 2004's King Arthur with Clive Owen and Ioan Gruffudd. The following year, Knightley starred in a screen adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, directed by Joe Wright. She earned an Academy Award nomination for her work in the film. Then in 2008, Knightley played the title character in The Duchess, a biopic of an 18th century royal.
"I do a lot of period pieces because that’s my taste, because I want to work in Europe, because that’s my home and generally speaking that’s what’s made in England,” Knightley later said in a 2015 New York Times interview. “I love history, you know, but actually because they’ve been the most interesting characters for me that I’ve been offered.”
Knightley has nonetheless handled historical, contemporary and futuristic roles with equal ease. She appeared in the popular ensemble dramatic comedy Love Actually (2003). Knight later co-starred in the quiet science-fiction tale Never Let Me Go (2010) with Andrew Garfield and Carey Mulligan, and then portrayed real-world pioneering psychoanalyst Sabina Spielren in A Dangerous Method (2011).
2nd Oscar Nod: 'Imitation Game'
Knightley continued to tackle a variety of roles. In 2012, she appeared opposite Steve Carell in the apocalyptic tale Seeking a Friend for the End of the World and also returned to sumptuous period garb to star in Anna Karenina. Jude Law plays Anna's repressed husband in the film, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson co-stars as Anna's lover. The actress went on to work in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014), a spy thriller following the life of the popular CIA analyst character of the same name. Chris Pine was cast as Ryan while Knightley portrayed fiancée Cathy.
In 2014, Knightley also co-starred in the music comedy/drama Begin Again with Mark Ruffalo and the romantic comedy Laggies. During the fall she was featured as a code-breaking whiz in the WWII drama The Imitation Game, earning both Golden Globe and Oscar nominations for supporting actress. The following year, Knightley made her Broadway debut in the play Thérèse Raquin, based on the 1867 Émile Zola novel about a beleaguered married woman who goes down an illicit path.
In May 2012, Knightley announced her engagement to British musician James Righton of the Klaxons. She and Righton wed in early May 2013, and Knightley gave birth to their first child in May 2015, a daughter named Edie.
In addition to acting, Knightley has worked as a model, appearing in ads for companies like Chanel. Unlike other actresses of her generation, Knightley doesn't crave the nightlife and instead prefers to cook for friends when she has free time.
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