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Spotlight On: Keira Knightley
April 15, 2015
|Keira Christina Knightley was born in the South West Greater London suburb of Richmond on March 26th 1985. She is the daughter of actor Will Knightley and actress turned playwright Sharman Macdonald. 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 Screen One: Royal Celebration (1993), aged seven.
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 the British crime series The Bill, an exiled German princess in The 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 featured 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 Walt Disney's Princess of Thieves in which she played Robin Hood's daughter, Gwyn.
Nick Hamm's dark thriller 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 A's), 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.
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 the environmental organization "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 Col 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. (Source: IMDb)
Since the Pirates of the Caribbean films, Knightley has become known for starring in period drama films  such as Pride & Prejudice (2005), Atonement (2007), Silk (2007), The Duchess (2008), A Dangerous Method (2011), and Anna Karenina (2012). She has also appeared in a variety of genres of Hollywood films, including the romantic comedy Love Actually (2003), as Guinevere in the historical action King Arthur (2004), the psychological thriller The Jacket (2005), biographical action Domino (2005), the historical drama The Edge of Love (2008), the film noir London Boulevard (2010), the dystopian science fiction Never Let Me Go (2010), the romantic drama Last Night (2010), and the dark comedy Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012).
Knightley earned nominations for the Academy Award for Best Actress and the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress for her role as Elizabeth Bennet in Joe Wright's 2005 adaptation of Jane Austen's novel Pride and Prejudice. Two years later she was nominated again for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress, as well as the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her performance in Wright's Atonement.
In 2014, Knightley appeared in four films, the action thriller Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, the musical comedy-drama Begin Again, the romantic comedy Laggies and the historical thriller The Imitation Game. For her role in the latter film, she has been nominated for a Golden Globe, a SAG, a BAFTA Award, and an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. In October 2015, Knightley will make her Broadway debut in the title role of Thérèse Raquin.
Knightley is the face of an Amnesty International campaign to support human rights, marking the 60th anniversary of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  In 2004, she travelled to Ethiopia alongside Richard Curtis, Sanjeev Bhaskar and Julian Metcalfe on behalf of the Comic Relief charity. 
In April 2009, Knightley appeared in a video to raise awareness of domestic abuse entitled Cut shot for Women's Aid. The video created controversy, with some sources calling it too graphic, while other groups support the video for showing a realistic depiction of domestic violence.
For International Women's Day 2014, Knightley was one of the artist signatories of Amnesty International's letter to UK Prime Minister David Cameron, in which the organisation campaigned for women's rights in Afghanistan. 
1. Brown, Mark (2 September 2011). "Venice film festival 2011: Keira Knightley talks costume drama". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 5 July 2012.
2. "Keira Knightley loves period films, hates corsets". MSNBC. 16 September 2008. Retrieved 5 July 2012.
3. "Knightley Joins Human Rights Campaign". WENN. 10 December 2008.
4. Curtis, Richard (24 April 2005). "Place your cross for Africa's Aids orphans". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 26 March 2010.
5. Alfonsi, Sharyn; Shaylor, Jay; Brady, Jonann (3 April 2009). "Public Service Ads Get More Graphic". ABC News. Retrieved 4 May 2013.
6. "Knightley, Hayek call for women's rights". SBS. SBS. 9 March 2014. Retrieved 23 November 2014.