Knightley has appeared in several Hollywood films and earned nominations for the Academy Award for Best Actress and 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 again was nominated 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 Atonement.
In 2008, Forbes claimed Knightley to be the second highest paid actress in Hollywood, having reportedly earned $32 million in 2007, making her the only non-American on the list of highest paid actresses.
Knightley at the 2008 BAFTAs.
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. Her next film, King Arthur, opened in July 2004 to negative reviews, however in preparation for the role she took fighting and horseback-riding lessons. 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.
Knightley at a London Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest premiere in July 2006
2005 saw the release of three 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 & Prejudice rounded out 2005. Variety wrote about her portrayal of Elizabeth Bennet: "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 & 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.
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. For her performance in Atonement, Knightley 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 Knightley 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 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 appears 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. In April 2009, Knightley began work on an adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro's dystopian novel, Never Let Me Go. Filming took place in Norfolk and Clevedon.
Upcoming films for 2010 include London Boulevard with Colin Farrell, script 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 work on The Beautiful and the Damned, a biopic about the life and relationship of American novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald and his novelist wife Zelda Sayre. The film is directed by John Curran and scheduled for release in 2010.
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.
Knightley made her West End debut in Martin Crimp's version of Molière's comedy, The Misanthrope, at the Comedy Theatre in London alongside Damian Lewis, Tara Fitzgerald, and Dominic Rowan. in December 2009. Reviews for her portrayal of Jennifer in the play were generally positive. The Daily Telegraph described her performance as revealing "both power and poignancy" and The Independent called her performance "not only strikingly convincing but, at times, rather thrilling in its satiric aplomb" The Guardian, however, noted that due to the nature of the role "one could say that she is not unduly stretched and The Daily Mail described her as "little better than adequate".
Knightley has been nominated for the prestigious Laurence Olivier Theatre Award as Best Supporting Actress as Jennifer in The Misanthrope, recognizing her theatre debut.
Knightley is slated to appear in The Emperor's Children with Eric Bana and Richard Gere. The film, reportedly a dark comedy, will be directed by Noah Baumbach.
Knightley is also filming under the direction of David Cronenberg in the feature film A Dangerous Method, where she plays the role of Sabina Spielrein, the real-life psychoanalist who worked with people like Sigmund Freud and primarily Carl Jung. Viggo Mortensen, Michael Fassbender and Vincent Cassel will be co-starring.
Knightley attends the premiere of Atonement in Leicester Square, London
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's look has often been described in publications as gamine.
Knightley has appeared many times in FHMs UK 100 Sexiest Women in the World list. Ranked #79 in 2004 she climbed to #18 in 2005, and was named "the sexiest woman in the world in 2006." In 2007 she was 12th, 10th in 2008 and came 36th in 2009. The US edition ranked her #54 in 2004, #11 in 2005, and #5 in 2006. In May 2006, she was #9 on Maxim's 2006 Hot 100. She was also named "the number one beauty icon of 2007" by a poll of 2500 people conducted by UK high street chain Superdrug.Knightley appeared nude, along with Scarlett Johansson, on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine's March 2006 "Hollywood" issue.
Knightley was the celebrity face for the luxury goods brand Asprey, Shiatzy Chen 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 2007 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 [from acting].
She has expressed concern in the past about unwarranted attention from stalkers, and a 41 year-old man was charged with harassment in February 2010 after trying to contact the actress on several occasions outside the Comedy Theatre in London, where she appeared in the play The Misanthrope. The subsequent trial folded after the actress was unavailable to testify in court.
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 Ethiopia with a group that included Richard Curtis, who had directed her in Love, Actually, on behalf of that charity.
In April 2009, Knightley appeared in a video to raise awareness of domestic abuse entitled Cut. The video was directed by Joe Wright, who directed Knightley in Pride and Prejudice and Atonement, and shot for "Women's Aid", a U.K. based women and children aid group.The video has created controversy, with some sources calling it too graphic, while other groups support the video for showing a realistic depiction of domestic violence.
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