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Feature: Keira Knightley


This beautiful teenage actress has become the toast of Hollywood. We look at Britain’s new favourite leading lady

It’s incredible to think that at the young age of just 19, Keira Knightley has managed to become an actress who is not only a household name but who is part of most leading publications’ Top Ten lists for outstanding new talent.

Such fame and notoriety was a far-off dream, however, when at the tender age of just three, Kiera (the spelling wouldn’t be altered until Hollywood beckoned), announced to her actor father (Will Knightley) and playwright mother (Sharman MacDonald) that, like her parents, she would very much like an agent. An outrageous request it might have been, but it was one which nevertheless continued for some years as the young girl grew up at their South West London home.

No doubt torn between wanting to protect her young girl from the often unscrupulous limelight and Kiera’s unremitting requests for representation, Sharman struck a deal that would seal Miss Knightley’s fate. Kiera’s school life had been a turbulent experience, leading to the discovery that the young girl was, in fact, suffering from dyslexia. Thus, the deal was to give in to Kiera’s request for an agent, but only if she spent an hour each day of the summer holidays working on her writing and maths. The young would-be actress stuck to her side of the bargain and her new agent stuck to his Less than one year later, Kiera had landed her first acting gig.

In 1993 Kiera appeared briefly as ‘Little Girl’ in the TV movie Royal Celebration. More roles followed on a yearly basis (thanks to her parent’s rule that such events could only take place during the summer holidays) and included small roles in the likes of the Joanna Trollop adaptation A Village Affair, the sexy thriller Innocent Lies (in which Knightley portrayed a younger version of a character played by Gabrielle Anwar) and the TV film Treasure Seekers (based on the E Nesbit novel).

Kiera’s acting career picked up in 1997 when she was ‘introduced’ on screen in the adaptation of the Rosamunde Pilcher novel Coming Home. What followed next could well have been the biggest break yet for the performer, if only she was allowed to be shown on the official cast list!

In a casting decision which probably had more to do with her looks than acting ability, Kiera landed the role of Sabé, a decoy to Queen Amidala in George Lucas’s anticipated Star Wars, Episode I: The Phantom Menace. A dead ringer for actress Natalie Portman (it was reported that when they were in make-up their mothers couldn’t tell them apart), Knightley found herself in one of the biggest films in cinematic history. Due to the nature of her role (the fact that she was a decoy for the Queen was part of a plot twist) her name could not be officially linked with the production.

by Grant Kempster

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Feature © Visual Imagination 2004. Not for reproduction

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Keira Knightley 2004
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