Keira Knightley is Most Elegant Hollywood StarKnightley was born in Teddington, London, England, the daughter of Sharman MacDonald, an award-winning playwright, and Will Knightley, a theatre and television actor.Her father is English and her Scottish mother is of half Welsh ancestry. She has an older brother, Caleb. Knightley lived in Richmond, attending Stanley Junior School, Teddington School and Esher College. She was diagnosed with dyslexia at the age of six, but nevertheless was successful in school and was thus permitted to acquire a talent agent and pursue an acting career. She requested an agent as early as the age of three and got one when she turned six, from her mother as a reward for studying hard. Knightley has noted that she was "single-minded about acting" during her childhood. She performed in a number of local amateur productions, including After Juliet (written by her mother) and United States (written by her then drama teacher, Ian McShane, no relation to the actor).Keira Knightley appeared in several television films 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. Sabé's dialogue was dubbed over with Natalie Portman's voice. This was to hide the fact that the handmaiden Padmé (played by Natalie Portman) was actually disclosed as the real Queen Amidala at the end of the film. Knightley was cast in the role due to her close resemblance to Portman; even 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 review 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