Page last updated at 13:49 GMT, Tuesday, 31 January 2006

Knightley leads British charge

Keira Knightley

Best actress Oscar nominee Keira Knightley had an early start to her acting career, getting her first TV film role at the age of nine in A Village Affair.

It was hardly surprising she caught the acting bug so young as her father is actor Will Knightley and her mother is playwright mother Sharman MacDonald.

Her first break came with a role in Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace playing a decoy of Natalie Portman's Queen Amidala.

She rose to fame in a supporting role as a tomboy footballer in British hit Bend it Like Beckham, which also starred rising actors Parminder Nagra and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers.

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Still only 20 years old, she has since become a darling of the British film industry, winning big roles in homegrown and US films.

She landed the role in the big-budget TV mini-series remake of Dr Zhivago, which was sold to countries around the world.

KEY FILMS
Pride and Prejudice (2005)
The Jacket (2005)
King Arthur (2004)
Love Actually (2003)
Pirates of the Caribbean (2003)
Bend it Like Beckham (2002)

Her biggest movie role came with Pirates of the Caribbean, in which she played Elizabeth Swann, the governor's daughter who is captured by pirates.

Austen heroine

The film went on to become a huge blockbuster and a second and third instalment are already scheduled for release in 2006 and 2007.

She then joined the ensemble cast of Richard Curtis' Love Actually.

A starring role as Guinevere in King Arthur then followed, but the film was badly reviewed by critics and historians alike.

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Despite her small frame, Knightley established herself as a fierce leading lady and was cast in several action movies, including The Jacket with Adrien Brody, and Domino, in which she played a bounty hunter.

There was some surprise when it was announced there would be a new big screen adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice because many devotees saw the BBC mini-series of the 1990s as the definitive adaptation.

Knightley was cast as heroine Elizabeth Bennet, so memorably played by Jennifer Ehle in the mini-series.

Despite resistance, the film impressed critics and audiences alike, with Knightley seen as making the role her own.

Private life

She was nominated for a Golden Globe award for best actress in a musical for the film, missing out on the award to Reese Witherspoon for Walk the Line.

With the rise in fame came the interest in her life love and in her every fashion move.

She dated model and actor Jamie Dornan but since she split with him she has been romantically linked with any man she happened to photographed with.

She has managed to maintain her modesty throughout her quick rise to fame.

"I still don't feel like a star," she said.

"But it's lovely to be in a couple of films that people have liked so much.

"That's what you make films for. So it's nice to have a few that people have liked. I don't think you can ask for anything more."



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