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Last Updated: Friday, 2 December 2005, 15:28 GMT
Faces of the week
Faces of the week

Our regular look at some of the faces which have made the news this week. Above are KEIRA KNIGHTLEY (main picture), with MARTINA HINGIS, Sir DAVID JASON, LUDWIG van BEETHOVEN and PENNY LANCASTER.

Keira Knightley

Though still just 20 years old, Keira Knightley can boast an impressive list of film and television roles which effectively began when she was nine. Voted Variety UK's personality of the year, has she the right stuff to stay the course?

Keira Knightley's two favourite actresses are Katharine Hepburn and Vivien Leigh. "Not," she says, "because of their ability, but because of their perseverance."

But the careers of these two Hollywood titans were so radically different.

Hepburn was still appearing in films in her late 80s, having won the first of her four Academy Awards in 1934 and the last, for On Golden Pond, in 1982.

Keira Knightley in Royal Celebration
Star quality: Keira Knightley in Royal Celebration
Despite earning two Oscars, playing Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind and having a tempestuous marriage to Laurence Olivier, Leigh did not enjoy a happy old-age like Hepburn. In 1967, aged just 53, she succumbed to tuberculosis after battling mental illness.

So will Keira Knightley, the Brit who has packed 24 film appearances into her 20 years, be able to sustain her phenomenal rise, or will she, like many before her, simply burn-out after having enjoyed a few meteoric years of glory?

If her background is anything to go by, the omens are good. Knightley was born in Teddington, a well-heeled suburb of London, in 1985.

Her upbringing was steeped in showbiz. Father Will is a professional actor who has appeared in everything from The Bill to that monumental piece of 70s campery, Jason King.

Breakthrough with "Beckham"

Knightley's mother, Sharman Macdonald, swapped greasepaint for the typewriter, penning the award-winning play, When I Was a Girl I Use to Scream and Shout.

Indeed, it was this success which was directly responsible for Keira Knightley's birth. "My mum was desperate for another child," she recently explained. "But they didn't have enough money, so my dad said to my mum that if she sold a script she could have another baby."

Aged just three, Knightley asked her parents if she could have her own agent.

"I was such a precocious little brat," she says. "I spent most of my time around people in the industry and things just rub off when you're that age."

Keira Knightley and Matthew MacFadyen in Pride & Prejudice
Oscar-winner? Knightley and Matthew MacFadyen in Pride & Prejudice
At the age of seven, Knightley's wish had been granted. Two years later came her first professional engagement, appearing in a bit part alongside Minnie Driver, Kenneth Cranham and Leslie Phillips in the 1993 BBC TV play, Royal Celebration.

Though she had featured as Lara in a television adaptation of Doctor Zhivago and in Star Wars: Episode 1, it was the unexpected success of the 2002 football movie, Bend It Like Beckham, filmed on her home turf in Middlesex, which provided Knightley with a springboard to stardom.

Made on a shoestring $6m budget, the movie grossed a respectable $32.5m in the United States alone. More important, though, was the generally positive critical reception the film received in the States.

Oscar speculation

Out of this came roles in Love Actually and the Hollywood blockbuster, Pirates of the Caribbean. As the swashbuckling and spunky Elizabeth Swann, Knightley finally played the sort of Hepburnesque role to which she had always aspired.

Her on-screen chemistry with Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom, in what was in essence an old-fashioned pirate romp, has led to two sequels, currently in production and set for release in 2006 and 7.

But it is the vast chasm between Knightley's two most recent roles which has made some Hollywood-watchers sit up and take notice.

The recent big-screen version of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice garnered favourable reviews in the UK, with special mention for Knightley's understated performance as Elizabeth Bennet.

Keira Knightley in Hollywood in 2004
Will Keira follow in the steps of Katharine Hepburn?
And American audiences have taken to a performance which one Stateside critic said "exuded warmth and confidence". The book is already open on Knightley getting an Oscar nomination early next year.

But, in her latest outing, Domino, the English rose has turned in a raunchy and violent performance as the late Domino Harvey, a former model who became a bounty hunter. Knightley's portrayal has left the critics in two minds about the range of her acting abilities.

Whatever the case, Knightley, whose character performs a lap-dance in the movie, was given a unique choice by director Tony Scott.

As she relates: "I walk into the office and there are three naked women all standing there. And he goes, 'Which one do you want?' Wow. So I picked my bum."

With name-recognition already secure around the world, the witty and seemingly level-headed Ms Knightley has Hollywood at her feet.

Who would argue against the girl who has never had an acting lesson in her life, sustaining the sort of career which her heroine, Katharine Hepburn, enjoyed in the last century?

Back on court: Martina Hingis
Martina Hingis

The former ladies tennis No 1, Martina Hingis, is to resume her career. The Swiss star who accumulated five Grand Slam titles, and who became the youngest ever player, at 16, to reach the top of the tennis rankings, retired through injury in 2002. She blamed her Tacchini tennis shoes for damaging her feet. Hingis says she misses the game and wants to see if she can stay healthy and compete at the top level again.

David Jason: Knighted
Sir David Jason

The actor David Jason, famous as the character Del Boy in Only Fools and Horses, was knighted by the Queen this week. After the ceremony Sir David divulged that he and his partner of ten years, Gill Hinchcliffe, had been married 24 hours earlier. They have a five-year-old daughter. The Queen surprised the actor when she told him she watched the series. He told her he hoped he hadn't offended her at any time.

Beethoven: Record price
Ludwig van Beethoven

A manuscript of one of Beethoven's most revolutionary works was sold for more than a million pounds at auction in London this week. The composition is the Grosse Fuge in B flat major, a piano duet which runs to 80 pages. The manuscript went missing for 115 years until it was discovered in a library in Philadelphia last July. It contains annotations in Beethoven's own hand which provides an insight into the thought processes that created it.

New mum: Penny Lancaster
Penny Lancaster

Penny Lancaster has become the latest woman to bear a child for Rod Stewart. The 34-year-old gave birth to a 7lb 7oz boy this week in London. This makes it seven children for the gravel-voiced singer by four different mothers. The couple have been an item for six years and plan to marry in 2006. The thrilled new mother said of the birth "It was the most empowering and spiritual experience of my life."

Compiled by BBC News Profiles Unit's Andrew Walker


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