Feature by: Jack Foley
TEDDINGTON may seem like a million miles away from the bright
lights of Hollywood, yet the glamour and glitz of Tinseltown is
now well within reach for one of its young residents.
Keira Knightley may be just 18, but she is already being tipped
as one of the hottest new prospects around, following high-profile
roles in movies such as indie hit, Bend
It Like Beckham, lavish television drama, Dr Zhivago, and
this Summers blockbuster, Pirates of the Caribbean.
It is little wonder, therefore, to find that there are still
pinch me moments for the rising star, given her remarkable
ascent into the limelight.
Speaking ahead of the release of Pirates of the Caribbean, at
a press conference in Londons Dorchester Hotel, Knightley
described the past two and a half years as fantastic,
adding: "Its really, really great to have the opportunity
to do what we [co-star, Orlando Bloom] both want to do, especially
working with people like Gore Verbinski, Jerry Bruckheimer and,
of course, Johnny Depp.
"Obviously, there are pinch me moments, but you take each
day at a time and try to have as much fun as possible. And, fortunately,
this movie was a great experience to be part of."
Knightley appears in Pirates of the Caribbean as the heroine
of the piece; the feisty daughter of the governor of Port Royal,
who is kidnapped by Geoffrey Rushs wily Captain Barbossa,
as part of his plan to reverse a curse that has consigned his
crew to sailing the waters of the undead.
Far from being a mere damsel in distress, however, Knightleys
Elizabeth Swann frequently gives as good as she gets, while waiting
for her beloved (Orlando Bloom) to rescue her, with the help of
Johnny Depps eccentric Captain Jack Sparrow.
And getting involved with the swashbuckling on show is something
that appealed to the actress from the start, even though, initially,
she thought she was in for an easier time than her male colleagues.
"When I first read the script, I thought I was going to
have a really easy time of it, sitting around, pouting a bit,
and screaming a lot," she revealed. "But Gore, the director,
had other plans, and thought it would be a great idea if I tried
to do as much of it as possible.
"So I ended up climbing up ships and jumping off the other
side, and hitting men over the head with golden polls, which was
actually great fun, even though he never gave me a sword!"
Indeed, the experience of filming the blockbuster was far more
physical than Knightley could ever have imagined, whether it was
mixing it with pirates, squeezing into a corset, or merely keeping
her sea legs.
The young actress was one of several crew members who found the
choppy seas of the Caribbean a little unsettling.
"I dont normally get sea sick, but they had these
special boats made, which rocked a lot, so I thought better be
safe, than sorry, and took these sea sickness pills," she
revealed, with a tinge of embarrassment. "But they make you
really, really drowsy.
"Everybody was coming up to me and asking, are you
ok?, but I just couldnt keep my eyes open for the
entire day; so, after that, I decided Id rather puke than
be falling asleep all day.
"It was very glamorous, people puking overboard and me sort
of me falling asleep," she laughed.
So while the opportunity of working alongside the likes of Orlando
Bloom and Johnny Depp may be enough to turn most women green with
envy, they should console themselves with the fact that Knightley
certainly seemed to suffer for the privilege,
especially when it came to wearing a corset.
"I actually made it more difficult for myself, as Ive
got a Scarlett OHara, in Gone With The Wind, thing,"
she continued. "She gets her waist down to 18 and a half
inches, so when I went into all these fittings, I thought it would
be a great idea if we tried to do the same.
"It looks great and I used to breathe in and try to make
them go tighter and tighter; and for five minutes, its fantastic,
you have this lovely thin waist, and big cleavage, which is great
fun, but oxygen depravation then becomes a big problem
"I think it was during a scene where I was standing on the
stairs that Gore actually had to say to me, ok, go out and
take the corset off, because your eyes are rolling into the back
of your head. But it looks good, so thats the main
From spending time with Knightley, it is clear that she is, indeed,
taking each day as it comes and having as much fun as possible,
yet, from taking a peek at her biography, it would seem that her
path to success has been a much longer one than it initially appears.
The daughter of actor, Will Knightley, and playwright, Sharman
MacDonald, Keira apparently requested an agent at the age of three,
and secured her first role at the age of nine, in Moira Armstrongs
A Village Affair, in 1994.
She subsequently attended Teddington School, before securing
her first big break in 1999, playing a double for Natalie Portman
in Star Wars: The Phantom
Far from being instantly recognised, however, her role as the
decoy queen was kept secret, in order to maintain the surprise,
and it was maintained through the promotions that Portman played
both the Queen and the decoy.
Indeed, her similarity to Portman is so striking that it was
reported, during filming, that their own mothers could not tell
them apart, once covered in make-up.
Further roles quickly followed, though, and Knightley has since
appeared in The Hole, as well as Bend
It Like Beckham. Next up, is another blockbuster, King Arthur
(again produced by Jerry Bruckheimer), which she is currently
filming in Ireland, as well as the ensemble drama, Love
Actually, alongside the likes of Liam Neeson, Hugh Grant,
Colin Firth and Laura Linney.
So how is the star adapting to the transition from smaller, independent
movies, to the wilder extravagances of the Hollywood blockbuster?
"Theres a big difference," she notes. "I
mean, on Bend It Like Beckham there were, maybe, 50 crew members,
while on Pirates. we had hundreds, and hundreds and hundreds;
so its just much bigger, and we could take more time.
"Every football sequence in Bend It Like Beckham took no
more than a day and a half, whereas some of the action sequences
in this took about two weeks.
"Its a longer, drawn out process, doing something
of this magnitude, as opposed to something that small, but I think
the banter between actor and director is always the same, and
you have that discussion always, no matter what you are making.
Everythings just on a larger scale."
Rather like Knightleys career itself, then.