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Keira Knightley named top movie breakout star of 2003

Story by Jack Foley

FORMER Teddington schoolgirl, Keira Knightley, has swashbuckled with Johnny Depp, got romantic with the ensemble cast of Love Actually, and has bent it like Beckham to considerable acclaim in America, so it is little wonder to find her heading a magazine poll as this year’s top breakout movie star.

What is surprising, however, is the fact that the magazine in question is one of America’s most influential entertainment watchdogs, Entertainment Weekly, which sits alongside Variety and the Hollywood Reporter as one of the journals to read for anyone who cares about their viewing.

The British rose, it seems, is blossoming on both sides of the Atlantic, and her star looks set to continue rising, with yet more high-profile movies lined up, in the form of Jerry Bruckheimer’s King Arthur, as well as Tulip Fever, alongside Jude Law, and The Jacket, alongside this year’s Oscar-winner, Adrien Brody.

Her feisty performance in this Summer’s Pirates of the Caribbean, for example, has thrust her onto the Hollywood A-list, while both Bruckheimer and George Clooney have touted her as a major new talent.

Not bad for an actress who is still just 18, and who can regularly be seen shopping with her family in both Richmond and Teddington.

And what’s more refreshing is that success does not appear to have gone to Knightley’s head, for she remains in demand for all of the right reasons.

Bruckheimer, for instance, had no hesitation in casting her in the role of Guinevere, in King Arthur, after her appearance in Pirates of the Caribbean helped it to become one of 2003’s biggest successes, stating that ‘she can act; with Keira, you don't see the wheels turning’.

While Clooney, who serves as executive producer (with Steven Soderbergh) on The Jacket, was quoted by the BBC as saying he thought she was ‘fantastic’ in Pirates Of The Caribbean, and adding: "She's just a movie star. You know, it's an intangible that you're never really able to describe."

In the past 12 months, Knightley has also been signed up as the new Asprey girl, and appeared in several magazine in November for an advertising campaign, shot by respected photographer, Bruce Weber.

Asprey has, since 1781, been known for its silver, leather, porcelain and crystal, but is now expanding into fashion, while Knightley donned $800,000 worth of Asprey diamonds for the London premiere of Pirates of the Caribbean.

The daughter of actor, Will Knightley, and playwright, Sharman MacDonald, Knightley apparently requested an agent at the age of three, and secured her first role at the age of nine, in Moira Armstrong’s 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 Menace.

Speaking of her own success, at a Summer press conference in London, the actress confessed to having had several pinch me moments of late, but added: "You just have to take each day at a time and try to have as much fun as possible. And, fortunately, this movie [Pirates of the Caribbean] was a great experience to be part of."

Although she also admits to becoming incredibly nervous in the presence of the Love Actually ensemble, when the cast assembled for a read through in a hall, in Notting Hill, prior to filming began.

"I have five scenes and I have never been more nervous in my entire life," she admitted. "I mean, I’ve done read throughs before. I’ve done them with Johnny Depp, and that wasn’t terrifying. But there were, like, 50 people sitting around this huge table.

"It was astonishing. You looked up and there was Hugh Grant, over there was Alan Rickman. Oh there’s Liam Neeson, there’s Emma Thompson. I mean, come on, can you blame me for being nervous?

"I mean, just the fact that all of those people turned up for this read through shows how much respect they have for writer-director, Richard Curtis. It was huge, huge. And at the end of it, I was like ‘ah! I can’t handle this!’ And I ran away, I got out of there as fast as I could."

Not that the prospect of appearing alongside such a big cast prevented her from appearing in the movie, given that she is gushing in her praise of Mr Curtis.

"The thing about Richard is that he makes feel good movies and he makes them well, and that’s very difficult to do," she explains.

"Because the thing about the feel good movie is that it’s something they all try and do and there is nothing more disgusting than a patronising feel good, smarmy movie, because you just think ‘my brain has been turned to mush and that was a disgusting experience...’

"To be able to do it well is an amazing talent; there are very few who can do it, and Richard is at the top of that list, no question. It’s absolutely incredible how you can sit through all of his films with a stupid grin on your face and you do - no matter if you come out and say ‘oh no its not my sort of thing, I’m very art house...’ you still smile at those films. I defy anyone not to."

Of her own plans for the future, Knightley has determined to continue enjoying her success while it lasts, even though she admits that her parents may have had a different career path in mind.

"I think my Mum and Dad think I’m going to university," she laughed at the end of an interview for Love Actually, "because they probably expect me to become a doctor or something. But no, I think I’ll stick with this. I am having a very good time."

And who can blame her? With the sequel to Pirates of the Caribbean serving to ensure that she will be working at least until 2005, and the cream of Hollywood clamouring to either direct, or appear alongside her, Entertainment Weekly looks to have been spot on in predicting greater things for her in the future.

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