Keira Knightley: The Q Interview

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The Independent Culture

At 18, Keira Knightley proved her acting - and football - skills in last summer's global surprise hit, Bend It Like Beckham. She dropped out of college when offers poured in from Hollywood and is now starring opposite Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush in Disney's swashbuckling Pirates of the Caribbean. Other credits include Sabé in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace when she was 12, and Lara in the TV adaptation of Dr Zhivago. She lives with her father, Will Knightley, an actor, and her mother, Sharman Macdonald, a screenwriter, in Richmond, Surrey.

Does fame scare you?

Yes, it absolutely terrifies me. People just knowing you, who you don't know. I guess that's pretty fundamental isn't it?

So how are you dealing with becoming the next big deal?

I'm not really. I've only left this hotel [in Los Angeles] twice so nobody has really come up to me and said anything. I mean nobody ever says anything to me in England, which is nice.

Not even after Bend It Like Beckham?

No, no. I have schizophrenic hair so it sort of goes from short blonde to long brown, so nobody ever recognises me. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing.

How has your life changed since the unexpected success [in the United States] of Bend It?

Obviously I was surprised by that as well but I've been travelling a bit more and what's funny is that I haven't seen any of the success. I was working in the Czech Republic when Bend It Like Beckham came out, so I wasn't there for any of the hype. And I'm not going to be in England when Pirates of the Caribbean comes out. I'm actually going to be working on a film in a very small village in the Irish countryside. So, I've managed to miss pretty much all of it, which I think is really great, actually because it means it really hasn't changed my life.

Do you still follow football?

Ironically, I follow football now more than I did before. I wasn't really into it at all before I came to Los Angeles. But I got kind of homesick when I first arrived, so me and a mate would go down to a pub in Santa Monica, to watch live English Premiership soccer at 6.30 on a Sunday morning.

What kind of pupil were you at school?

Well, I had to make sure that my grades were as good as they could possibly be so that my parents to allow me to act. I'd put my head down and was always at the front of the class, said very little and put my hand up a lot. I was most certainly not the popular girl in school. I just kind of sank into the background.

Did you have any nicknames because you were tall?

I grew very quickly when I was 12 so my trousers were always ankle-swingers. I got teased for that.

What do you like doing in your spare time?

I paint and draw very badly. Another reason why I couldn't live in LA is because I'm a shoe freak. I shop all the time, and if I lived here, I'd be bankrupt pretty quickly.

You've just worked with Hugh Grant and Emma Thompson, in Love Actually and Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush in Pirates of the Caribbean. Has anyone ever given you any advice?

No, nobody. But then I haven't asked for it. Perhaps that's why they haven't given me any. I came into the Johnny Depp experience thinking, "I'm going to work with these titans, you know - Johnny, Oscar winner, Geoffrey Rush, Jonathan Pryce - I'm going to learn something. I'm going to see how they do it and I'll be great when I come out." But I can safely say that I don't have a clue! I mean, Johnny in particular comes to the set, has a giggle, has a cup of tea, he does a scene, has another cup of tea, and he has another laugh. And you think, where the hell did that performance come from? I haven't got a clue! I have no answers - it's just talent I guess, which is pretty sickening.

Is there an actor you have a crush on?

God, the list just goes on and on. I'm actually ticking them off. Johnny Depp tick, Orlando Bloom, tick. So it's going pretty well so far. I didn't actually have a scene with Hugh Grant in Love Actually, so he'd be top of my list. I think he's pretty sexy and British as well. So, come on, Hugh!

Who would you choose in real life between Orlando and Johnny?

Got to go for Johnny. Don't tell him that. But I've just got to go for Johnny. His bone structure's not bad ...

'Pirates of the Caribbean' opens on 8 August