By CNS News
Keira Knightley is young, talented, and ravishingly beautiful. She's also about to become a major Hollywood star, thanks to her upcoming role as Elizabeth Swann, the gorgeous governor's daughter who's abducted by Johnny Depp, a Keith Richards-channelling pirate in the new bodice-ripping comedy Pirates of the Caribbean.
But you'd never guess it from meeting her. Totally unaffected by all the (justified) hype surrounding her, the British 18-year-old comes across in person as sweet, enthusiastic, and always on the lookout "for a giggle" as she puts it. Not that there was anything remotely giggle-inducing about the vise-like corsets she had to wear for Pirates, which she refers to as "very sexy but very cruel - I nearly fainted" (more about which later).
Thankfully, on this cool late-June morning in L.A., Keira has opted for less formal wear; she's dressed in a black sweat top over a white T-shirt, jeans and very high black Prada heels. And she's in a great mood as she talks openly about starring opposite heartthrobs Depp and Orlando Bloom, kissing Orlando, how she got shipwrecked in real life, and how she's a "complete slob" at heart.
Do you worry that your career's going too fast?
I don't know. I haven't really had time to think about it. It's slightly nerve-wracking, I have to admit, but no complaints.
What's it like seeing your face on all the film posters with Johnny and Orlando?
Oh please! I got such a kick out that. But I do think all my friends, 'cos they haven't seen it yet, are going to take **** out of me - a lot.
Was Johnny what you expected?
He was much cooler than I expected. He's wicked and such a nice bloke and he made me giggle all the time. He's really sweet too. I loved being around him. I'm a Johnny Depp groupie now!
What about working with Orlando? What makes him so attractive to young girls everywhere?
(Laughs) I haven't got a clue! I mean, he's very fanciable. I think he's kind of got that androgynous, sort of boyish look. It's a terribly attractive boyish look, so he's sort of unthreatening to teenage girls, I suppose. But don't get me wrong! He's absolutely gorgeous. And he's got great hair.
So was he fun to kiss?
He was lovely to kiss. We did a bunch of takes and I could easily have kept going. Yeah, he's a really good kisser.
Is it true you really did get shipwrecked during the shoot?
I did, coming back from the scene where me and Johnny get stuck on this desert island together. It was about 10pm at night when we finally finished and got off the island and I was heading home on a speedboat, it's pitch black, and we heard this distress call. So we stopped the boat to try and see where it was, couldn't see it, and started the engine again. But we must have drifted and we hit something and the whole boat started to sink. The problem was, we'd just moved islands and I had every bit of luggage for the entire 6 months shoot on that boat, and the guy said, 'OK, pick 3 things - that's all you can save.'
That's not easy for a woman.
It isn't! So I agonized for a bit and picked a sparkly purse, 'cos it was really pretty and I couldn't bear to think of it on the bottom of the sea, and it had all my money in it and credit card, and I'd just spent a whole day speaking with the bank trying to sort something out, so I thought, 'No way is that going down!' And I needed my passport to get home, and my friend's cowboy hat as I thought he'd kill me if I lost it. My best friend had lent it to me, and it was his absolutely his most favourite thing in the world, and I couldn't bear the thought of telling him it'd gone to the bottom of the sea. So the boat began going down, we had to jump out, and then we realized we'd washed up on a reef. So we were wading through water up to our chests and there was all this fire coral, and we waited there in the pitch black for an hour before two Frenchmen came in a rubber dingy and rescued us. It was one of the most surreal experiences of my entire life, but I can safely say I'm a method actress now as I really was shipwrecked.
And did you lose the rest of your stuff?
No, luckily as the boat washed up on the reef, all the luggage was fine, and the only stuff that really got wet was everything I took with me, including a very soggy passport. If I'd left it all on the boat it would have been fine.
Did you get seasick like everyone else on the film?
Luckily no. Well, yes and no. Normally I don't get seasick at all. I'm a fast-ride junkie so I'm usually fine. But I'd never been on an 18th century boat before, and it rocks - a lot. So when we were 20 miles out, I did decide that a seasickness tablet was a good idea. But they make you very drowsy - beyond drowsy. I couldn't keep my eyes open the whole day. so I know there'll be outtakes where I literally fell asleep mid-take (laughs). So after that I didn't take pills, and felt queasy all day, but it was better than falling asleep on camera.
You must be so fit now after this and Bend It Like Beckham.
You'd think, but I'm incredibly lazy, and Bend It was a huge shock to the system. After I did that I just sat down in front of the telly and didn't stand up again till I did this. And then it was another big shock to the system, all the running around. And I can safely say I didn't do any exercise at all while shooting Pirates, apart from running around on set. And now I'm doing King Arthur where I've got personal trainers and boxing and swordfighting and archery people, so I'm now fitter than I've ever been my entire life.
What about the scene in Pirates where you're gasping for air. Was the corset that bad or was it just acting?
No, it was really that bad. You just can't breathe in them at all, but it was my own fault as I have this thing about Gone With The Wind and Scarlett O'Hara when she got her waist down to about 18 inches. I thought, 'Ooh, that'd be a good idea! Let's see if I can do that.' I got mine down to about 20 inches and couldn't breathe. It's fine in the fitting as they're only 5 minutes long, but as soon as I was in it for 12 hours my eyes started rolling in the back of my head and I began to faint. I don't think I actually passed out but it was close and the director said, 'You have to get off set and out of that corset!' So I got an hour off occasionally so I could breathe a bit and eat a bit, 'cos the food stops here (points to her chest) and it feels like it's going to come up at every opportunity, which is really, really nice. Luckily my costume girl Stacey was always there and as soon as I began to turn blue she'd say, 'Time to get it off.' So the moral is, never wear a corset!
Who are you playing in Arthur?
Guinevere, but a warrior version of her, and I get to fight. It's going to be really interesting as it's making a reality out of the myth. There's this theory that Arthur was in fact this Roman general, Arterius Rex, and this is going along that path. It's the fall of the Roman empire in Britain, with the Picts trying to take charge again. And I've been having a great time doing tons of research into the period. I love doing all that period stuff. I don't actually care what period it is as long as the part's good, but I do love getting dressed up.
You're also in Love Actually.
It's a big old ensemble piece with entwining love stories. My part's really tiny - just 5 scenes - but really beautiful, and I get married and kiss some gorgeous guy and wear nice clothes with great make up. I marry Chiwetel Ejiofor who's in Stephen Frears' Dirty Pretty Things and Andy Lincoln's the other man, but I can't reveal anymore.
What about working with Hugh Grant?
Our paths cross in the film, but we sadly don't have a proper scene together. I met him a few times, and I also did a few days with Colin Firth who I absolutely love! He's fantastic and really cool, and we had a real giggle.
Your mum's a well-known Scottish playwright. Are you close?
We're very close. She's wicked and she actually came on location with me for all of Pirates, which is great as I don't think LA is a place where a teenage girl should be on her own (giggles).
So she wouldn't let you stay in Hollywood alone?
No, it's not that, because I was in Prague shooting for 3 months on my own, but LA is different. More temptations.
Did you inherit your mum's writing ability?
No, I'm completely useless! I'm actually dyslexic. I can't write a sentence. I've tried to write a lot, everything from poetry and diaries to short stories to screenplays, but I just don't have the patience for it. I absolutely don't, and I don't know how she does it.
So what did you inherit from her?
What about your dad?
He's an actor, so that explains that, and my mum was an actor too.
You started acting very young. Were they supportive?
No, they were both totally against it, and they're only really now coming round to the idea of me being an actress. No actors want their children to be in such an unstable job, and it's certainly not what they wanted for me. They wanted a stable income and a roof over my head and so on, which is absolutely not what you get with acting.
So you rebelled?
A tiny bit, but it was more being dyslexic and the only way they could get me to work. When I was 6 they found out I couldn't read at all and I'd just been fooling everyone 'cos I'd listen to book tapes and memorise them and pretend I could read. (laughs) I can read now. But it's amazing what a child's cruelty will do to another child, and being called 'stupid' a lot by other kids makes you rather determined to get over whatever ailment is holding you back. And I was very lucky that I was born when I was and that it didn't happen, say, 25 years ago, when they knew far less about dyslexia and I'd have probably been labelled 'stupid' for life. Now there's a theory it runs in families, and in fact my mum doesn't know her alphabet, so maybe she's dyslexic too, though obviously very creative.
What do you spend your money on?
I'm obsessed with shoes.
How many do you have?
I don't have a clue. I can't count them - it's that out of control. Am I going to be bankrupt if I keep buying them at the same rate? Yes! The boat probably sank because of the weight of all my shoes (laughs hard).
Who are your favorite shoes designers?
I love Prada and Jimmy Choos. That reminds me - I need to go shopping.
Any other vices?
I'm a complete slob, I'm afraid. Just very messy. It drives people mad.
Where are you based now?
I still live at home with my parents in London. I can't afford to move out, let alone buy a house. You can't buy a house in London. It's impossible now. No one can afford it.
What about boyfriends?
Oh God! That's impossible too. No time. No time at all. I begin shooting King Arthur in two weeks and I'm still learning how to swordfight and shoot arrows. It's sad but true, I've got no time for boys right now. (Giggles) Of course, it doesn't help much when you still live at home.
So would you ever move to Hollywood?
I love it here but not in the foreseeable future, but never say never. At the moment, London's very much my home, and all my friends are there and family, so I can't imagine leaving it now. But then I'm only 18, so you never know.