The Oscar-nominated star of Atonement and Pride and Prejudice now battles to prove to herself – and those around her – that she has brains.
“I am completely uneducated,” said Knightley, 23. “Not going to university did give me an incredible driving force because it leaves you with a slight chip on your shoulder. It makes me feel I am going to read absolutely everything so I can prove that I am not stupid.”
Her current reading list is an impressive library which includes a biography of Albert Speer, a history of the Vietnam War, the treatises of Mary Wollstonecraft and Germaine Greer’s feminist text The Female Eunuch.
To add to her difficulties, Keira was diagnosed with dyslexia aged six and as a result can read only very slowly, she told Tatler magazine.
The actress dropped out of school at 17, before taking her A-levels, after landing her breakthrough role as Lara in a television adaptation of Doctor Zhivago. She found stardom that same year in Bend It Like Beckham and went on to play Guinevere in King Arthur, Cecilia Tallis in Atonement and Dylan Thomas’s lover Vera Phillips in The Edge of Love, as well as the blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean movies. She recently signed up to play Cordelia in a film version of King Lear.
Her next ambition is to appear on stage, but she will not be taking a starry role in the West End: “I can’t quite handle the idea of ‘Screen Actress in Big West End Hit’ and all that. I would prefer to do something smaller,” she said, confessing to a constant fear that her acting is not up to scratch. “Everything scares me. The idea of doing theatre scares me in an exciting way but doing any part always terrifies me… It boils down to a fear of standing there in a wig and a dress and suddenly thinking, ‘I feel like an idiot.’ You must not let your imagination see the absurdity of it and cause your performance to die.”
While Knightley failed to complete her education, many of her fellow actresses have combined career success with university degrees. Rachel Weisz and Thandie Newton studied at Cambridge, while Kate Beckinsale, Emilia Fox and Emily Mortimer are Oxford graduates.
Among those who did not go on to university, Kate Winslet shares Knightley’s feelings, admitting to feeling “intellectually insecure” in the company of more educated actors.
Knightley and her boyfriend, actor Rupert Friend, are regular targets for the paparazzi. She said: “I am told by a lot of the paparazzi who follow me that they are helping my career but, by that logic, Paris Hilton should be the biggest box office catch in the world and she isn’t.”
Knightley will next be seen as Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire in The Duchess, an adaptation of Amanda Foreman’s best-selling biography. Georgiana was a celebrated 18th century beauty and ancestor of Diana, Princess of Wales, whose personal life scandalised Georgian England.
“I saw Georgiana as this courageous person who was in a marriage that was like a cage dropped on top of her, forcing her to fight her way out. The film is also partly about the power of female manipulation, which was then a woman’s only weapon,” she said. The script includes a harrowing rape scene with Ralph Fiennes, who plays her promiscuous husband. Knightley described it as “very shocking”, adding that she had learned “some 18th-century swear words” to lend the scene authenticity.
I have a chip on my shoulder over not being in three movies with Johnny Depp.
CRY ABOUT IT KEIRA. Natalie Portman went to college. You’re just lazy. I don’t hate her for it but, you know a lazy girl when you see one. To be honest, college definitely has made me smarter. The more new ideas you’re exposed to in classes, the more you realize how little you knew before and how much is left to be learned. There is no end to learning, and college is in my opinion, one of the best areas to start that off.
I know someone has said this, but I think Keira Knightly is saying that she doesn’t feel up to par. As in the way the world or in her own little world, the mindset is.
Oh and knowledge does not equal intelligence. I wish people knew that.
Oh, Tom Cruise and Walt Disney have dyslexia too. If you noticed, Tom Cruise has only a couple of sentences, sparse actually, as lines for roles in his movies.
So, don’t feel bad sweetie, maybe you can make your own version of Disneyland. 🙂
I suspect it’s a middle-class thing (which she probably belongs to)??
Also, I’ve noticed many British actors/actresses are highly educated…like Oxford/Cambridge level.
I asked a friend who is now living in UK, and here’s here message:
“ As a fellow English person, maybe I can shed some light here for you 🙂 Over here, if you are intelligent, you are expected to go to university. There is a huge number of government schemes in place to help people who could get a degree go to university to actually get said degree, instead of it just being the rich people who get to go. Her use of ‘completely uneducated’ is pushing it a lot but I do get where she is coming from.“
And besides, she’s too skinny to carry around a chip on her shoulder.
Wait, maybe she can eat it, then PURGE later.
But seriously, if she really wants to go to college, she has to work her ass up and do it the human way
Life doesn’t play favorites honey.
The film will premiere in September and Knightley is already being tipped for her second Oscar nomination.
The full interview is in the new issue of Tatler, on sale Thursday.