Keira Knightley turns 28 today. But judging from the number of period pieces she’s acted in, it’s probably more accurate to say she’s timeless. Like any modern day time traveler, she’s constantly dashing back and forth between different centuries in an attempt to play the lead in every historic movie ever made. And so far, so good. No one pulls off the period costume better than her. Nor does anyone else come close to portraying heroines of yore as well as she does. I guess what we’re trying to say is that she’s acted in a LOT of period films. So many that we’re starting to suspect that she’s traveling through Hollywood via time machine. While we don’t have to look much further than the fact that she recently landed the role of Coco Chanel in a Karl Lagerfeld-directed short film, we’ll take you on a quick tour through her movie timeline to prove our point.
2003/Mid-1800s: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
Keira first stole our hearts when she plummeted back in time to the mid-18th century to play the daring Elizabeth Swann in Pirates of the Caribbean. Throughout the pirate saga we saw her dress in some pretty crazy period fashions. Remember the scene when she fainted in her corset and fell off a terrace mid-proposal?
During her time in the mid 1800s, she showed us that she’s not afraid to cross dress and get messy in the spirit of adventure. Also it has to be said that she still managed to look beautiful in the midst of all this badassness.
After conquering the seas, she gracefully traveled back to the early 1800s to take on a world of strict societal conventions in Jane Austen’s Regency England.
2005/Early 1800s: Pride & Prejudice
Keira donned her best empire waist gown and sassy smile to embody the bold and strong-willed literary heroine Elizabeth Bennet in a daring adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel. This version forsakes tradition for exciting re-imagining of classic scenes; for example the big proposal takes place in a marble monument in the pouring rain instead of in a stuffy English sitting room. Keira approached Lizzie with wit and depth, and her chemistry with Matthew Macfadyen as Darcy was unparalleled.
After stealing Mr. Darcy’s heart, Keira fast-forwarded to World War II to pursue true love in the face of The Blitz.
2007/World War II: Atonement
Keira time traveled all the way to the 1940s in Atonement, the movie that made us cry and cry and then cry some more. When the World War II period piece wasn’t busy messing with our heads and stomping on our hearts, it featured the amazing pairing of James McAvoy and Keira Knightley. Tragic ending aside, these two are beautiful together.
Before we could blink an eye, Keira was already back in the late 19th century ready to portray a legendary Dutchess.
2008/Late 1800s: The Dutchess
Keira squeezes into a corset once again to play Georgiana Cavendish, Dutchess of Devonshire: a Victorian era socialite who was infamous for her many affairs. Political campaigner, fashion icon, gambler, and onetime novelist, she just about did it all. This movie went all-out with the extravagant period costumes and hairstyles, and most of all, crazy elaborate hats.
Next on her journey through time, Keira ditched the fancy dresses to play some psychological mind games with Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung.
2011/Early 1900s: A Dangerous Method
Yes, she leaps through time again and lands in Switzerland in the age of female hysteria this time. She stars as badass historical figure Sabina Speilrein, who goes from the hysteria patient of Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) to his mistress to a psychologist in her own right. Exciting developments in turn of the century psychology + an illicit affair between patient and psychotherapist = some crazy stuff to analyze. Not to mention Sabina Speilrein one of the first female psychoanalysts, giving Freud and Jung a run for their money. Get it, girl.
Next up, Keira hops from Switzerland to Russia to star in Anna Karenina.
2012/Late 1800s: Anna Karenina
Keira travels east to snowy Russia to play the role of Anna Karenina, the rule-defying Russian aristocrat from Leo Tolstoy’s novel about an affair that changes a woman’s life. The Tom Stoppard/Joe Wright-helmed movie uses the motifs of train stations and proscenium stages as a meta framing device for a visually stunning adaptation of the classic 19th century novel. If anyone can take on the strong protagonist of this sweeping and complex work of Russian literature, it’s Keira Knightley.
Happy birthday, Keira Knightley! May you always reign supreme as time travel queen. Just be careful not to change the past in the process…
(Lead Photo: (Image from FayesVision/WENN.com))