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Keira Knightley became one of the most respected actresses of her generation by balancing period roles such as “Pride & Prejudice” and “The Imitation Game” with blockbuster franchises like “Pirates of the Caribbean.” But before she started racking up Oscar nominations, she rose to prominence for her role in the 2002 soccer comedy “Bend It Like Beckham.” While that film was released just a year before “Love Actually” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” catapulted her onto Hollywood’s A-List, Knightley now says that she never expected it to be her big break. In fact, she and everyone around her seemed to think that the movie was destined for failure.
Appearing on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” to promote her upcoming thriller “Boston Strangler,” Knightley recalled her initial embarrassment about the film’s cheeky title. Knightley said that when she told her friends about the project, the only words of encouragement they could offer were predictions that the film would flop so badly that it would be forgotten.
“I literally remember telling people I was doing it and it’s called ‘Bend It Like Beckham,’ and them going, ‘Oh that’s really embarrassing,’ Knightley said about her initial impressions of the project. “And they were all like, ‘Don’t worry. Nobody will see it. It’s fine.’”
Knightley explained that “Bend It Like Beckham” was made in a cultural environment where women’s soccer was not yet a major spectator sport, causing her to question the amount of interest that such a film could generate.
“It was the idea of it because, you know, women’s soccer was not as big back then,” she said. “And so the idea of the whole thing was sort of ridiculous.”
Once the film came out, Knightley was pleasantly surprised by the enthusiastic reception it received. The actress went on to explain that the film has had more cultural staying power than most of her other work, and she has no regrets about making it.
“It’s amazing because it’s still the film even today, you know, if someone comes up to talk to me about my work it’s that one,” Knightley said. “It’s so loved. It’s amazing.”