Knightley attained instant cult status among Stars Wars fanatics with a small but important role in Star Wars: Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, playing Sabe -- the "Decoy Queen" to Natalie Portman's Queen Amidala. She greatly increased her recognition factor playing a tomboy soccer player in the worldwide hit Bend It Like Beckham (2002).
But the best was yet to come. Knightley's choice for her first U.S. starring role couldn't have been much better -- she played feisty heroine Elizabeth Swann in the surprise smash Pirates of the Caribbean. Pirates producer Jerry Bruckheimer then cast Knightley in another costume action epic, as Queen Guinevere in the revisionist history of King Arthur (2004).