“I can’t even remember George Lucas talking to me”: Keira Knightley’s Forgotten Star Wars Role Was a Deeply Guarded Secret That She Got Because of Natalie Portman 

Keira Knightley was provided with her portion of the script the day of filming, and she was required to sign a “secrecy agreement”. 

George Lucas, Natalie Portman, Keira Knightley in Star Wars
credit: wikimedia commons

SUMMARY

  • The Star Wars film series has grown in popularity over the years, with many actors contributing to the franchise.
  • Keira Knightley was cast in a secret role in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999).
  • At the time, Knightley was chosen for the role (Sabé) because she resembled Natalie Portman.
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The Star Wars film series is still expanding and has grown in recognition over the years. Innumerable actors have contributed to the property as the galaxy far, far away continues to grow through projects for both small and large screens. Some of them even lose track of how they came to be cast in the first place. Take Keira Knightley, for example. 

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Known for her acclaimed performances in Pride and Prejudice and The Imitation Game, the actress, 39, also had a role in the Star Wars film franchise that was a long-kept secret. 

Keira Knightley in Love Actually
Keira Knightley in Love Actually

Surprisingly, Knightley’s involvement in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999) wasn’t a big deal at the time, as she was not a known face playing a bit part in the background. Even more intriguingly, she was cast for the role because of how much she resembled Natalie Portman when she wore the same makeup and attire.  

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The Intriguing Story Behind Keira Knightley’s Star Wars Role: The Connection to Natalie Portman

In 1999, Keira Knightley was cast in George Lucas’ Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace as Sabé, the handmaiden of Queen Padmé Amidala, who was played by Natalie Portman. And what’s the interesting part? 

Knightley’s resemblance to Portman was so striking that they could pass for each other when wearing the same makeup and outfit, allowing the former to fill in for Portman when necessary. This secret was so closely guarded that even Knightley was unaware of her full involvement in the film.

Natalie Portman in a still from the Star Wars franchise
Natalie Portman in a still from the Star Wars franchise (Credit: Lucasfilm)

In a 2004 interview, Knightley stated this herself:

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“I was basically an extra. I can’t even remember George Lucas talking to me.”

But there was a surprising degree of covertness for such a small role. The Pirates of the Caribbean actress had to sign a “secrecy agreement” and was not given her portion of the script until the day of filming. As she clarified:

“I didn’t realize what I was doing until the last day of shooting when somebody said, ‘She’s a decoy,’ and I was like, ‘Oh, am I? That’s what I was supposed to do?’ Nobody had told me.”

Regardless, Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace was far from Knightley’s breakthrough role. Fortunately, the actress was given numerous opportunities to exhibit her acting abilities, including lead performances in films like Pride and Prejudice and Never Let Me Go.

How Keira Knightley Persuaded Her Mom to Join Star Wars?

Keira Knightley in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace
Keira Knightley in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (Credit: Lucasfilm)

Recalling her audition for the 1999 film Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, Keira Knightley once talked with Reading Eagle about how she was cast as Sabé, Queen Padmé Amidala’s handmaiden.

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Her parents attempted to dissuade her from joining the cast, citing their concern that she would not enjoy being filmed. Nonetheless, the Love Actually actress declared that she would not give up hope because of her love for the franchise.

“I said, ‘No, I’ve got to do it. It’s a Star Wars film, for heaven’s sake.” 

Eventually, her parents gave in and let her star in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. But in the end, their prediction proved to be accurate. That being said, what specifically transpired during her Star Wars experience to cause her to cry? Knightley further recalled:

“I cried every single day I did that film because the costumes were so uncomfortable.”

Also, Knightley stated in an interview with Coming Soon that she could not recall if she ever donned the role of Sabé. The actor described how, the year after the movie’s theatrical release, she never saw it:

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“And I never saw it again. I hope she lived a long and happy life somewhere in a planet far, far away.”

Despite her small role in Star Wars, Knightley’s career continued to soar, landing her leading roles in major films and garnering critical acclaim for her performances. Her breakthrough did not come until she played Jules in Gurinder Chadha’s Bend It Like Beckham. It’s fascinating to look back at her early days in Hollywood and see how her involvement in a seemingly insignificant role helped shape her career trajectory.

We last saw her as Loretta McLaughlin in Matt Ruskin’s Boston Strangler.

Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace is streaming on Disney +.

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Written by Siddhika Prajapati

Articles Published: 1745

Between everyday normalities and supernatural abnormalities, Siddhika Prajapati finds the story in everything. Literature Honors Graduate and Post-Graduated in Journalism (from Delhi University), her undying need to deduce the extraordinary out of simplicity makes her a vibrant storyteller.

Serving as a Senior Entertainment Writer at Fandom Wire and having written over 1700 pieces, Siddhika has also worked with multiple clients and projects over the years, including Indian Express, India Today, and Outlook Group.

Who knows, maybe your next favorite persona on the screen will be crafted by her.