Early life and background
Keira Christina Knightley was born on 26 March 1985 in Teddington, London, to theatre actors Sharman Macdonald and Will Knightley. Her mother is of Scottish and Welsh descent, while her father is English. She was meant to be named "Kiera", the Anglicized form of "Kira", a name influenced by the Russian ice skater, Kira Ivanova, whom her father admired. However, Macdonald misspelled the name when she went to register her daughter, writing the "e" before the "i". Knightley has an elder brother, Caleb. Macdonald also worked as a playwright after her career as an actress came to an end. She introduced her children to theatre and ballet at an early age. This furthered Knightley's interest in acting, and she requested an agent at the age of three.
Knightley attended Teddington School. At the age of six, she was diagnosed with dyslexia but by the time she was eleven, with her parents' support and much tuition, Knightley said: "they deemed me to have got over it sufficiently". She is still a slow reader and cannot read out loud. Knightley has noted that she was "single-minded about acting" during her childhood. At the age of three Knightley expressed the desire for an agent like her parents', she eventually got one at age six. This led to her taking a number of small parts in TV dramas throughout her childhood. While growing up, Knightley performed in a number of local amateur productions, which included After Juliet, written by her mother, and United States, written by her drama teacher. She focused on art, history, and English literature while studying at the Esher College, but left after a year to pursue an acting career.