But the 20-year-old British actress seems nonplussed over the fuss. The naked truth, so to speak, is that she is thrilled with the nomination for her charming performance as plucky heroine Elizabeth Bennet in Joe Wright's adaptation of Jane Austen's classic novel.
After gaining attention in the U.S. as a soccer-playing tomboy in the 2002 film, "Bend It Like Beckham," Knightley was cast as feisty Elizabeth Swann in the 2003 blockbuster "The Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl." For the past year, she's been in the Bahamas working on the back-to-back sequels to the swashbuckling adventure.
Q: Were you surprised with all the hullabaloo surrounding the Vanity Fair cover?
A: It makes me giggle.
Q: Why did you decide to do it?
A: I worked with Annie Leibovitz before on a Vogue cover and just loved her. I found her so inspiring. You do a lot of photo shoots and it's fantastic to do something completely different. I'm 20. It's Annie Leibovitz. It's the cover of Vanity Fair. Why not? It's something to show the grandchildren.
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Q: Working for so long in the Caribbean on the "Pirates" movies has kept you away from the awards season storm. Were you surprised when you learned about the Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations for "Pride & Prejudice"?
A: It was so unexpected. Lovely. It has been quite weird because I have been so out of it. Not only have I been in the Bahamas filming, but we have been doing nights for the past three weeks, so your brain always turns into a sponge when you do that. I think the day the [Oscar] nominations got announced, it was 9 in the morning our time and we had been on a night shoot, so we hadn't gotten in until God knows what time. My mom came squealing in the room at 9 and I said, "Oh, that's great" and actually turned around back asleep and didn't wake up for another three hours.
Q: What happened after that?
A:I woke up and said, "Wait a minute" and started giggling maniacally and had to run out of the room [and say to my mother] "About three hours ago, did you come into my room and say I got a nomination?" It is very exciting and very odd.
Q: Why odd?
A: We really didn't expect to get any nominations. It's a romance that celebrates innocence really, and that type of film doesn't get pushed for awards.
Q: I was so surprised when I learned you initially didn't want to play Elizabeth Bennet.
A: I was terrified. I think it's because Elizabeth Bennet is my favorite character in English literature. I love "Pride and Prejudice." I love the book and have since I was 7. I had it on book tape and I listened to it so much I wore the book tape out.
Q: Why were you so obsessed with the book?
A: I don't know, I have no idea, apart from the idea that when I was 7 I thought I was Elizabeth Bennet. I am convinced of it. And the BBC version came out when I was about 10 or 11 and I watched it on the loop solidly for two years and became obsessed again.
Q: What did you think when you found out a new version was in the works?
A: My initial reaction was you can't do another version — the Colin Firth version is the definitive "Pride and Prejudice" — you can't possibly do another one. But when [my agents] said we want you to go up for it. I said, "I can't. I can't bear it if I ruin this role. It would destroy me if I did." I begged people not to send me up for it.
Q: How did you get over the fear?
A: Both my agents said stop being stupid, you are being a coward.
Q: Was playing Elizabeth everything you dreamed of?
A: It was brilliant. It was an amazing experience and a very rare experience. I think everybody involved slightly fell in love with each other. We have become really close since. I am very lucky, I really haven't had a bad filmic experience, but it is normally ships passing in the night. You get incredibly close to people for a short amount of time and quite often you never see each other again. With this one, we have really stayed in touch.