Keira Knightley Opens up About Paparazzi-Fueled 'Mental Breakdown': 'I Told Them I Was Going to Kill Somebody'

Keira Knightley opened up about the mental breakdown she suffered when she was 22 years old, revealing she once told paparazzi she would end up killing someone during their rush to get photos of her. The Pride and Prejudice actress, now 34, has discussed her breakdown in the past, revealing how difficult it was for her to handle sudden fame after an incredible run of films in her early 20s. In a new interview with The Telegraph, Knightley gave an eye-opening look at what it was like to be a young female star at the time.

"The value of photographs of any famous young women at the time went up if they were of a very negative nature," Knightley told The Telegraph, referring to the media circuses that followed Amy Winehouse, Britney Spears and others. "So if you weren’t already having a mental breakdown, they were trying to push you into doing things that kept your value as high as those who were."

"I remember Scarlett Johansson getting forced off the road in Los Angeles, then someone trying to do the same to me in Kentish Town," Knightley recalled. "I told them I was going to kill somebody; they said they’d get more money if I did…I don’t know how things are now…but it was definitely a moment I wanted to run away from. It did not feel like it would end anywhere well."

By the time she was 22, Knightley already had Bend it Like Beckham, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Love Actually, King Arthur, Atonement and an Oscar nomination for Pride and Prejudice on her resume. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter last year, Knightley said she was diagnosed with PTSD after her mental breakdown.

"I did have a mental breakdown at 22, so I did take a year off there and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder because of all of that stuff," Knightley told THR at the time. "I went deep into therapy and all of that, and she [the therapist] said, 'It's amazing — I normally come in here and have people that think people are talking about them and they think that they're being followed, but actually they're not. You're the first person that actually that is happening to!'"

These days, Knightley's life is much less chaotic. Aside from raising two young children with husband James Righton, Knightley has focused on making indie movies, only making brief stops at Disney for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales and The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. This year, she starred in The Aftermath and Official Secrets.

Knightley has also become politically active, participating in the Extinction Rebellion environmentalism movement.

“We keep having this discussion where we’re saying to each other, ‘Should we get arrested?,'” Knightley told The Telegraph, referring to Righton. “And I’m like, ‘We can’t, we’ve got a baby, she’s permanently attached to my boob. So how’s it going to work?’ So then he’s going, ‘Maybe I’ll go down and get arrested for both of us.’ And I’m like, ‘Let’s neither of us get arrested now. It’s not the right time.’ I think a lot of us just want to find a reason not to think about it.”

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Knightley's next movie is Misbehaviour, a film about the 1980 Miss World competition in London co-starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw.

Photo credit: Lia Toby/Getty Images for BFI