One could be forgiven for thinking we have mixed up English actress Kiera Knightley for American actress Natalie Portman, and you wouldn’t be far off.
For over 20 years the two stars have been compared and even mistaken for one another. All of this is in fact the result of casting choices for 1999’s The Phantom Menace.
To answer the question, yes, Kiera Knightley is indeed in Star Wars and her role is actually somewhat prominent. Yet her close resemblance to Natalie Portman seems to overshadow her involvement.
So essential is this to her being in Star Wars that her role was originally going to be played by a stand-in. However, the film’s casting director, Robin Gurland, noticed how closely Knightley resembled Portman and had her cast instead. As such, we very much think of Pirates of the Caribbean and Love Actually when speaking of the actress and much less about Star Wars.
This is all completely deliberate. In Episode I, Knightley played the role of Sabé, one of the trusted handmaidens of Portman’s character, Queen Amidala. Sabé often took the role of the queen in dangerous situations while Amidala herself pretended to be a handmaiden. There are in fact several scenes when we think we are watching Portman in action but it is actually Knightley. So convincing was the ruse that, on set, her own mother could not tell the difference between her daughter and Portman.
Is Kiera Knightley in other Star Wars movies?
The first prequel film is the only time we ever see Knightley in action as the character. However, in recent years, Sabé has experienced a bit more action. She has recently appeared in a handful of novels and comics, namely Queen’s Shadow and its sequels by E.K. Johnston and the 2020 Darth Vader comic by Greg Pak. In the former, she is adventuring alongside Amidala and in the latter is investigating her death, much to the shock of Vader, who briefly thinks his deceased wife has come back to haunt him.
Interestingly, Knightley isn’t the only person of note to have a role in The Phantom Menace that goes mostly unrecognized. Fellow English actor Richard Armitage, who played Thorin Oakenshield in The Hobbit trilogy and is the voice of Trevor Belmont in the Netflix series Castlevania, appears as a Naboo fighter pilot who was later named Tonra in the aforementioned Johnston novel.
Even one of Knightley’s fellow handmaidens is played by director Sophia Coppola (Lost in Translation, The Bling Ring), who is also of course the daughter of legendary director Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather, Apocalypse Now) a long-time friend of George Lucas.
Any other celebrities making minor appearances in the galaxy far, far away? Let us know in the comments below. For all things Star Wars, make sure to check out Dork Side of the Force!