Keira Knightley is opening up about the struggle she underwent with fame (and the paparazzi) in her early 20s.
In a revealing interview on The Hollywood Reporter‘s Awards Chatter podcast, the 33-year-old actress said she had a mental breakdown when she was 22 and at the height of her fame.
“It was big money to get pictures of women falling apart,” Knightley said. At the time, she said, paparazzi had covered the breakdown of Britney Spears, which led to a fervor in the media.
“Because you wanted them to be sexy, but you wanted to punish them for that sexuality. If you weren’t breaking down in front of them, then it was worth their while to make you break down in front of them,” Knightley said of the hordes of paparazzi that followed her at the time.
“So suddenly there was a level of violence, it felt, in the air, that is not a thing that anybody would react too well. I think I’ve always had a f— you button and it was so obvious that they wanted me to fall, and I had such, like, an ‘I’m not gonna give you what you want,'” she said. “So there was a sense of battle every day leaving the house.”
Knightley was 22 in 2007 and was busy promoting two major films: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End and Atonement.
As for how the pressure and attention that came with fame affected her, the Colette actress said it was overwhelming.
“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 that stuff,” she said.
“I went deep into therapy and all of that, and [a 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!'” Knightley said, laughing.
Knightley said she took a year off to travel when she was nominated for a BAFTA and Golden Globe for Atonement in 2008.
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The actress was struggling with “major panic attacks” at the time and said she wanted to skip the BAFTAs but went in order to avoid unwanted, negative attention.
“I actually did hypnotherapy so that I could stand on the red carpet at the BAFTAs and not have a panic attack,” she revealed. “The hypnotherapy worked because I did stand there and I didn’t have a panic attack.”
Since then, Knightley has focused on raising her 3-year-old daughter Edie Knightley Righton alongside husband James Righton. She currently has two films out for release this year, Colette and The Nutcracker and the Four Realms.