"Come on, everybody wants a Mr. Darcy," Knightley tells PEOPLE. "He's brooding, which is always really sexy. It's all about the Darcys." Behind the scenes, though, the actress goes for Mr. Wickham, played by Pride & Prejudice costar Rupert Friend.
Knightley scores her first Oscar nomination for Best Actress in Pride & Prejudice. Although Reese Witherspoon takes home the award, Knightley wins style points for her burgundy Vera Wang mermaid dress. "I was speechless sitting next to Jack Nicholson at the Oscars," she tells In Style. "Everyone asked if he tried to hit on me, but he didn't. It's actually kind of embarrassing that he didn't."
Knightley poses naked with fellow actress Scarlett Johansson on the cover of Vanity Fair with (fully clad) designer Tom Ford. "Both me and Scarlett said, 'This is something we're up for.' So why not?" she tells Elle. "It's something to show the grandchildren."
Knightley donates her Oscar dress to the Oxfam charity for an eBay auction benefiting Oxfam's East Africa programs. That same month, Knightley is announced as the new face of Coco Mademoiselle, taking over Kate Moss's role in ad campaigns.
At the London premiere of Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man's Chest, Knightley appears thinner than ever. When asked how she feels about being called anorexic, she tells the AP: "I'm quite sure I don't have [anorexia]." She also openly talks about her grandmother and great-grandmother's struggle with the disorder, but the following January, she sues British tabloid Daily Mail for implying she lied about not having an eating disorder.
While filming The Edge of Love, a historical drama starring Sienna Miller and written by Knightley's mother Sharman Macdonald, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End opens at No. 1 at the box office, grossing $153 million in its first week. Knightley, who says she'd love a fuller figure, also wins $6,000 in libel damages from the publishers of Britain's Daily Mail, which ran a story that implied she lied about not having an eating disorder.
After Knightley, 22, costars in director Joe Wright's adaptation of Ian McEwan’s novel Atonement, she appears on the cover of W with costar James McAvoy, 28 – whom she says is "the best kisser ever." At the Golden Globes, Atonement, a leading contender with seven nominations (including his-and-her lead actor nods), is named Best Motion Picture Drama. That October, Knightley stars as fashion icon and British aristocrat Georgiana Cavendish in The Duchess.
Knightley makes her West End debut in The Misanthrope at the Comedy Theatre, where she plays a Hollywood actress having an affair with a British writer. The Guardian raves that Knightley "intelligently underscores the reason for their mutual attraction" and "gives a perfectly creditable performance."
After nearly five years together, Knightley and Friend call it quits. "They were together for quite a long time, and it is always hard breaking up," Knightley's father Will tells the British tabloid The Sun. She's focused on her work." Post-split, the actress takes the West End stage in The Children's Hour.
Knightley's rep confirms that the 27-year-old actress plans to marry boyfriend James Righton, a keyboard player for the British indie rock band Klaxons. The pair, who were first spotted together in April 2011, began their low-key love affair after Knightley's split form longtime love Rupert Friend.
BIOGRAPHY (top to bottom): Focus Films/Everett; Annie Leibovitz/Vanity Fair/AP; Gilbert Flores/Celebrity Photo; Doug Peters/Retna; Ramey; Alastair Muir/REX; Richard Young/Startraks; Xposure