Keira Knightley says Kenneth Branagh has been a ''massive influence'' on her career.

The actress stars in new action thriller 'Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit', which Branagh co-stars in and directed, and she has long desired to work with the stage veteran and even auditioned for his version of 'Hamlet' when she was just 11.

She recalled: ''I remember appreciating the fact that he had taken the time out, even though it was pretty clear I wasn't going to get the job, to sit there with an 11 year old and talk with her and treat her like a human being.''

While she didn't land a role in the Shakespeare adaptation, Keira queued up bright and early to see the film on its first day of release.

She added: ''I remember me and my best friend, when we were about 12, sitting through the whole four hours of it, or whatever it was, and loving every single second of it.''

Now an Oscar nominee, Keira has won praise from her peers and Branagh is particularly enamoured with her screen presence.

He told the Independent newspaper: ''I've always thought Keira is a terrific actress. Most people wouldn't see it as a problem but the challenge for her is that she is extremely beautiful. I think some people can't see beyond that but I've always felt she has a very intelligent, witty quality in her work.''