The actress has been hit with a slew of bad reviews for her part in an adaptation of the Moliere classic, which marked her debut on the West End stage and is currently playing at the Comedy Theatre.
But the poor reviews haven't stopped Knightley from being named in the Best Supporting Actress category by jurors of the prestigious Olivier Awards, the highest honours in British theatre.
The Pirates of the Caribbean star will compete against Hayley Atwell (A View From The Bridge), Michelle Dockery (Burnt By The Sun), Alexandra Gilbreath (Twelfth Night), Rachael Stirling (The Priory) and Ruth Wilson (A Streetcar Named Desire).
Meanwhile Hollywood actress Rachel Weisz was shortlisted for a Best Actress prize for her performance as Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire, and will go up against Gillian Anderson (A Doll's House), Imelda Staunton (Entertaining Mr Sloane), Lorraine Burroughs (The Mountaintop) and Juliet Stevenson (Duet For One).
Jude Law's turn in Hamlet faces competition from James Earl Jones in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, James McAvoy for Three Days Of Rain, Mark Rylance (Jerusalem), Ken Stott (A View From The Bridge) and Samuel West (Enron).
In the musical categories, former Spice Girls star Melanie Chisholm is up for a Best Actress statue for her role in Blood Brothers, while Rowan Atkinson's stint as Fagin in Oliver! has scored him a Best Actor nod.
The winners will be named in a ceremony at London's Grosvenor House Hotel on 21 March (10).