What The Cast Of Bend It Like Beckham Is Doing Today

When "Bend It Like Beckham" was first released in 2002, it was an instant, unexpected hit, grossing over $75 million around the world. The story follows Jess (Parminder Nagra), a first generation British-Indian Punjabi girl living in London with her family. Her older sister, Pinky (Archie Panjabi), is about to be married to Teetu. While her mother (Shaheen Khan) and father (Anupam Kher) hope Jess will follow in her footsteps, Jess is more interested in playing soccer. When she meets Jules (Keira Knightley) and joins a semi-professional women's team led by Joe (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), she has to convince her parents to let her follow her dreams — even if these dreams don't quite fit with traditional Punjabi culture.

More that 20 years after the film hit cinemas, it remains an iconic Millennial movie. While a number of the film's stars were established actors before the movie was punted into theaters, "Bend It Like Beckham" launched others into the spotlight. Let's take a look at where the cast of this legendary teen movie is doing today.

Parminder Nagra starred in ER and is still busy acting today

Parminder Nagra was 27 years old when she landed her big break as Jess in "Bend it Like Beckham." The success of the film led to a long list of other roles in the years to come. Just one year later, she was cast as Neela in the long-running hit primetime drama "ER." The role lasted for six years and 129 episodes. In 2004, she also starred alongside Anne Hathaway in "Ella Enchanted." Her other credits include "Alcatraz," "The Blacklist," "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," "Bird Box," and "Black-ish."

In 2022, she landed yet another career-defining role in ITV's "D.I. Ray" as a cold case detective. Maya Sondhi, who created the show, explained to Radio Times that she wanted to cast Nagra because of her role in "Bend It Like Beckham." "I didn't see [British-Asian actors] enough as a kid. And, you know, [Nagra's performance] was very inspiring," she said. "And I feel like this is a perfect circle now: I get grown-up Parminder as my heroine, my Helen Mirren, my Prime Suspect."

And Nagra still has a fondness for "Bend It Like Beckham," too. As she told The Guardian, she has never gotten tired of talking about it. "It's such a huge part of my life. I've just gotten older," she said. "I keep thinking people are going to think I still look the same, when I don't. But I'm still proud of the film. It's probably what I'm most recognized for."

Keira Knightley became a well-known star

Keira Knightley played Jules, a girl who spots Jess playing in the park, takes her under her wing, and soon becomes her best friend. While it wasn't her first role, it was definitely the role that put Knightley on the map. Since then, she has gone on to become one of the most beloved British actors of her generation. Her most notable gigs over the years include playing Elizabeth Swann in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" films, Juliet in "Love Actually," Elizabeth Bennett in "Pride & Prejudice," Cecilia in "Atonement," Anna in "Anna Karenina," and Katharine in "Official Secrets." She has also picked up two Oscar nominations.

While "Bend It Like Beckham" may have been Knightley's big break, she didn't think it would be quite so impactful at the time. In fact, as she told Jimmy Fallon in 2023, she used to be embarrassed by it. Friends even told her, "Don't worry, nobody will see it." She went on to explain, "You know, women's soccer was not as big back then. And so the idea of the whole thing was sort of ridiculous." Nevertheless, Knightley said, people still recognize her the most for the role.

Knightley is now married to musician James Righton. The pair have two daughters.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers is all about genre films

As Joe, the handsome soccer coach, Jonathan Rhys Meyers quickly became the celebrity crush of many moviegoers. Then came his roles in the Reese Witherspoon-led "Vanity Fair" and Woody Allen's "Match Point." Several years later, he once again played a cinematic heartthrob (of sorts) as a young King Henry VIII in "The Tudors." Since then, Meyers has stayed busy with dozens more genre films and TV shows, including "The 12th Man," "Hide and Seek," and "Vikings."

As the actor explained to Cryptic Rock, he tries to mix it up when it comes to selecting the type of projects he works on. "Diversity is important because it keeps you on your toes," he reflected. "If you keep doing the same thing over and over again, you're going to eventually get stuck in that performance. It's good to be outside your comfort zone."

Meyers is married to Mara Lane Meyers and the pair have one child.

Anupam Kher continues to pop up in British and Indian projects

You probably remember Anupam Kher as Mr. Bhamra, Jess' surprisingly lenient father who allows her to play soccer during her sister's wedding. While it was one of his first films in the UK, he was no stranger to acting. In fact, he had already appeared in hundreds of Hindi films throughout the '70s, '80s, and '90s. And he has been just as busty since then, acting in both Hindi and English films. You may have also spotted him in "Silver Linings Playbook" or "Hotel Mumbai." Over the course of his career, he's appeared in over 400 films.

For Kher, acting is about always pushing the boundaries. "I like to conquer everything... my fears. I like to find difficulties... I was 28 when I played a 65-year-old man in 'Saaransh,' my first film," he told India.com. "I was the first actor who broke that myth of typecasting."  Working on "Bend It Like Beckham" was another exciting challenge. "I don't know how to speak English and I work in Hollywood films," he said. "I think in Hindi, not in English. For me to do 'Silver Linings Playbook' or 'Bend It Like Beckham' and others — I am breaking these barriers everyday."

Shaheen Khan reunited with Parminder Nagra in other projects

Shaheen Khan played Mrs. Bhamra, Jess' strict, disapproving mother. Prior to the film, Khan had appeared in a number of small roles on TV in shows like "Tandoori Nights," "Medics," and "Doctors." After the film, she appeared in "Holby City," "The Bill," and "Spooks." From 2017 to 2019, she appeared in 71 episodes of "Apple Tree House" as Grandma Zainab. 

Khan is also a busy playwright and stage actor, with several plays including "Balti Kings" and "The House Across the Street." In 2015, she played Lady Macbeth at Tara Arts. And in 2022, Khan reunited with Parminder Nagra — who, of course, played her daughter in "Bend It Like Beckham" — when she played Mrs. Kapoor in two episodes of "D.I. Ray." The following year, she reunited with Nagra once again in the show "Maternal" — this time, Khan once again played Nagra's mother. Talk about a full circle moment.

In a 2014 video for FIPAarts, Khan shared that she almost didn't land "Bend It Like Beckham" because a producer on the film felt she was too young to play Jess' mom. Regardless, she didn't give up on the role. "It was the final [audition], the producer definitely didn't want me, but it was his wife, apparently, who voted for me, and her vote was the last one which counted," she said. "That's how I got the part."

Archie Panjabi is a staple of the silver and small screens

Archie Panjabi was unforgettable as Jess' older, girlier sister, Pinky, in "Bend It Like Beckham." Panjabi had previously appeared in numerous TV shows throughout the '90s, but playing Pinky was a turning point for her career, and it was followed by more TV guest roles. She also had a part in the Ralph Fiennes film "The Constant Gardener" in 2005 and the Russell Crowe film "A Good Year" in 2006. One of her biggest parts came when she played Kalinda Sharma, the private investigator, for six seasons of "The Good Wife." She also had a small but memorable role in "Brooklyn Nine-Nine." Other notable projects have included three seasons of "Departure" and four seasons of "Blindspot."

Even though an outsider may look at Panjabi's resume and see only a sea of successes, it wasn't always easy for the actor. "I started out at such a young age in this industry. It was tough," she told the Express. "I faced a lot of rejection. From the age of 13, I didn't really get a big break until I was 26." In fact, one agent even tried to convince her that an Indian actor could never succeed in Hollywood. Well, she certainly proved them wrong.

Juliet Stevenson can be spotted in dozens of British films and shows

Juliet Stevenson is one of those British actors who seems to show up in everything. Before playing Jules' anxious mother in "Bend It Like Beckham," Stevenson had a long career in British theater, film, and TV, starring in "Truly Madly Deeply," "Emma," and "A Christmas Carol," to name just a few. She had also appeared in dozens of stage productions with the Royal Shakespeare Company and on London's West End.

After "Bend It Like Beckham," the roles kept coming. You may have spotted her in "Nicholas Nickleby," "Mona Lisa Smile," and more. Stevenson married Hugh Brody, an anthropologist, in 2021 after being together for 30 years. "I want to stand up in front of the world, even if there are only six people in the room, and say, 'This is my person, and we've been through a huge amount, and I love him more than ever,'" she told the Daily Mail. Despite Stevenson's long, successful career, she has other dreams for her legacy "I'd like to be remembered for being kind, fun, a good mum, a loving partner," she told The Guardian. "The work is the work. What we do is ephemeral. Very little will last and that's OK."

Frank Harper is known for British gangster films

Frank Harper played Alan Paxton, Jules' football-obsessed father. Harper was already well known for his roles in a number of British films, such as Guy Ritchie's "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels." After "Bend It Like Beckham," you may have seen him in "The Calcium Kid" alongside Orlando Bloom, "The Football Factory" with Danny Dyer, and "This Is England," a British indie film featuring Stephen Graham. 

Harper has also written and directed films. In 2012, he wrote, directed, and starred in "St George's Day," a film about two London gangsters. "There was a lot of alpha males on that film," he later recalled to BritflicksExtra. "It was a bit like herding egos... it was sort of a climax for me doing that film."

Harper is still busy to this day. As of 2023, he is currently working on one short film and two full-length films.

Shaznay Lewis has focused on her music career since Bend It Like Beckham

Shaznay Lewis played Mel, Jules and Jess' teammate on the soccer team. It was Lewis' first acting role, but it certainly wasn't her first experience of the entertainment industry. In fact, she was already a very well-known figure as a member of the girl group All Saints. As Lewis later told Gal-Dem, she first got involved in the film because the director and producer asked her to join the cast. "Gurinder and Paul, they reached out to me and asked if I'd be interested," she said. "They sent me the script and I just completely got it and was really up for being involved." 

All Saints was huge in the '90s after the release of their 1998 self-titled debut album, and their single "Never Ever" hit number one in Britain. Although the group fizzled out in the 2000s, in 2016, they released a comeback album written by Lewis herself. "Lyrically a lot of the stuff is very personal. Stuff that's going on," she told The Guardian at the time, adding, "Whatever we were singing about at twentysomething is completely different to what we're kind of singing about now." Over the years, Lewis has also released solo music. 

These days, Lewis is still making music and is married to the dancer Christian Horsfall. The couple have two children, who are, for Lewis, the priority. As she put it to The Guardian, "First and foremost I'm mum."

Pooja Shah starred in EastEnders

In "Bend It Like Beckham," there is a trio of not-so-nice cousins who mix it up. The group includes Meena, who was played by Pooja Shah. The role was only Shah's second, having previously appeared in a film called "Jesus the Curry King." She went on to star in "EastEnders" as Kareena for a whopping 160 episodes from 2003 to 2005. You may remember Kareena as one of the Ferreira family who runs a clothing stall at the local market. Other big roles came in "Missing," "Coronation Street," and "Last Contact."

These days, Shah is still busy acting. In 2023, she appeared in an episode of "Silent Witness" and scored a guest role in "Maternal" alongside two of her "Bend It Like Beckham" co-stars, Parminer Nagra and Shaheen Khan.

According to her Spotlight CV, Shah has also been busy with radio roles and a few stage roles over the years, too. Her LinkedIn profile states that she also works as a coach for a range of institutions and companies, including the NHS, the RAF, Rolls Royce, Deloitte, Penguin Random House, and more. In 2022, Shah and her husband Will Middleton did a 26 mile hike to raise money for Alzheimer's in honor of her mother-in-law.

Paven Virk is now a screenwriter

Paven Virk played the sassy, bubblegum-chewing Bubbly in "Bend It Like Beckham." She had previously done some acting in shows like "Casualty" and "Doctors," and she went on to appear in "Holby City" and a TV movie called "Second Generation," along with a few other projects. However, her last acting role came in 2007. 

Her main focus since then has been playwriting. According to her Drama Online profile, Virk started her own theater company when she was just 17. She also participated in several writing programs and courses. Her first play "The Usual Auntijies" came out in 2011, while her follow-up "So You Think You're a Superhero?" was put on as part of a special program for young people at the National Theater in 2012. 

These days, Virk seems to be pivoting to screenwriting. In 2021, she was picked to be part of Channel 4's screenwriting program and part of BBC Voices that same year. She has also worked as a writer on shows like "Skins" and "Ackley Bridge."

Preeya Kalidas played another role in Bend It Like Beckham the musical

Preeya Kalidas was the third member of Jess and Pinky's trio of cousins. Before she took on the role of Monica, Kalidas wasn't exactly a stranger to the industry, having appeared in a number of small roles in shows like "Doctors" and "The Bill." After "Bend It Like Beckham," her career began to take off. She appeared in "Green Wing," "Hotel Babylon," and 132 episodes of "EastEnders." She also had a role in the famous comedy "Four Lions." In 2023, she also appeared in a film version of "The Three Musketeers."

One of her biggest roles has actually been in the stage version of "Bend It Like Beckham," in which she took on the role of Jess' sister, Pinky. The production was mounted in the UK in 2015. As Kalidas explained to HuffPost, taking on the part of Pinky in the musical felt like a real full circle moment: "Monica is your typical Asian west London type who actually wants to be Pinky, Jess's sister, the role of which I am playing now." As she went on to explain, she was thrilled to return to a story like "Bend It Like Beckham." "I strive to be part of projects that represent our community in a positive light and not to focus on the one-dimensional aspect," she said. "'Bend it like Beckham' has all the right ingredients."

Ameet Chana is still acting and is also a DJ

Ameet Chana played Tony, Jess' friend who comes out during the film. "Bend It Like Beckham" is still one of the actor's biggest roles — since the film, he's also appeared in "Casualty," "Doctors," "Corner Shop Show," and "Holby City." He also had a big role in "EastEnders" from 2003 to 2005, playing Adi, the brother of Pooja Shah's character. In 2022, Chana also starred in a film called "Little English" about a British-Punjabi family. He has also gone on to explore other areas of the performing arts: Chana told Metro in 2021 that he's the associate director of the Rifco Theater Company as well as being a DJ.

In the same interview, Chana shared that the role of Tony holds an important place in his heart. "'Bend It Like Beckham' still lives with me," he said. "It's going to be 21 years old this April. It's magically timeless." He added, "I still get people coming up to me now, saying, 'You know what, if it wasn't for you and that film, I wouldn't have been able to come out.' So, it is a film that will proudly stay with me forever."