Keira Knightley says she felt "caged in" after Pirates Of The Caribbean role

Keira Knightley
Keira Knightley

While Keira Knightley’s breakout role first came about with soccer hit Bend It Like Beckham, the Oscar-nominated actor fully rose to global fame in Disney’s theme park-turned-swashbuckling adventure film Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl. Though her portrayal of independent heroine Elizabeth Swann made her a household name in Hollywood, Knightley recalled feeling “very stuck” and “constrained” after the role, as revealed in a recent interview with Harper’s Bazaar UK.

“She was the object of everybody’s lust,” said Knightley, speaking about her character in the Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise. “Not that she doesn’t have a lot of fight in her. But it was interesting coming from being really tomboyish to getting projected as quite the opposite.”

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She continued, “I felt very constrained. I felt very stuck. So the roles afterward were about trying to break out of that.”

Among those post-2003 roles for Knightley are the 2005 adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice and the melancholic Atonement, with the former earning her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role. Even with the critical and box office success of both projects, Knightley still considered that time period from 2003 to 2008 as “a very tricky five-year window,” to which she felt “quite powerless.”

“I didn’t have a sense of how to articulate it,” said The Imitation Game actor. “It very much felt like I was caged in a thing I didn’t understand.”

Recalling how “incredibly hard” she was on herself during that moment in her career, Knightley still looks back in admiration of her younger self, even though it was an “exhausting way to live.”

“I am in awe of my 22-year-old self, because I’d like a bit more of her back,” Knightley said. “And it’s only by not being like that any longer that I realise how extraordinary it was. But it does have a cost.”

That cost turned out to be burnout, one so extreme that it resulted in the actor being diagnosed with PTSD after facing a mental health crisis at 22-years-old, which Knightley revealed in The Hollywood Reporter’s Award Chatter podcast back in 2018.

After taking some time off, Knightley came back full-force with a slew of roles, including her second Oscar nomination with 2014's The Imitation Game. For her next project, Knightley will take on a serial killer as a reporter uncovering the real-life case in Boston Strangler, which arrives March 13 on Hulu.

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