Keira Knightley Describes Feeling 'Constrained' After Pirates of the Caribbean: I Had to 'Break Out'


is opening up about a period where she "never felt comfortable" with how she was publicly perceived after rising to fame as a teenager in films like (2002) and (2003).

In a new interview with published Tuesday, Knightley, 37, called her maturation from adolescence into adulthood "an extreme landing because of the experience of fame at a very early age."

"There's a funny place where women are meant to sit, publicly, and I never felt comfortable with that. It was a big jolt," she told the outlet, recalling "being judged on what I was projecting" in her films, .

"She was the object of everybody's lust," Knightley said of the character, who went toe-to-toe with


's Jack Sparrow and grew romantically entangled with 's Will Turner throughout the blockbuster series. "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."

"I felt very constrained. I felt very stuck," the actress added of how the part — and the fame associated with it — affected her. "So the roles afterwards were about trying to break out of that."

Knightley recalled that she felt "felt like I was caged in a thing I didn't understand" as she rose to fame and described the years after


first released as "a very tricky five-year window." That period of time included (2003), an Oscar nomination in 2006 for her starring role in (2005) and each of the three original movies.

"I was incredibly hard on myself. I was never good enough. I was utterly single-minded. I was so ambitious. I was so driven," Knightley told "I was always trying to get better and better and improve, which is an exhausting way to live your life. Exhausting."

Now a Hollywood veteran who takes fewer roles, Knightley, who next stars in Hulu's upcoming drama


, identified "burnout" as a side effect of the intensity with which she approached her early career.

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

begins streaming on Hulu March 17.


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