With her plummy British accent and game-for-anything gamine appeal, Keira Knightley, the luminescent leading lady of "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," opening Friday, seems to be following in the footsteps of Kate Winslet, Cate Blanchett or even Audrey Hepburn.
But the Oscar-nominated, action-and-Austen-adaptation actress probably is not the woman you think she is.
While Knightley's career path isn't really surprising, the no-holds-barred, unaffected way she approaches it is. This unconventional approach has made her, to quote another, earlier pirate venture - Gilbert & Sullivan's "The Pirates of Penzance" - the very model of a modern major movie star. With some old-fashioned spice thrown in for good measure.
Though the first nine major movies of the 21-year-old's brief career have earned more than $2 billion worldwide, and last year's "Pride & Prejudice" got her a Best Actress Oscar nomination, the earthy tomboy - who can even make excessive swearing seem charming - says there's no treasure map she's following to success.
"I'm totally plan-less, and always have been," she says. "I don't think that you can feasibly have plans in this business because it's just not in your hands.
"It's got a lot to do with the luck of the draw, and I've been incredibly lucky," she adds. "But I don't think you can ever second-guess yourself, either."
"Dead Man's Chest" finds Johnny Depp's wacky Capt. Jack Sparrow interrupting the wedding plans of Elizabeth Swann (Knightley) and Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) to save his own neck from the slimy-faced ghoul Davy Jones (Bill Nighy), a salty sea dog who had cut out his own heart for love, and now wants some payback.
"It's a big-budget, f-ing ridiculous romp of a pirate movie," says its leading lady. "Normally, people on these types of things are so up their own a-es, it's unbelievable. It's quite nice to be in one that's laughing at itself." Sounds like a perfect, uncorseted fit for an actress who plays by her own rules, and always has.