05/15/2014 at 01:30 PM EDT
isn't afraid to stick a knife in someone's back while portraying ruthless political spouse Claire Underwood on House of Cards
Yet Wright, 48, says her aversion to going under the knife potentially prevented her from accepting the role on the hit Netflix series when executive producer David Fincher pitched the plum part to her several years ago.
"I was sitting there going, 'You're 45, and you're not gonna get a face-lift,' " she tells Town & Country
for its June/July cover story
. "I was really considering that stuff, because in Hollywood the pressure's there. You better lift that face and pump those lips and hike those boobs! And I was like, 'I don't want to do that. I'm going to get older. I'm going to have wrinkles!' "
(In the end, it appears the actress settled on a compromise, telling UK's The Telegraph
in February that she does "the tiniest sprinkle of Botox twice a year.")
Wright's decision to tackle the role put her back in the spotlight after a long absence, which she attributes to her refusal to take on "wife and arm candy" roles that often came her way.
"Hollywood is difficult to navigate if you have integrity, so I opted not to work if there wasn't enough to do in a role, which doesn't have to do with the role's size," she says. "If there's nothing for me to do as an actress, that's frustrating ... I'd rather go work at a menial labor job, where I can actually get my hands dirty."
Yet Wright, who spent much of that off-screen time raising now-grown daughter Dylan
, 23, and son Hopper, 20, with ex-husband Sean Penn
, now realizes her choices came with consequences.
"In a sense it hurts, because you're like, 'I want to play too! I just don't want to play that way,' " she explains. "I'm not up there with Kate Winslet
and Julia Roberts
. I don't sell tickets. I've known that for a long time."
Despite that, the actress, now engaged to Ben Foster
, does seem able to laugh about the craziness of her 30-year career – including her breakout role as Princess Buttercup in The Princess Bride
"It was my first film experience, and so you might say that I fully immersed myself in the role," she says. "I did not act. It was mostly telling myself, 'Don't be an idiot in front of Mandy Patinkin and Christopher Guest.' "