Keira Knightley

07/09/2004 at 06:00 AM EDT

Keira Knightley
"When I was a kid, I didn't imagine that I'd be in films," says Knightley, who will be working on a new version of Pride and Prejudice. "I always dreamed of being in the theater."
Ronald Asadorian/Splash
Her costars have described her as the most "beautiful tomboy you will ever come across," but Keira Knightley is all warrior woman as she takes on the feisty part of Guinevere in King Arthur. The 19-year-old buffed up for the role that puts her in Celtic blue paint and leather gear – and right in the middle of the action, just as she enjoyed being in last summer's Pirates of the Caribbean. Knightley recently chatted with reporters about building up her bod, moving out on her own and playing with fire.

You're really toned in this role. What did you do to train?
Well, right at the start when they offered me the role, they said, 'Okay. We're going to need you to bulk up.' They got me a personal trainer straight away and I did mostly weightlifting and boxing for about two hours a day, four times a week. I (also) did archery, sword fighting, knife fighting and a lot of horse riding as well. It was great.

Did you shoot your own flaming arrows?
Yeah. I got a bit singed. I was much better than the boys.

Did you have to do any research for the role?
Being British, we know it so well. I think that (Guinevere is) a character that everyone knows; they all know this romantic fantasy.

But the movie's not all romanticism.
That's what excited me. There's been so many movies about Camelot and that famous love triangle. We all know them, and you can see that and you'll get a completely different Guinevere. What excited me was playing it in a completely new way.

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As an action hero? How do you think women will respond?
What you've got is a really strong female character. Someone who stands up there with the guys and is in the middle of the battlefield. As a moviegoer, I want to see more strong women. I've had enough of seeing girls who aren't proactive. Hopefully women will appreciate that.

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