Kiera Knightley

It's a rallying cry that would make her feisty Pirates of the Caribbean character proud. Hollywood actress Keira Knightley has come out – as a feminist.

Knightley, star of Love Actually and Bend it Like Beckham, has criticised the shortage of lead film roles for women actors, which she said were "still few and far between" and called for the film industry to give women more prominence.

Speaking in an interview in the February issue of Harper's Bazaar magazine, Knightley said she was encouraged by the change in society's attitude to the prominence and rights of women, and that feminism had ceased to be "a dirty word".

"I think it's great, what's happening at the moment, I think it's great that the discussions are finally being allowed to be had, as opposed to anybody mentioning feminism and everybody going 'Oh, ****ing shut up'.

"Somehow, it became a dirty word. I thought it was really weird for a long time, and I think it's great that we're coming out of it.

"Hollywood has a really long way to go. I don't think that anybody can deny that, really, and I think as much as you are getting more women playing leading roles, they're still few and far between."

Knightley's latest movie, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit - based on the novel by Tom Clancy, who died earlier this year - is due out in 2014, and Knightley said she hadn't ruled out a future career move behind the camera, to become a director.

"As I get older I get more interested by it. There is a lot of 'You do what you're told' as an actor. After watching it and being part of it for so long, you start going, 'I wonder if there is a journey to the other side?'."