The actress says directors want "the girl next door," not the sexiest woman alive

Last summer’s The Illusionist may have given her résumé a prestige boost, but Jessica Biel says “it’s still a struggle” to get the parts she wants – partly because she’s too sexy.

Biel, who was named Esquire‘s “Sexiest Woman Alive” in 2005, says in the June issue of Elle that the honor hurt her career.

“[One director told me,] ‘I’m not looking for the sexiest woman; I’m looking for the girl next door,’ ” says Biel, 25, who stars in the new thriller Next opposite Nicolas Cage and whose credits include the 2003 remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 2004’s Blade: Trinity and 2005’s Stealth.

“Parts I really want aren’t going to me,” she says. “Like The Other Boleyn Girl with Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman. I don’t want to say that there’s nothing I love that I can’t have. But there’s still the occasional script that the director doesn’t want to see you for. They want that top tier of girls.”

One thing Biel does have in common with Johansson is that both have been linked to Justin Timberlake – although Johansson has denied the rumors, even telling Seventeen: “If it’s somebody one week, it’s going to be somebody else the next week. It’s either me or Jessica Biel.”

For her part, Biel was spotted hanging out with Timberlake several times in January, and a source told PEOPLE last month: “She’s crazy about him.”

The actress, however, dodges questions about Timberlake, as well as rumored flings Derek Jeter and Ryan Reynolds (also recently linked to Johansson), telling Elle, “I can’t even go to the dry cleaner by myself anymore. You’re seen in public with anybody that you might not even know, and you’re speculated about.”

But with her career on the upswing – she’ll costar with one of her acting heroes, Annette Bening, in a film version of Oscar Wilde’s A Woman of No Importance – she’s not likely to be out of the spotlight any time soon. But she says she’ll be able to cope: “Thank goodness I’m a nice person. Thank you, Mom, for teaching me that.”