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Sophia's in the pink

27 July 2004   |   Written by Eileen Condon

WHEN actress Sophia Myles walks into the room, wearing a plain, white shirt and jeans, you do wonder whether her choice of nondescript outfit was a deliberate one.

Because this is the young woman whose name will soon be synonymous with everything pink.

After bagging the much sought-after role of pink-obsessed Lady Penelope, in the new live movie version of Thunderbirds, opening on Friday July 23, the 24-year old actress has unwittingly found herself the ambassador for every little girl’s favourite colour.

So, she’s not exactly tickled pink when she’s asked – for the millionth time that week, it seems – what her views are on the colour.

“I’m always being asked that,” she says looking mildly bored. “But, no, I’m not sick of the sight of it. I quite like pink.

“I’d love a pink Mini Cooper,” she says becoming more animated, “I love them. It’s a shame we don’t have more vibrant colour cars.”

You can’t blame her for wanting one – after all, this is the girl who gets to bomb around in the film with faithful chauffeur Parker – played by Ron Cook – in a 28ft long, pink, six-wheeled limousine – registration FAB1.

“FAB1 is essentially Lady P’s Thunderbird,” smiles Sophia.. “There’s a really funny line in the film when I say, ‘Alan please don’t talk about what I do. I’m an undercover agent and I’m trying to be discreet’ and then we walk out and see this huge car FAB1.”

Whether she’s sick of pink or not, there’s no doubt the blonde star looks fab in it, or any other colour for that matter. The strikingly beautiful actress, with her cut-glass English accent has been hailed as the Next Big Thing for British cinema.

The relatively unknown star all but steals the show from those Tracy brothers, and arch-villain The Hood (Ben Kingsley) in Thunderbirds.

It’s not bad going for the vicar’s daughter, born in Notting Hill and raised in Isleworth, whose biggest role prior to Lady P, was playing Johnny Depp’s dead wife in the thriller From Hell.

Consequently, she’s optimistic but cautious about the huge hype surrounding Thunderbirds and the prospect that the film is set to make her a household name.

“I’ve never been in a film this big or done anything like it,” she says,, “I have no idea how it’s going to pan out or what it’s going to do for me. But in terms of my career I want to work with really great directors and great casts, because that’s when you really learn.”

Sophia was spotted by a British casting director at the age of 16 in a school play and offered a small part in the TV version of The Prince And The Pauper.

She went onto carve out a niche for herself in costume dramas, such as Mansfield Park and Nicholas Nickleby, but though she looks the epitome of quintessential Englishness with her delicate demeanour, Sophia has more than proved her mettle with Lady P.

She may have been a wooden puppet in the original 1960s series, but Sophia’s version is a high-kicking, all-round action woman. In fact, the star had to undergo intense training for her fight scenes with The Hood.

“It was the most exercise I’ve done in my whole life. There’s a lot of kickboxing and a lot of gymnastics,” she says.. “It was lovely to do something so extremely physical.

“Lady P has definitely been given an injection of girl power but she’s such a positive role model for young children. She’s bright, intelligent, funny, strong and sexy without being provocative and I think it’s nice to have a role model for children who isn’t dancing around with their mid-riff showing and everything hanging out.”

Even so, Gerry Anderson, who created the original Thunderbirds series never had his Lady P, frolicking around in a bubble-bath while ordering instructions to Parker.

“We spent two days doing that bath scene,” says Sophia, looking slightly flushed.

“They used really cheap bubble bath because they wanted to make really big bubbles. My skin started to itch and I ended up having to go to a dermatologist. I had a rash all over my body and skin like an alligator by the end of the week.

“It was horrible, so from now on there’s going to be a ‘no bath’ clause in my contracts.”

Whatever contemporary alterations have been made to Lady P, Sophia is adamant the film represents a worthy legacy.

“We’re trying to add something to the institution that is Thunderbirds,” she says.. “The essence of it is the same, but there is just a little modern twist. It’s comedy, it’s science fiction, it’s adventure. It has such a magic about it and if the energy that flew around the set transfers to the screen then I think it will be a rather special film.”

It also looks like rocketing Sophia’s career into orbit. The offers are flooding from both sides of the Atlantic, but the star insists she’s not ready to uproot permanently to Hollywood.

“No, I live in London,” she says. “I’ve just bought my first flat, it’s definitely not in LA.”

And just like her unflustered alter ego, Sophia is remaining impressively measured about her future career.

“I’m off to do something completely different, next, a film called Art School Confidential.

I’m playing an American art school student in New York.

“I get to work with John Malkovich, Angelica Houston, and Steve Buscemi. That’s what I get excited about, working with great casts, great directors. That’s what inspires me.”

Clearly no one’s pulling M’Lady’s strings.

* THUNDERBIRDS opens on Friday, July 23