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Sophia Myles Interview

April 2006   |   Written by Helen Cowley

Looking every inch the up-and-coming British actress in fashionably striped navy blazer, pink t-shirt and blue jeans Sophia Myles is looking surprisingly relaxed considering the chaos surrounding her. On a gruelling press junket to promote her forthcoming film, romantic epic Tristan + Isolde, twenty-six year old Sophia is merrily chatting away despite the stream of journalist lined up to talk to her.

The daughter of a Vicar, Myles was spotted by writer Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park) at the tender age of 16 in a school play, and having turned down a place at Cambridge to study Philosophy her career has quickly accelerated. Numerous TV parts led to her landing the exceedingly plumy role of playing Johnny Depp’s wife in the Dickensian thriller From Hell, as well as breathing life into iconic British puppet Lady Penelope in the real-life adaptation of Thunderbirds.

This time around Myles takes the lead role alongside James Franco (Spider-Man) as star-crossed lovers Tristan and Isolde – the Medieval fable of an Irish Princess and English Knight who’s love overcomes warring nations and an arranged marriage. She’s clearly excited about it all. ‘It’s my first romantic lead and it’s great. It’s so rare to get really great roles for women; I just jumped on it as soon as I read the script.’

But Myles nearly didn’t audition for the part: ‘It was weird because I’d just finished Thunderbirds and my agent called me and said, “Oh there’s an audition tomorrow.” And I said I couldn’t go; we’d got the wrap party for Thunderbirds, and in my head I was thinking about what I was going to wear that evening and was so excited about finishing. But I met Kevin the director and did a reading, and they called back about a week later saying: “James Franco is in town, can you come and do a chemistry test!” And so I went along to that. And literally as soon as I walked into the room and shook James’ hand, I was like: “Yeah he’s cool, we’re gonna get on.” ’

Chemistry tests aside, Myles has had her fair share of screen-time with charismatic leading men. This time around is no exception, having both Franco and the delightful Rufus Sewell fighting over her. When asked the inevitable question of ‘who’s the best kisser’ she squirms with reluctance. ‘That’s such a hard question because both them are so absolutely beautiful. I really don’t know. I mean I’m a sucker for someone with a sense of humour and Rufus is one of the funniest men alive, so I’ll say Rufus! He’s my friend and he’ll kill me if I don’t say that!’

Although the bright lights of Hollywood beckon, Myles is clearly a London girl at heart. ‘I do love it out there [Hollywood]. I love the fact that they celebrate success in a way that’s kind of unheard of over here. When Americans win awards they’re like: “Hey, thanks to Mum, Dad, God, Jesus, everyone,” whilst we Brits are like: (whispers) “Oh sorry, thanks, thanks” and I like that! I’m British and I miss Britain. Things like coming back to Heathrow when I’ve been away for a long time, there’s something about the smell of London! You can’t really pinpoint it, but I always miss it.’

Despite her love of Hollywood she is cagey towards some of its value, with a clear dislike for the gym: ‘The only thing I like about going to the gym is leaving it and then I feel proud!’ She comes across as a reluctant starlet. During our interview she’s shown the front page of this month’s British Tatler for the first time, in which she graces the cover. She is genuinely shocked to see herself in such prominent print and is at pains to point out the difference between herself and her ‘working’ life. ‘As girls we all love getting spruced up. But with work, when you’re having to do it everyday, playing someone like Lady Penelope, it’s great, but the pressure to have to play a character who’s so immaculate every single day, it’s not normal. We all have really off days. I’m lucky if I have one day a month when I think I’m really rocking!’
What resonates most with Myles is her sense of adventure; she’s willing to try anything. ‘I’ve always said I’d rather work for nice people for no money than to get paid millions to work with idiots. People always say to me: “Oh that’s really interesting, you’ve made studio pictures and you made art house stuff,” I’ve never made any conscious choices. I’ve just done whatever has been offered to me. I’ve turned so few things down.’

Up next for in director Terry Zwigoff’s festival favourite Art School Confidential alongside John Malkovich, Jim Broadbent and Anjelica Huston, and currently filming Hallem Foe, alongside Jamie Bell in Scotland, there seems to be no stopping Sophia. With her refreshingly open demeanour and good old fashion British work ethic, whether she likes it not, Sophia may soon be as an ubiquitous as Miss Knightley.