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I've no complaints about love scenes

22 October 2003   |   Written by Garth Pearce

British actress Sophia reckons it was no great hardship being paid to go to bed with Johnny Depp. She may be a vicar’s daughter from Middlesex, but Sophia Myles is delighted that Hollywood is starting to view her as a sexy vixen

Sophia Myles will never forget her sex scene as Johnny Depp’s wife in the 2001 thriller From Hell. He would take a regular pause between passion sessions and listen to classical music from a tiny piece of hi-tech equipment, fitted deep inside his ear. ‘When I asked him about it,’ recalls Sophia, ‘he said; “Oh, don’t you start.” Apparently Juliette Binoche had become really offended during their key scenes in Chocolat. She’d said: “Am I not good enough for you, then?” But I didn’t mind in the slightest and told him so. He said: “You should get one yourself.” I asked: “How much?” He said: “About “$60,00,” which is around £36,000. “No chance of that!” I thought.’

But Sophia, 23, a Kate Winslet lookalike, can at last afford one after hitting the jackpot with her role as Lady Penelope in big-budget film Thunderbirds, set for release next year. And she also co-stars with Kate Beckinsale in the vampire movie Underworld, directed by Len Wiseman, to whom Kate has become engaged after parting from Welsh actor Michael Sheen. Thanks to these movies, Hollywood is hailing Sophia as the next big British star. A vicar’s daughter from Isleworth in Middlesex, Sophia lived at home until last year, but she’s already taken to Hollywood. ‘I’ve spent a lot of time in LA and the more I’m there, the more I love it,’ she says. ‘A lot of Brits can’t stand the place. But I like the West Coast attitude and the way the people celebrate success.’

Sophia’s private life is going well, too. ‘I’ve had a few relationships, but I’ve only been in love once,’ she says. ‘I’m involved with someone at the moment and it feels good. But I don’t want to say too much in case I jinx it. When I get engaged or something, that’ll be the time to discuss it.’

But Sophia is unlikely to end up as the wife of an actor. ‘Jonny Lee Miller warned me that being on a film set is like being told you have three months to live,’ she says. ‘You fall in love faster, make friends faster, get upset more easily or become instantly happy. ‘People sometimes ask: “Why do so many actors go out with actresses?” Yet most of us meet boyfriends or girlfriends at work, so I’m not ruling it out. It’s just that I find men who dress up and primp themselves a bit strange.’

Sophia has a healthy interest in stars’ eccentricities and admits: ‘I can understand why people are curious.’ She confides that some of her own experiences on film sets have been quite dramatic. Her attempted rape scene with Sir Mulberry Hawk, played by Dominic West, in The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby was one such experience. ‘Dominic’s a lovely guy, but the director told him to make it more realistic,’ she says, ‘so he really went for me and I ended up with bruises and a scar on my lip. The make-up artist went mad. Then there was my first day on Oliver Twist, which was bizarre. I spent it on a cliff, supposedly pregnant, in pouring rain and high winds, tied to a tent peg for safety. There are moments when you think: “what am I doing?”

To date, Sophia has specialised in costume dramas. Apart from playing hapless young mother Agnes in Oliver Twist and Nickleby’s innocent sister Kate, she also played Susan Price in Mansfield Park. She stepped back a few centuries to play Lady Jane Grey in the TV production of The Prince and the Pauper, then forward again with Johnny Depp in From Hell, a retelling of the Jack the Ripper mystery, set in 1888. Sophia was also seen in corsets on the big screen in cheeky 18th-century romp The Abduction Club. But a new Hollywood-based manager is keen for her to win roles that prove her qualities as a woman of today.

“It’s so refreshing because they see me as the vixen or the sexy girl, rather than an innocent,’ she says. ‘There have been constant possibilities since, but I’ve had my shares of disappointments.’

The most spectacular letdown was when she was signed as the lead three years ago for a £25 million American film The Snow Queen. She underwent eight months of training as an ice-skater, only for the film to collapse due to lack of finances. “It was a lesson not to count on anything,” she says. “Even when I was told I had the big part in Thunderbirds, part of me wondered if it would go ahead.”

Sophia sacrificed an offer to read classics at Cambridge University to pursue an acting career. During her A level course, a part in a school play alerted a BBC director to her potential and she was signed for the part of the tragic Lady Jane Grey, combining the role with her studies. The moment her performance was seen, other offers came in and she chose to pursue a career in acting. ‘I know if I’d gone to university I’d be left £15,000 in debt with no job,’ she says. ‘Yet I was on Mansfield Park, trying to bring Jane Austen to life, thinking: “I can’t believe I’m being paid for this.”

‘I was always the good girl at school. Some of my friends were getting pregnant and into drugs, but the most I did was smoke a packet of 10 Marlboros.’

Sophia is far from prim herself and has an open attitude to sex scenes. ‘Someone once suggested to me that they must be incredibly hard to do,’ she says, somewhat scornfully. ‘Yet my first one, I was paid to go to bed with Johnny Depp. How difficult was that? I believe you have to be completely into that moment. You don’t need to create extra barriers.’

It seems that the barriers are down for Sophia. Underworld, co-starring Bill Nighy and Kate Beckinsale’s ex-boyfriend Michael Sheen, tells the story of a bloody war between vampires and werewolves. And she played Ronan Keating’s wife in the video for his song Love Won’t Work. ‘I wore designer dresses for that one, without a corset in sight,’ she says. ‘And for Lady Penelope, I’m in a variety of pink outfits, with blonde, 60s-style wig and high heels. This is a great way to earn a living, isn’t it?’