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Hollywood breakthrough began as spell on the school stage

15 August 2003   |   Written by Alex Brown

THE EX-DRAMA teacher of a Vicar’s daughter from Isleworth who is set to break into the top ranks of Hollywood’s finest has revealed how his pupil got her first break appearing in a school play at her local girls school.

Sophia Myles, 23, is appearing as a vampire alongside ex-Chiswick resident Kate Beckinsale in the horror blockbuster ‘Underworld’ out next month. She is also playing Lady Penelope in the £50 million production of ‘Thunderbirds’ set to be next Summer’s smash blockbuster, and was recently hailed by Vanity Fair as the ‘Next Big Thing’.

But it was back at the Green School on Busch Corner in Isleworth where it all started for the young starlet, and where her acting ambitions were first guided by drama teacher Kevin Broadway.

Sophia moved to Isleworth from Notting Hill aged 11, when her father, the Reverend Peter Myles, was relocated to St John the Baptist Church, on St Johns Road. She moved, along with her mother Jane, who works in educational publishing, and brother Oliver, who is now training to be a nurse.

She took her GCSEs and started her A levels, including Drama, at the Green School before going to Richmond College.

Kevin Broadway, 39, who lives in Hampton and has taught the subject at the school for 9 years, said she was always a bit special: “I’ve taught drama for about 20 years and there were about five people in that time who really stood out. She’s one of the best, very talented and I’m really proud of her.”

“She’s had quite a few kick backs along the way and she’s persevered. There was one particular film that involved learning to ice skate, and she put a lot of work into that, practising for 6 months, but in the end the film was pulled.”

“There was another time where apparently Kate Winslet didn’t want her to be in a film with her because she looked too much like her. It’s a very competitive business.” Sophia was spotted by the Oscar winning screenwriter Julian Fellowes in a school production of ‘Teachers’ by John Godber. Kevin Broadway remembers the play, a dark comedy on wasted youth: “She played the role of a frustrated 5th former, and she played it incredibly well. She can play people completely different from herself.” After impressing the screenwriter, who won an Oscar for his adaptation of Gosford Park, and had been invited to the play by a parent of another child at the school, she was given a role in the BBC’s production of ‘The Prince and the Pauper’. Appearances in other BBC productions of ‘Nicholas Nickleby’, and ‘Oliver Twist’ followed, along with her first film role in ‘Mansfield Park’. She has also had an on screen snog with Johnny Depp, when she played his wife in ‘From Hell’, becoming the envy of all her girlfriends.

Kevin describes Sophia as a mature girl, with a wicked sense of humour: “She was probably more at ease with adults than her peers. She had a sense of irony and was mature but other than that was a normal 16 year old girl.” He was sure she wouldn’t be changed by the allure of Hollywood: “She still visits the school occasionally and tells us about her progress but obviously she’s increasingly away. She’s very rooted. When she started her career she was just going to see how it went for a year, and it’s just taken off. Her family are very supportive and down to earth and they won’t let her become a Prima Donna.” And he remains modest about how much he acted as an inspiration: “I’d like to think so but to be honest…perhaps I gave her a helping hand.” Sophia’s father, Reverend Myles, told the Times he was proud of all she has achieved: “She’s worked very hard, and she’s very professional.” He added that Sophia no longer lived at home, and is planning to have a more permanent base in Los Angeles.

‘Underworld’ is released on September 19th.