There are worse things than being compared to Kate Winslet
There’s no denying it. Sophia Myles looks uncannily like Kate Winslet. So much so that she and her friend (who, by the way, looks uncannily like Natalie Portman) were once pursued down London’s Oxford Street by a gaggle of Japanese tourists baying for their autographs.
“To be honest with you, I get the Kate Winslet thing all the time. And, obviously, there could be worse comparisons. On that occasion my friend and I just forged the signatures, I’m afraid. I mean, we didn’t want to disappoint them.”
Before long, of course, Sophia (pronounced with an “eye” sound rather than an “ee”) is likely to be approached in her own right. Already, the beautiful 21-year-old actress has been seen in a host of prestigious productions. She played Oliver Twist’s tortured young mother, Agnes Fleming, in Alan Bleasdale’s TV adaptation of the Dickens novel and has had parts in the film of Mansfield Park.
More recently she’s been at work on a psychological thriller, Dead In The Water (due for cinema release later this year), in which she co-stars with Sophie Ward. There’s also another period drama, Abduction Club – a feature film with Matthew Rhys and Nigel Hawthorne. “It’s a romp set in Ireland in the 1780s about two young girls who get abducted,” she explains. “It’s a very sexy. Full of horse riding, stuff like that…”
She also about to appear in a new television adaptation of Nicholas Nickleby – more of which later. But first we want to know how, during filming, she earned herself the nickname Miss Prague? “It happened because one weekend I had to fly to Prague for a snogging scene with Johnny Depp. I’d been cast as his wife in the film From Hell. And though it was a very small part it was incredibly exciting. Actors go on all the time about how this sort of thing is no big deal. But come on! We’re talking about a tongue situation here with Johnny Depp. Excuse me! I and my friends happen to think that’s soemthing rather special!”
Her success is rather special too. Sophia is still expecting to be “found out” every time she goes to a read through for a new part. “When I think about it the whole thing seems incredible.”
Certainly her story has a fairytale feel. Until five years ago, Sophia was doing her GCSEs, one of which just happened to be drama. “I was fiercely academic and drama was my one light-weight subject. In fact, I was only doing it because I fancied the drama teacher like mad. As part of the course we put on John Godber’s play Teachers. And one night a BBC director was in the audience. Afterwards he asked if I’d like to audition for a small part in a BBC costume drama to which I think I said something like, ‘You’re having a laugh aren’t you?’ But he wasn’t and the next day I auditioned and got the part of Lady Jane Grey in The Prince And The Pauper. From there I was signed by my agent, who’s the mainstay of my life.”
Certainly without the agent it’s possible that Sophia would have followed a very different path.
At school – a comprehensive in Isleworth , Middlesex – she was consistently top of the class. She got 10 GCSEs (six Grade A+ and four grade As) and top marks in her three A-Levels.
A degree in Classics at Cambridge beckoned. “But what can I say? By accident I had discovered my passion, something that really sets me on fire and, right now, I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
For someone so young, she appears remarkably grounded. Here she is for example on the subject of boyfriends – and her lack of one. “Actors are always blaming their lack of love life on their busy careers, but I don’t agree with that at all. If there was someone around I wanted to be with I’d make the time, believe me.”
For now, time off is spent with family instead. “We’re very close,” she says. Her mother writes English books for foreign schoolchildren, her dad is a Church of England minister. She and her younger brother, Oliver, were raised in vicarages. “But being a priest was just something my dad did for a living.”
Though fiercely protective, Sophia’s parents Peter and Jane are also hugely encouraging. “I think they enjoy what I do. Even when things get a bit near the knuckle sometimes they accept I’m acting and that I’m pretty good at protecting myself. I think that as an actress you need to do that.”
Her part as Kate, the innocent sister in Nicholas Nickleby, is a case in point. During one scene she’s subjected to an attempted rape by Sir Mulberry Hawk, played by Dominic West. “In real life, Dominic is the loveliest guy so I had to say, ‘It’s OK, scare me as much as you like.’ Which, he did, I can assure you. Afterwards I had bruised lips but I didn’t feel violated. It helped that the director was so straightforward about it. It was like, ‘Dominic I want you to grab Sophia’s arse now’. I think that’s a lot better than edging around people.”
The refreshing lack of embarrassment in everything Sophia says also reminds you of Winslet.
“I don’t think being embarrassed is really part of my make up.”
She wasn’t even embarrassed by possibly the most embarrassing line any actress has ever had to deliver. Playing a saucy wood nymph in Rik Mayall and Ade Edmonson’s comedy film, Guest House Paradiso, she had to fly in through a window and say: ‘Come Love Nymphs, out of respect for Ritchie let us get our great knockers out and wobble them around a bit!’
“No matter how long I’m in the business I don’t think I’ll ever have a better line than that.”
Nicholas Nickleby is on ITV over Easter