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Dark Ages Love Story

16 March 2006   |   Written by Des Partridge

WHILE her Tristan & Isolde co-star James Franco “scoured the globe” to read all he could about the star-crossed lovers of Celtic legend, Sophia Myles admits she simply read the script, a pint of Guinness in hand.

“The Wagner opera was on while we were filming in Prague and James went to take that in. I was too lazy. He’s far more method in his acting than I am,” the rising British talent said from her North London home.

The church minister’s daughter said she had just finished filming the role of Lady Penelope in the feature version of the cult TV show Thunderbirds when she was invited to audition to play the Irish King’s daughter, Isolde, in Kevin Reynolds’ film about the legendary lovers from the Dark Ages.

Myles and Franco feature together with Rufus Sewell as English Lord Marke, while David Patrick O’Hare plays the Irish King Donnchadh, Isolde’s father.

“There was a massive wrap party the evening before, and I wasn’t really thinking about my next job at all,” she said. “I really couldn’t have cared less about another job just then, but I read the script, and loved it.”

The actor, who plans to party with her girlfriends to celebrate her 26th birthday on Saturday, says she can’t believe how lucky she’s been in an acting career that started by chance. “I was in a school play when the actor-screenwriter Julian Fellowes (Oscar winner for his Gosford Park script four years ago) saw me,” she said.

“He was looking for someone to play Lady Jane Grey in a TV version of The Prince and the Pauper.

“When I first walked on the set to start work, it was though I was hit by a thunderbolt of lightning. I just loved the work from the very first minute.”

Myles did two more years to finish her secondary schooling and was offered a place at Cambridge to study philosophy, but didn’t accept.

“I’d been working regularly, and I thought I don’t really need a degree to do this. I knew I had the acting bug.”

Myles has mixed regular British TV work with film roles in movies such as The Abduction Club, Underworld, Thunderbirds and the forthcoming Art School Confidential .

Later this month she’ll head to Edinburgh to make a film with Young Adam director David Mackenzie in which she will co-star with Billy Elliot discovery Jamie Bell, six years her junior.

Tristan & Isolde was filmed on locations around Connemara on Ireland’s rugged west coast and in studios in Prague.

Myles said she hadn’t been daunted by the size of the role, the biggest of her career to date. “It’s such a wonderful script with such a tragic love story that I couldn’t resist it,” she said.

While she’s shied away from nudity in the past, she accepted a nude scene was an essential part of this story.

Myles and Irish actress Bronagh Gallagher are required to appear naked for a scene in which the women offer warmth to revive Tristan (Franco) after he’s washed up on a beach.

“I didn’t know a lot of James’s work but when I knew we’d be playing the title roles I saw his TV movie about James Dean, and I found it fascinating.

“We had two weeks of rehearsals before we started into the actual filming, so we were able to get into our roles together.”

Myles says she’s been waiting “ages” for her biggest film to open in the UK, now set for March 24, a week after its Australian release.

It’s already been shown in the United States, and Myles in particular has won some strong reviews.