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Who's That Girl, Doctor?

15 April 2006   |   Written by John Millar

David Tennant’s actress girlfriend finds love in her dream job Movie actress Sophia Myles is on the brink of becoming a big name on and off screen

Even though Thunderbirds didn’t take off and become a box office sensation, the film’s Lady Penelope star, Sophia Myles, is still in the pink.

The beautiful 26-year-old blonde is poised to share the big screen with Spider-Man star James Franco in the romantic epic Tristan And Isolde.

She’s heading north of the border soon to begin filming the Scots drama Hallam Foe with Jamie Bell.

And, on top of all that, it seems Sophia is very much in love.

She’s dating new Doctor Who star David Tennant. And although she’s coy about the relationship with the handsome Scots actor, smiling Sophia does admit to being rather taken with the current master of the Tardis.

When asked which Doctor Who might be her favourite, Sophia says, without a second’s hesitation, “David Tennant”. And added “for obvious reasons”.

When I wonder what those reasons might be, she smiles again and says: “You know what the obvious reasons are.”

Sophia was dating 59-year-old Bleak House star Charles Dance before meeting David on the set of a recently filmed episode of Doctor Who, in which she was cast opposite the Time Lord as Madame de Pompadour. Since then the pair have been spotted canoodling in London restaurants and showbiz bashes.

Sophia’s thrilled to have fulfilledaof becoming a childhood dream by appearing in the classic TV series – even though it wasn’t quite what she had hoped for.

“I used to watch as a kid, so you can’t say no to Doctor Who. It’s such a privilege. When my agent called and said I’d been offered an episode I thought ‘brilliant, I’ll meet the Daleks’. Instead I was in a corset in Versailles as the mistress of Louis XIV,” says Sophia.

Another reason for her being so pleased to be in Doctor Who is that it was filmed in Wales, meaning she could be near her elderly grandfather, who lived near Newport.

She says: “I thought it would be great because having been out of the country I’d get to see grandad. We did a couple of days’ shooting then I went over to see him at his old age pensioner’s home.

“That was great and when we met I said I’d come again to see him that Sunday – but he dropped dead the next day.

“It was kind of meant to be really. It was so lovely that I got to see him and we had a good old chat. It was very special for me.”

Although she was delighted to become part of the Doctor Who legend, Sophia winces at the memory of her corset agony.

“It is really uncomfortable,” she says. “In that period, people would never have worn those things for longer than a few hours at a time but filming can go on for 16 hours so it takes its toll. But it looks great so you suffer for your art, I suppose.”

There was some serious, and potentially dangerous, suffering in store for Sophia when she filmed Tristan And Isolde – a classic tale of doomed love – on location in Connemara in Ireland and the Czech capital, Prague.

The young actress suffered ordeals of fire and water as she acted out the role of Isolde, who is caught between her passion for Tristan and her duty to the man she’s been forced to marry. Disaster struck when her hairpiece caught fire.

“I was talking to the director, Kevin Reynolds, at the end of the day. I sat down and suddenly heard people shouting what I thought was my name … ‘Sophia! Sophia!’ Then I realised they were saying ‘It’s a fire! It’s a fire!’

“I leaned back and my long hair (I had a three-quarter length wig) caught fire on a candle on a table behind me. The whole thing just went up in flames and my life literally flashed before me.

“But there was no time to dwell on it, we had to get on with the next shot.”

Sophia’s other hairy moment came when she had to plunge into the bitterly cold Atlantic Ocean for a sequence shot in Connemara. Just recalling it still gives her the shivers.

“I’m terrified by the sea. I love swimming in a pool but not in the sea. I suppose it’s fear of the unknown,” she says.

“It was so cold and the worst thing is you’re sitting in your wet things on the beach knowing you’re going to have to get back in the water to shoot the scene again. And we did it about 25 times.”

For part of that sequence, vicar’s daughter Sophia had to peel off her clothes as she and Irish actress Bronagh Gallagher, who plays Isolde’s maid, warmed James Franco back to life.

“You just see a bit of my back, it’s harmless. We all got the giggles doing what we called the Franco sandwich,” she says.

However, in her next film – Art School Confidential, in which she’s cast as a model in John Malkovich’s line drawing class – Sophia is partially naked on screen.

“You see one breast. Just the one – they didn’t have enough in their budget for two,” says Sophia, before adding that she was worried about her most revealing role.

“I was terrified about that,” she says. “I’ve always been careful about nudity because I think sometimes it can be unnecessary.”

Sophia feels it’s vital to any performance to get under the skin of a character. For her roles in Tristan And Isolde and Hallam Foe, she got to grips with two different accents – Irish for Tristan And Isolde and Edinburgh tones for Hallam Foe.

“My favourite part is taking on an accent,” she says. “When I was a kid my brother and I used to mimic people.”

For Hallam Foe, Sophia has been receiving coaching from Jo Brown, who played Moira Henderson in River City The film will be shot in Edinburgh and Glasgow, and Sophia plays the human resources boss of a hotel in the Scots capital.

It’s almost 10 years since Sophia began her route to screen stardom. She was spotted in a school play and cast in a BBC version of The Prince And The Pauper.

Since then, she’s had roles in 1999’s Oliver Twist on TV and films like The Abduction Club, with Alice Evans, and From Hell – in which she starred as Johnny Depp’s wife.

Although she is a rising star, Sophia remains delightfully modest.

“I’ve never had a career plan. I came into this business by fluke when I was spotted in the school play,” she says.

“I never get recognised – maybe it’s because I look so different from job to job, so I can go round the supermarket without a care in the world.

“I could go round with a T-shirt that said my name and no one would notice.”

But for this talented and beautiful young actress that situation isn’t going to last much longer.

Tristan And Isolde is released on April21.

THE ROUTE TO STARDOM FOR SOPHIA

Sophia was born and bred in London, the daughter of a vicar and attended a local comprehensive school before leaving for Richmond College where she studied drama among other subjects. Having been a straight ‘A’ student she was offered a place studying philosophy at Cambridge but turned it down to pursue her acting dreams.

Her first big break in acting came at 16, when she was spotted by Oscar-winning screenwriter Julian Fellowes in a school show of Teachers by playwright John Godber. It led to her being cast in the BBC film The Prince and the Pauper.

That 1996 appearance was the first of many outings on the small screen, which have ranged from small roles in TV staples such as Heartbeat and Foyle’s War through to bigger roles in dramas such as Colditz and her upcoming appearance in Doctor Who alongside David Tennant.

Her TV roles haven’t prevented her from making strides on the big screen. Film credits include small roles in Mansfield Park and From Hell to a starring role in Thunderbirds where she played Lady Penelope.

Her profile is set to rocket thanks to her performance in Tristan And Isolde coupled with her romance with Tennant. Future projects include roles in films Art School Confidential and Hallam Foe.