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With over 38,000 photos and counting! More Photos

The day I got my big break

10 March 2003   |   Written by Emily Sheffield

Sophia Myles, a 22-year-old vicar’s daughter from Hammersmith, on the day she was shot for Vanity Fair.

I WAS already in Los Angeles when I heard that Vanity Fair wanted to shoot me for their Hollywood Issue. It was all total chance. I’d flown there in mid-January for meetings after learning I was to star as Lady Penelope in a big budget screen version of the Thunderbirds.

I love Los Angeles and had spent last summer filming a vampire movie called Underworld with Kate Beckinsale. I’ve been acting since I was 18 – I got my first part while I was still at my comprehensive in Middlesex. I adore the terrain, the food, shopping and, of course, the constant sunshine.

I was staying with my manager, Pammy Rosen, on Robertson Boulevard, learning to drive, sunbathing and trying not to spend too much money shopping.

Four days after arriving, Pammy said I had a meeting with the West Coast editor of Vanity Fair, Krista Smith. I went to her offices on 21 January.

Although we got on really well, I didn’t expect to hear from her again. But the next day, Pammy called me at lunchtime, very excited, and said I’d been chosen to appear in their annual Hollywood Issue. I couldn’t believe it. I’d never thought that in a million years I’d be photographed for Vanity Fair.

After all, it’s the Hollywood bible and can make or break a young actor’s career. I was going to appear alongside four other up-and-coming American actresses in a shoot entitled The Ingenues. I was the only Brit. And the photo shoot was tomorrow! Thank God I didn’t have any spots.

I arrived at the studio at 9am, dressed in cargo pants and a T-shirt.

I didn’t know any of the other girls but everyone was really friendly and just as excited as me. I immediately bonded with the actress and model Joy Bryant.

There was quite a big crowd: the The photographer, Peggy Sirota, has shot everyone from Tom Cruise to Nicole Kidman, Rene Zellweger, Meg Ryan and Brad Pitt. Now she was going to shoot me. We all had to wear black – amazing outfits from Dolce & Gabanna, Roland Mouret, Yohji Yamamoto and Yves Saint Laurent were hung on rails.

We started fighting over this stunning black net-and-tulle ball gown from Gai Mattiolo but Peggy had already decided that Joy would wear it. As I’ve appeared in lots of costume dramas in tight corsets and sexy gowns [Mansfield Park and Nicholas Nickleby], Peggy wanted to change my image and so chose a simple silk chiffon dress with puffed sleeves and pleated skirt.

Then for a more quirky and contemporary look, she added a scruffy pair of black Converse trainers. I felt embarrassed standing next to Joy and her fabulous dress.

At least, I wasn’t in a corset and knickers like Alison Lohman, though she couldn’t care less.

EVERYTHING was happening very fast.

Makeup was minimal and only took 10 minutes – just lip gloss, mascara, powder and blusher – and we started shooting at midday. I was standing between Joy and Alison, and had to bend my knees because Alison is five inches shorter.

Peggy made it really fun – she never asked us to pose exactly, just stand naturally, or run around, we even started to sing and jump in the air to create different energies. And I had to arm wrestle with Alison. It was all over in 40 minutes. Sadly, we didn’t get to keep the clothes, I wasn’t even allowed those smelly old trainers.

Four days later I was back in cold, grimy west London, where I live with my parents, Peter, a vicar, and June, who works in publishing. We had to wait six weeks to see the photographs, and my parents were over the moon. They still can’t believe I’m in the same magazine as Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt and Jack Nicholson. And neither can I.