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Puppet On A String

1 May 2004   |   Written by Jonathan Heaf

She’s been snubbed by Brad, got drunk with Keira and slept with Johnny Depp. Now, she’s playing Lady Penelope in Hollywood’s upcoming Thunderbirds flick. Sophia Myles is go!

Lady Penelope is a massive sex symbol. Are you ready to be stalked by speccy Thunderbirds geeks?
It’s such a bizarre thing. I had taste of it with Underworld. Some of it’s pretty strange. Older guys asking me to send them stuff… you know the sort of thing. Thunderbirds is a kids’ film, so hopefully the demographic will change a little! Apparently they’re going to make Lady Penelope dolls. I don’t want it to be a spitting image of me as I’m sure that will encourage some fans to go voodoo.

Was there a time when you thought Hollywood would never call?
I have had my low points. I remember I did a pop video with Ronan Keating a couple of years back when he first started doing solo stuff. I think it was called ‘Love Won’t Work’. lt was a bit of a piss-take really, based around the idea of an OK! magazine shoot. We filmed in this huge mansion and acted like we lived the lifestyle – all fast cars and fast money. He played a rockstar called Randy Kettler and I had to fawn all over him like a dewy-eyed schoolgirl. I don’t regret it, but my performance wasn’t exactly memorable. Ronan’s hair was this big greasy ball of ginger curls, a little like Mick Hucknall’s, and he had to wear this disgusting electric-blue Tuxedo.

If you weren’t an actress how would you pay the rent?
I think I’d be an ice-skater. A couple of years ago I landed a lead part in a film called The Snow Queen, co-starring with Michelle Pfeiffer. It had a budget of around $40 million so I was blown away. For the part, I went through about eight months of intensive training as an ice-skater, five hours a day, five days a week. Then I got a call from my agent, just before we were due to begin shooting telling me the film’s finances had collapsed. I haven’t been for a while but I still skate. It was a lesson not to count on anything in this industry. I also go horse riding a fair bit, even though my agent freaks out whenever I do. I think they’re worried about insurance. Last time I went, the horse got spooked and reared-up, smacking me in the eye. My face went red, then turquoise – not a great look for auditions.

You’re blonde and very posh. Do you think that’s how you landed the Lady P gig?
Maybe it’s my voice. My dad’s a vicar and his first parish was in Campden Hill Square – St George’s. I was born there but then he was transferred to Isleworth, west London, when I was 12. We were very poor and there was no one around at the weekends in Campden Hill as everyone would bugger oft to their grand country houses. Anyway, I picked up this posh accent and when I moved out of town I got the piss ripped out me. People thought I was a posh little rich kid, so I changed my accent to fit in.

Did having a member of the clergy as a dad embarrass you at school?
No. I got free wine and wafers! But, sure, there were some times when it was a bit annoying. Like when the school carol service was at our church and I was there with all my mates, watching my dad in a dress. My father was really liberal. I mean, I was always dedicated to my schoolwork so I never really got into boys and stuff until my late teens. Not that I’m a prude, but I still didn’t start drinking till quite late. I think my 18th birthday was the worst. We got hammered on tequila; I fell into a load of cat litter; my mate slept with his head against the radiator and burnt a bald patch on to his head.

Have you got a favourite scene in Thunderbirds?
My favourite scene has been cut, but it goes something like this: The Thunderbirds are in trouble. And the evil villain, The Hood, played by Ben Kingsley, has somehow got on to Tracy Island. I turn to Parker and say, “Let’s go help!” We hop into our pink car, FAB 1, and fly off to lend the Tracy boys a hand. FAB 1 can fly in this film, by the way. Anyway, we’re in the flying car thingy and I see a torpedo approaching, so we abandon ship. Cue: explosion! Cut to me and Parker in this bubblegum-pink inflatable, like a blow-up speed boat – a dinghy but with a Mississippi paddle wheel. I spent two weeks in the Seychelles sat on the back of a glorified pedalo, holding a parasol with helicopters whizzing over my head.

Tell us about spending three hours in the sack with Johnny Depp…
It was for the film From Hell. I played his wife. I remember seeing this car pull up to the studio with Johnny and feeling physically sick with fear. I actually remember I said, “Hello”, blushed and then I had to stop myself from puking all over his boots. But I recovered. I can’t wait to see him bribing little kids with sweets as Willy Wonka.

Does Johnny have any strange preparation techniques?
Well, a lot of actors do breathing exercises, it’s called the Alexander Technique, although I just tend to quake nervously in my trailer learning lines parrot fashion. Johnny has his own personal DJ who beams him music from the side of the set. He has a tiny earpiece in one ear and an aerial that he wears around his neck like a lucky charm. All those scenes you saw him play in Pirates… he probably had some kind of sea shanty sing-along blasting in his ears the whole time for inspiration. Some actresses find this a little off-putting. Like, “Am I not enough inspiration for you?.”

Do you have a recurring dream?
Yeah, it begins outside the house I grew up in. I then float into the house as if on magnets and begin going through each room. All the rooms I half recognise but can’t quite place them, which makes me nervous. I then start to shrink, and soon enough I’m the size of a Borrower. I’ve no idea what it means, though.

We hear you got your wig burnt off recently…
lt was for Tristan & Isolde, out later this year. I had this long wig on and it caught on fire. There was a big banquet scene and I was talking to the director Kevin Reynolds and he said, “Just sit back a bit”. I didn’t see the candle behind me. Suddenly everyone started screaming: “You’re on fire!” Suddenly I smelt this burning. The hair department guys bollocked me.

We’ve seen pictures of you as Lady Penelope. Are candy-floss fur jackets with matching skirts your usual style?
No! I wish I was a bloke. I froze my arse off the other night being all tarted up for the BAFTAs. I never really wear stilettos, but obviously Lady P has lots of high heels. The producer knocked on my door one day and said, “Can I come in?” I was convinced I was about to be re-cast. He said, “Listen, don’t take this the wrong way, but we’re going to get you a movement coach.” Apparently, I was clumping around like a man in drag. I’m like an elephant on set.

FYI:
Name: Sophia Myles
Age: 24
Best mate: Keira Knightly. They shared a flat together after meeting on the set of Oliver Twist.
Hopes: to go and see Britney at Wembley, as she’s never been to a gig before. Enjoys listening to blues riffs by John Meyer and the Wu-Tang Clan on her iPod.
Most surreal moment: receiving a call from Troy director Wolfgang Petersen. Within 24 hours she was auditioning for the part of Briseis (daughter of Calchas, Priest of Troy) with Brad as Achilles. She didn’t get the part but instead went to Egypt and drank beer for breakfast.
Hides a secret passion for: airports (she just likes the way they smell) and turning left upon entering a plane.