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Something of the night about her

20 December 2006   |   Written by Carola Long

Sophia Myles didn’t ‘get’ Goth until she took a leading role in Dracula

Coaxing Sophia Myles into this season’s Gothic eveningwear seems almost like an act of corruption. The 26-year-old rising star, and vicar’s daughter, arrives for our shoot with the make-up-free skin and blonde, flicked-out hair of a schoolgirl. But it’s a transformation she is used to, thanks to her role as Dracula’s victim Lucy in the BBC drama Dracula, in which she changes from naive bride to lusty vampire.

“Lucy is a virginal character at the beginning — which is reflected in her cream lace dresses,” says Myles, whose roles have included Lady Penelope in Thunderbirds and Isolde in Tristan and Isolde. But when Lucy is led astray by Dracula, the costumes become darker, with flashes of red and a serpent necklace.

The Gothic look featured heavily in the autumn/winter collections, especially at Chanel, Givenchy and Alexander McQueen. The enchantresses of Gothic literature would not have looked out of place in McQueen’s otherworldly lace dresses, worn with antler or crow headdresses, while Chanel’s cream lace gown echoes some of the puffed-sleeve, empire-line gowns that Myles wears in Dracula.

Forget Morticia Addams, Marilyn Manson and teenagers in stripey tights worshipping Satan outside the local Tesco — this season’s take is a subtler journey into fashion’s heart of darkness.

When Myles sees some of the clothes for the shoot, most of which whisper rather than scream Gothic, she admits that she never quite got “the Gothic thing” before. “It always made me think of scary black make-up and a guy at sixth-form college who used to dress in black leather with his face painted white,” she says. “I like the idea that you can just have hints of the look.” Casting her eye along the rail of clothes, she swoops on a black lace ballgown by Jenny Packham, exclaiming, “this is like a bloody black meringue — it’s beautiful”.

Initially, she is overwhelmed by the McQueen feather-trimmed green dress (“I’d feel like Big Bird in this”), but after strutting around in it she decides that it’s “actually amazing”. However, the Burberry lace coat excites her most, especially when she discovers that “this is sample size, so I’ve fitted into the same one as Kate Moss. I would definitely wear this. It would be great for an autumn premiere — I refuse to freeze.”

Her favourite designers include Alberta Ferretti — “very classic and simple: anything too boho looks ridiculous on me”, Nanette Lepore and Stella McCartney, although “I’m a bit too curvy for her clothes”.

Myles is a refreshingly healthy, voluptuous shape compared with what is the Hollywood norm. But she spends time in LA, so does she feel pressurised to be thin?

“I have felt pressure to be a bit more toned, but the whole size zero thing is totally insane. When I was in LA, I went to Fred Segal to buy Seven For All Mankind jeans, which I live in. I was in size 28, and I’d gone down two sizes and I was feeling like Madonna, then this woman walked over who must have been 65 — but the amount of plastic surgery, wow! — and said to the assistant ‘the 23-inch waist is way too big’. I was like, ‘pass me the anti-fat bastard cream now!’ ” She is unaffected and self-deprecating, but does the vicar’s daughter have anything of the night about her? “I think there’s a dark side to everyone,” she muses. “A bit of yin and yang.”

When she took off her coat for the shoot, Myles revealed a black skull-print T-shirt — so filming Dracula seems to have left its mark on her. She explains: “As soon I finished the job, I had the urge to paint my chimney breast blood red, and I’m ordering my steaks medium instead of well done. I haven’t bitten anyone, though . . . yet.”

Dracula, December 28,
9pm, BBC One