Sophia Myles is the captivating young actress who stars in the new drama Tristan and Isolde. Less well known than the classic tale of Romeo and Juliet, or Arthur and Guinevere, this legendary love story is equally gripping and heartrending. It is a romantic myth about doomed lovers, a story of a couple who lived during the murky Medieval period known to historians as the ‘Dark Ages’, between the fall of Rome and the Renaissance (somewhere between 476 AD and 1000 AD). The action takes place in Ireland and England, at a time when Ireland was governed by the calculating King Donnchadh. In England, meanwhile, rival tribal leaders are jockeying for position. One good man, the wise and courageous, Lord Marke, (Rufus Sewell) is hoping to unite the country, with the help of his own trusted chief warrior and second in command, Tristan, (James Franco), who is effectively his adopted son.
As the story unwinds, Tristan falls in love with the lovely Irish Princess Isolde, played by Sophia Myles. But she is later betrothed to Lord Marke. She has to marry him against her will. Tristan and Isolde continue their clandestine affair and cannot reveal the truth, because of the political and personal implications. Marke is completely unaware of their romance.
Isolde, meanwhile is forced to live a lie, married to a man she does not love, and loving a man she cannot be with. It is a gripping and deeply moving story of forbidden love, with strong, interesting characters and a fascinating plot full of action and suspense.
What did you enjoy about the experience of making the film?
“I loved making the film, because of lot of it was shot in Ireland and Connemara is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to. Having the privilege to get work in a place like that is amazing and the scenery was wonderful, it was just so mystical and magical, absolutely breathtaking. And it was a real bonding time for all of us in the cast when we were there. We became such good friends and we got on so well. I became best friends with Bronagh Gallagher who plays Bragnae and Rufus Sewell who of course plays Marke. We were all drinking Guinness together every night and having a great old time. It was a really good laugh.”
Did you have much rehearsal time?
” We had two weeks of rehearsal and a month of shooting. I loved the time in Ireland. In fact the country was an important part of the film. Ireland was one of the stars really.”
How significant was Isolde for you in terms of your career?
“It was great, because I do not think that there are as many good roles for women as there are for men. I was lucky to get this role. As soon as I read the script I was so excited and thought ‘Oh I have to do this’. “
How did you portray her and how did you view her character?
“I found a purity in Isolde. She is so passionate and in touch with Mother Nature. She is part of the royal family in Ireland and she is desperate for her freedom. One day she finds a man washed up on the beach, he has been shipwrecked and she falls in love at first sight. She is in madly in love with Tristan from the start and I think the next best thing to falling in love in real life is to play ‘falling in love’, so it was wonderful. I am a sucker for a good love story. I wish it was a happier story, but I don’t think I am giving anything away to say that sadly, it is a tragic tale. The opportunity of working with Kevin Reynolds was fantastic too, he is a great director I would have been an absolute twit to say no to this role. It was a wonderful experience.”
What was it like working with James Franco?
“James was great, I was so happy to be working with him. I had seen his work before and was hugely impressed by his performance as James Dean – as everyone was. And I love him in the SPIDER-MAN films. He was on board for this film before I was and as soon as we met, we got on incredibly well. We had a great rapport and I think we have similar taste. I could not have asked for a nicer Tristan.”
There is also really great chemistry between the two of you, was that easy?
“Yes it felt very natural and I think it just worked. And I think casting Rufus Sewell was fantastic, because he is so attractive and such a good actor so it adds a real frisson. It would not have worked to have an unattractive Marke, because this is a love triangle. I am married to Marke but desperate to be with Tristan. A lot of people in fact have said to me, ‘why didn’t you just stick with Rufus? He’s so gorgeous.’ And that is what makes it interesting. Isolde really likes and respects Marke. Having two striking, charismatic men was important. For my character to be stuck in the middle of those two, makes the story more real because you can totally understand her dilemma. There is such a strong love between Tristan and me. Isolde comes from a very structured upbringing and he comes from a lifestyle in which he has had no structure, he spent his whole life fighting. So they are yin and yang as it were and fit together perfectly. She is never in love with Marke, but there is a fine line. She cannot hate him, understandably, because he is a beautiful man with a great heart and a good soul.”
Did you get to meet Ridley Scott; I know this project has been close to his heart for a long time?
” Yes I have seen him a lot recently. He was heavily involved with Tristan and Isolde and has been trying to get the project off the ground for many years. Having someone with his prowess and experience at the top, and his status, confidence and intelligence was a very comforting thing, to know that we were in such good hands. He has impeccable taste too. He did not come out to the set when we were working, but he had his finger on the pulse the whole time.”
What is the overall appeal of this film do you think?
“It is a great love story with plenty of action too, to keep the boys happy.”
What was the most difficult scene to shoot?
“The scene in which we push a boat out into the water. It was absolutely freezing. We were on a beach in the middle of nowhere and it took us all day. When James and I came out of the water after each take, there was nothing else to do but shiver. There was no time to get dry so we were cold and wet. I had a wet suit on up to my waist and that day was terrible I must admit, I wanted to quit the industry. I thought ‘what am I doing this for?”
How physical was this role in general?
“it was tough physically. We were faced with the elements, it was so cold that sometimes it was hard to get the words out and talk at all. My brain felt as though it was freezing. I have never known cold like that in my life.”
How passionate are you about your work, because I know you did not grow up dreaming of becoming a movie star?
“It is a huge passion for me, I love my work. Because I never set out to be an actress, I always feel so lucky and grateful. There are so many people who are really desperate to be stars and it was completely the opposite for me, I fell into it. I never dreamed of acting at all, in fact I was really shy when I was younger and did not like being the centre of attention. But actually working in this industry has helped me to conquer my shyness. The more I do it, the more I fall in love with every aspect of it. I get a kick out of doing interviews too like this, because it is show business and the promotion of a movie is just as important as making the film. I enjoy interviews.”
What do you enjoy doing when you are not working?
“I am quite a homebody. I like to cook and I make great roast chicken. I have a lot of really close friends back home in London and I see them a lot. I love horse riding, skiing and quite a lot of dangerous sports, but I have to be really careful with that because of my work. I was about to present an award at the European Film Awards in Rome and a friend invited me to her house in Yorkshire to go horse riding, just before the event. I told my agent and he told me I couldn’t go. Of course I went anyway and I jumped a massive fence and timed it wrong. I fell forward and the horse hit me in the eye, which went beetroot color then aquamarine. I was not seriously hurt but I had to go to a chemist to get special makeup for people with burns and disfigurements. I had to spend an hour covering up the bruises before meeting my agent at the airport. Thank God you couldn’t actually see it on the broadcast, but that taught me a lesson.”
I believe you are not altogether confident about the way you look – which seems amazing because you look fantastic?
“I think it is normal to feel insecure sometimes. I am 25 (26 in March) and I think it is normal for any girl to have times when she does not feel beautiful. What I do for a living means that people look at me. As an actress you are scrutinized. You are not just dealing with your looks privately, you are on display. I have never been 100 percent comfortable in my own skin. I go through different phases. But I don’t feel beautiful all the time, no.”
What is it like being described as a young Kate Winslet?
“I have met her once at the BAFTA (British Oscars) awards, I am sure she doesn’t remember me. But I think it would be perfect casting to hire me, if someone ever needs an actress to play her young sister. I am incredibly flattered by the comparison, because I think she’s is stunning and talented and a really nice girl.”
You had an unusual upbringing; your father is a vicar in Notting Hill in London. What was your childhood like and does growing up with a religious background influence the roles you choose?
No it has no influence whatsoever. My father has been indcredibly liberal. My mum is very religious herself and was brought up in a small village in Wales and they always went to church. When we were younger we went to church with them, but when my brother Oliver (he’s three years younger) and I hit puberty, they realized that we did not want to be dragged out of bed on a Sunday morning to go to church. And my dad was cool about it. Church was his job, but he never brought that home and I am really grateful for that. People are always fascinated by my dad being a vicar, I suppose it is because there is that cliche