Actress Sophia Myles leaves behind period corsets for a risky breakout role in this fall’s Art School Confidential. For someone who didn’t kiss until 18, she’s caught up on lost time
How does one attain Next Big Thing status? In the fickle realm of Hollywood star making, there’s no precise science – but there are some methods. Perhaps the most bankable solution is to do whatever’s already been done before. Terry Zwigoff’s first hit was Ghost World, which brought the world’s attention to the doe-eyed, tracheotomy-larynxed Scarlett Johansson. Zwigoff, who went on to make the bad-taste classic Bad Santa, is back collaborating with Ghost World scribe and cartoonist Daniel Clowes on this fall’s indie-darling Art School Confidential, about a young art student who dreams of being an art-world megastar. After casting John Malkovich, Anjelica Huston, Steve Buscemi, and newcomer Max Minghella, Zwigoff spent months combing the globe for his next Scarlett. Who did he come up with? Sophia Myles. Alongside her role as Lady Penelope in the remake of Thunderbirds and the upcoming Ridley Scott production of Tristan and Isolde, this 25-year-old Brit is clearly going places. For Myles, however, being the next big thing has nothing on being content right now. She talks to V about her first kiss, her first nude scene, and her first love: comedy.
Adam Leith Gollner
ADAM LEITH GOLLNER Tell me about getting cast in Art School Confidential.
SOPHIA MYLES It was a sort of bizarre process. My managers had told me about it, but I was in Prague filming Tristan and Isolde and they kept saying that I needed to see the script. When I finally saw it, I absolutely adored it. But I actually got quite nervous when I rented Bad Santa because I couldn’t see myself working with the man who created that stroke of genius.
ALG “Stroke” is an apt descriptor.
SM It’s weird-some people don’t get it. It actually isn’t Terry Zwigoff’s final edit. Miramax took it away from him. His version is even cruder – and even funnier. But I have so many favorite moments from that film. Like when he takes all the keys when the valet guy isn’t looking and he steals the car. That was such a good idea. I’d never thought of that before.
ALG I loved it when the kid reveals that his full name is Thurman Merman.
SM Oh my god! The scene that just did it for me was at the end when Thurman puts on the shirt that says, “Shit happens when you party naked.” Which is very true.
ALG It’s “very true”? What sort of shit happens when you party naked?
SM I never said that I party naked! But I would imagine that it’s true. Dot dot dot.
ALG Guilty as charged. Not bad for someone whose father is a vicar.
SM You know, growing up in the church was normal for me because I didn’t know anything else. My father is a very liberal, lovely man. He takes his work seriously, as well as his family, and he’s been very clever at dividing the two. When my brother and I both hit puberty, and getting up on Sunday mornings was out of the question, nobody forced us to keep on going to church.
ALG Did the boys in your hometown of Isleworth respond favorably to your lineage? You know, the whole daughter-ofa-preacher-man thing?
SM They were all curious about it. First off, I didn’t have any boyfriends. I didn’t get started until I was 18. I was pretty pathetic, I know, but I didn’t have my first kiss until I was 18. Sad. I’ve never told the press that before.
ALG Well in that light, why don’t you tell our privileged readers about that very first kiss?
SM Well, I don’t know how your first kiss was, but mine was certainly respectful. It wasn’t embarrassing, it wasn’t messy.
ALG Where do you see Art School Confidential taking you?
SM You know what, I have no idea. Every piece of Terry’s work is so different and appeals to a different audience each time. I don’t know because I haven’t seen the film yet. Without giving away too much, I think people will say that this role is a little different from what I’ve done in the past.
ALG How so?
SM Well …there’s a little bit of nudity. I never wanted to do anything gratuitous. I’ve always felt strongly about that. But this was the first time I thought the nudity was really legitimate. The character I played, Audrey, is the muse, so you can put two and two together: she poses for line drawings. Considering all the period pieces I’ve done in the past, all the time I’ve spent laced into corsets, it was actually quite liberating.
ALG You turned down a spot studying philosophy at Cambridge in order to focus on acting. Why?
SM The minute I walked onto my first film set, I knew that’s where I wanted to be. I felt passion for the first time. I knew it was my place. Academically I always worked my ass off, which is why I didn’t have my first kiss till 18. I was such a bookworm, and I think I just burned out on school. The choice was: sit in a stuffy schoolroom for the next three years or bring a story to life and work with Harold Pinter. And plus I’m so young. It seemed pointless to study philosophy without the life experience. The subject is so profound, and I think you need to be older to digest it properly.
ALG So when you grow up will you go back?
SM Honestly, no. I’ll probably put my nose back into some serious books, and maybe I’ll do something as a mature student sometime. But nah, I’m having too much fun doing this, and it’s a lot less taxing on the brain.
ALG How was it working on Tristan and Isolde? Did you enjoy betraying knights and kings and participating in a tragic medieval love triangle?
SM We shot on a mountain on the west coast of Ireland and it was the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen in my life. It was quite emotionally taxing to play such a tragedy. There was a lot of running around on cliffs in the rain crying and losing love. It’s a bit of a heart-wrencher, as you know. Comedy is really where my heart is. It’s what I’d do all the time.
ALG “Comedy, the wild and careless inexhaustible joy of life invincible:” Comedy trumps tragedy, or so Joseph Campbell seems to think.
SM It’s a fine line, isn’t it? I always make sure to imbue my tragic work with comedic undertones because the best thing possible is to laugh while you’re working. At the end of the day we don’t live very long – and this isn’t curing cancer. I’m not stupid. What we do for a living isn’t open-heart surgery; there are a lot of people doing more profound work than we are. We’re entertainers, storytellers, and we try to follow our instincts. That’s all I’ve ever done.
Sophia Myles in London, June 2005
Photography Daniel Jackson
Styling Joanna Schlenzka
Makeup Sally Branka (Julian Watson)
Hair Rhian Trinstead
Photo assistant Kat