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Jul 2004
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from Sunday Times – Style UK / by Shane Watson

Just what is it about this posh heroine that warrants a return to the screen, asks Shane Watson

At a photographic studio somewhere in east London, the new Lady Penelope is throwing her toys around. In the make-up chair, staring crossly at herself in the mirror, is Sophia Myles, the 24-year-old actress who plays Lady P in the forthcoming movie of Thunderbirds, the cult 1960s television series. Myles is showing a steely determination to be styled in the manner she sees fit, regardless of the wishes of those around her. In fact, as she sits at the mirror, swivelling her head from side to side before dismissing another attempt at compromise on the hair and make-up, for a moment it seems she might be inhabited by the spirit of Lady Penelope herself. Girls don’t tend to be big on hauteur these days. They don’t usually have buckets of queenly attitude. When I draw her attention to something on the rail that looks a little risqu

Jul 2004
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From Phase 9, July 2004

About your bath scene, how long did you have to sit in the water? How freezing was it?
SOPHIA MYLES: It wasn’t freezing it was very warm. It took two days doing that scene and I think it was because of the bubble bath, this cheap bubble bath with huge bubbles. My skin started to itch and I had a rash all over my body. It was horrible.

Ron, the men are obviously very envious of you, so take us through the car and the specifications and that kind of stuff?
RON COOK: It is 28 foot long and has six wheels which probably makes it difficult to park in central London. It has got a V8 engine and it does go over a hundred miles an hour.

Did you actually drive it?
RON COOK: Yeah, I did. I had to drive it once. At first they wouldn’t let me near it because it is quite tricky to drive. It doesn’t have a steering wheel – in the film it flies – it has a joystick with a cross bar on it. So it was actually difficult to turn. You have to drive like a fork lift truck.

Sophia, do you think there is a market out there for pink cars?
SOPHIA: Yeah, I would really like a pink Mini Cooper. I love the Mini Coopers. I think we should bring out some more vibrant kind of cars. I love those streets in London where they have got the houses painted in different colours. I wish they would allow that to be done more.

Sophia, the original Lady Penelope was modelled on Sylvia Anderson who did the voice but yours is more Joanna Lumley. How were you picturing her as your character?
SOPHIA: Well, both of us sat down and watched all the DVD’s and obviously we studied the original very closely but we weren’t trying to copy. We wanted to do the original justice but at the same time give it a fresh twist and make the characters our own.

Ron your character is being very cockney, how did you pitch that?
RON COOK: It is always a problem when you are playing such a great character, such a great icon. So my first reaction when the agent rang up and said they want you to play Parker was “Great!” and then I went “Oh, God!” It is a heavy mantle to wear. So we had to make them our own in a sense, we couldn’t better the original. It would be wrong just to copy so in a sense we were going from making puppets into making them real people and sort of honouring the original and making it our own.

You suggested that there is a favourite line of yours that seem to sum up where he is coming from?
RON COOK: Yeah, because that sixties way of Cockney talking was actually not right for now. It wouldn’t seem real enough. So, we decided that it was not his pronunciation but the words that he used. And in the bath scene she says “Any news of the Thunderbird?” And he says “No, my lady. The media is awash in speculation of its whereabouts” So, it is actually in the language that he uses.

What’s Parker’s story?
RON COOK: There is a story that Parker was discovered burgling Lady Penelope’s home…

SOPHIA: and Lady Penelope said to him “Either I am going to turn you into the police or you can come and work for me” That is how they met.

RON COOK: He is from London, an East End villain, and he has been inside. I don’t think you can see it in the film but I do have tattoos!

SOPHIA: That you would have done yourself in jail! (Laughs)

How do you think children are going to react to the film?
RON COOK: I don’t know it is a new adventure.

SOPHIA: We went to the Tribeca Film Festival and Sir Ben was there as well and I had little girls coming up saying “We really love your car!”

RON COOK: I tend not to get recognised. Once I got stopped in the street by two girls who said, “Can we have your autograph?” And as they walked away one of them said to the other “It ‘s not him!” (Laughs) I wanted to run after them and say, “Who did you think I was?” (Laughs)

During filming did you think…”If I see pink again I’ll scream?
SOPHIA: No, I never got sick of pink actually.

RON COOK: We both turned up in pink yesterday. It takes a real man to wear pink socks.

What kind of training did you have to do for your massive action scene and how much fun was that?
SOPHIA: It was the most exercise I have ever done in my whole life! It was two weeks and we had a great group of stunt co-ordinators and we just broke the sequence day every day bit by bit. Obviously our fighting styles are very different Lady P is very acrobatic.

RON COOK: We trained quite a lot for that, I enjoyed it. I always thought that boxing in a three minute round, that is nothing, but phew! Ginger, my stand in, used to stand aside and say “Do you want to do this Ron?” “Yeah, I’ll do it!” So, I did all the stunts myself and I had the bruises to prove it.

SOPHIA: I have to point out that I had two stunt doubles, so anytime I look cool during that sequence it ain’t me!

What kind of women do you like to play?
SOPHIA: It depends, I just like to try different things for each film I do. To try something that is a challenge which I have not done before. The fantastic thing about Lady Penelope is that she is such a positive role model for young children because she is bright, she is intelligent and she is funny, strong and sexy without being provocative and I think it is nice to actually have a role model for children which isn’t dancing around showing everything hang out. It is just a great character to play and also the comedy and the dialogue and to have a side kick like this one was a joy and we
had such a good time.

What is the nature of Parker’s relationship with Lady Penelope? Is there a sexual attraction?
RON COOK: I think it is more avuncular. He is very loyal to her. He would do anything for her.

How would you like your career to be heading in the future?
SOPHIA: For both of us really, we have never been in a film this big before or have done anything like what we are doing today. I have no idea until I get there, I’ll have to talk to you then! I don’t know. But in terms of my career I just want to carry on doing work and material that really inspires me. I am off to do a completely different film in a couple of weeks. I just want to work with really great directors and a great cast. Because that is when you really learn.

Ron you are also embarking on a new project in Scotland.
RON COOK: I am. I am in Glasgow at the moment. I am doing a film with Peter Mullan and Brenda Blethyn, playing a Glaswegian.

There are a lot of adaptations of TV series, why do you think that is?
SOPHIA: I think it has to do a lot with now and the visual effects technology.

RON COOK: I also think that with film executives, it is what they remember from their youth so they are reproducing it now! Reliving their childhood maybe! Or maybe it is a lack of ideas.

Do you have a favourite from the past that you would like to see as a remake?

RON COOK: I used to love Cowboy stuff.

SOPHIA: I would love to do a Western.

Did you find that there was a lot of testosterone on the set?
SOPHIA: There was but it was difficult when they were in the suits! (Laughs) It was so funny! We didn’t work with the Tracy brothers that much, we were mainly with Brady. So they were like a family to us those guys.

RON COOK: It is odd sometimes filming because you look forward to working with people in a film and sometimes you don’t get to see them. I did THE MERCHANT IN VENICE with Al Pacino recently and I was so excited. I never met him! (Laughs) And he was probably the only reason why I did it! I was flying in to Venice and he was flying out.

Which scenes in this film do you look forward to seeing the most?
SOPHIA: That I wasn’t part of? My favourite moment, I cry every time I see it! It’s when Brady’s character mimics Soren’s stutter and just seeing Soren’s little face, I love that moment.

RON COOK: I was quite impressed by the space ship flying and watching the special effects. It is weird sometimes when you are working on a film that has CGI. When we are sitting in FAB 1 we weren’t sitting in the car we were sitting in a mock up in a car park in Pinewood and we have got cows mooing on one side and then they are demolishing the TOMB RAIDER set on the other and we are surrounded by blue plastic. But when you see the film it is fantastic! You have to really use your imagination. We have to watch a polystyrene cup on a stick and go “Hi, Jeff” and it is a little cup! Actually it is a big surprise and it is wonderful to see it because you have no idea of how it is going to go!

Sophia, you said that you particularly liked a scene that we won’t see until the DVD comes out, what was that about?
SOPHIA: Our first week was in the Seychelles and they flew us out there. Ron and I worked for one day… the rest of the time we spent snorkelling and at the bar! (Laughs) We were having a fantastic time. We went there to shoot this scene that was cut from the film where ….

RON COOK: There was a scene where FAB 1 lands on Tracy Island and is blown up by this torpedo. I say “Pardon me m’lady but there is a torpedo rapidly approaching us.” (Laughs) And you are sitting there really cool and I break out in a sweat as this torpedo is approaching us! Anyway, we had to abandon the ship and it turns into a pedalo…

SOPHIA: A pink pedalo with a Mississippi mud wheel at the back! I am sitting with a parasol and Ron is pedalling! We shot it at midday sun in the Seychelles and it is when you burn even with factor 60 on. I have never seen someone so physically green before.

RON COOK: They took us out in to the middle of the water for a helicopter shot and I am in full uniform with a sponge flat cap and I am pedalling away like mad. This guy says “We are going for another one Ron!” It nearly killed me! I nearly died.

Merchandise will be a big part of this movie, have you seen yourselves as action figures yet?
SOPHIA: No…voodoo dolls! (Laughs) It is going to be really strange.

Ron, are you looking forward to your little figure?

SOPHIA: I have already got a little Parker…the original Parker. I was given it in Tokyo by one of the journalists. He came with this photographer and I thought it was just a present and then they wanted a picture of me and this doll.

Are you up for a sequel?
SOPHIA: Definitely if they ask us. I hope so. We haven’t heard anything about a number 2 but fingers crossed.

RON COOK: I think it depends on how the film goes. If it is well received there might be another one.

Question & Answer Text Copyright UIP

Jul 2004
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from Lam (UK), July 2004 / by Gareth Gorman

Gareth Gorman can hardly contain himself as he meets the real life Lady Penelope – Sophia Myles – and discovers that she’s a lady

Lady Penelope was my first crush. When I watched Thunderbirds I sure enough got thrills out of all the fierce, fiery explosions. All the vehicles were pretty cool too, especially Thunderbird 2. Even the bad, jokey humour and the secret island base which opened up to send the vehicles off impressed and easily paved the way for a later Bond fixation. But it was the immaculate demeanour and iron coiffeur of Lady P that really got me going. Sure Tin-Tin was OK too, but you just didn’t get to see enough of her. Lady Penelope was always getting down and dirty in the name of spying. Tied up here, disguised there and even singing like Marlene Dietrich in one memorable episode. Then there was that hoity-toity vocal delivery that enunciated orders I only wanted to obey – all delivered with those remarkably icy, baby blues. It was a shocking and horrifying discovery to find out I would have got splinters if I went anywhere near her pink, pampered puppety form.

So what a thrill it is to find Sophia Myles has brought the splendid Lady P to life in the all new, all live actors, all action, Thunderbirds movie.

Myles has slowly been impressing in supporting roles in reasonably noticed films such as Mansfield Park, From Hell and Underworld, but now she hits pay dirt, stealing the role away from Rosamund Pike who seemed a cert for the role after Die Another Day. Sophie Dahl was also in the running, even though she surely never stood a chance.

Sophia’s splendid turn as Lady P more than makes up for the fact that Bill Paxton and his boys have less charisma and expression than the original puppets. Still, Jonathan Frakes’ modernising of the classic Thunderbird vehicle designs is commendable enough, especially with Sophia commanding all the attention in her pink luxury cruiser (No, it’s not a Rolls Royce, but an, erm… Thunderbird), it seems like the old show all over again. Or as Sophia puts it herself.

“When Ben Kingsley as The Hood gets to Tracy Island I turn to Parker and say, `Let’s go help.’ We hop off into our pink car and lend the Tracy boys a hand.”

Strangely enough, when Gerry Anderson and his wife Sylvia first developed Thunderbirds for television, they created the character of Lady Penelope and dependable Parker first and the Tracy Boys followed, not the other way around. They smartly figured that American audiences wouldn’t be able to resist that British cool, as Sylvia recounts.

“During the 60s, a social revolution was taking place and young debutantes no longer dressed in twin sets and pearls or paired with men who were chinless wonders. It was difficult to distinguish between a working girl and the finishing-school product. Each would be wearing the 60s uniform of minis and trendy haircut and be on the pill.

“Lady Penelope was the last of a dying breed of debutantes, but even she was breaking ranks as the London agent of International Rescue. I wrote her in with not only the daring and panache of a secret agent, but also the poise of a cool and beautiful aristocrat. She was top drawer with an impeccable pedigree. She wasn’t the most obvious choice for an action girl, but one that to me had exciting possibilities. We had to consider the American market and knew that they would love a typical British lady. I decided that she also had to have a British partner. She couldn’t just sit alone in that vast mansion and only talk by remote to Jeff and the boys. So what better than a faithful old retainer in which to confide and share her adventures? Nosey Parker, as he had been known in his younger days, thus became the comic foil.”

With them in place, the Andersons turned their attentions to a successful American series and took the idea to the skies. The Tracy boys, you see, are based on the good old Cartwright clan from the Ponderosa – yes, Bonanza. So if you’ve ever thought that Thunderbirds was nothing but cowboys in space, you were right.

As ever, the Andersons also drew on celebrities of the time as the inspiration for their puppets. Just as James Garner supplied the visage basis for Troy Tempest in Stingray, the Tracy brothers were based on the unlikely features of Tony Perkins and Robert Reed, later to become the dad in The Brady Bunch. Guests villains looked uncannily similar to the likes of James Mason and Laurence Olivier, but we’re sure that Ben Kingsley, so unhinged and just plain mean in Sexy Beast (the nicest thing he did was urinate all over the bathroom floor on purpose), will be more than up to the job.

As for Lady Penelope, her looks were based on Sylvia Anderson and voice on the deliciously fruity Fenella Fielding and Joan Greenwood. So how does Sophia feel, slipping into Lady P’s dainty shoes for the live film version? Daunted?

“I have something like 15 costumes to wear for the film – all Chanel, darling, and naturally everything including her car is very, very pink.”

Jun 2004
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A BIG Thank You goes to Gavin from the original Sophia Myles site (SophiaMyles.co.uk): His message board (with Erika as hostess) is also for my site. So, what are you waiting for? Head over to the BOARD to chat about Sophia and her work!

Another very big Thank You to Ruth: She sent me tons of Sophia pictures – also some fabulous ‘Thunderbirds’ stills – view them here.

And there’s a new article: (The one picture that hasn’t been published before is now in the gallery.
» No strings attached Sunday Express UK, June 13, 2004

This article is very interesting because it talks about another new project for Sophia: ITV’s interpretation of ‘Colditz’. More about this mini-series to follow.

And since ‘Oliver Twist’ has been released on DVD – Region 1, USA, Canada – I was able to make some screen caps of that excellent series. View them here.

I’ve also added a poll question: What is your favourite film? Please take the time to give your answer. Thanks a lot.