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15
Apr 2001
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from The People / by Charlotte Seligman

THE girl star of ITV’s costume drama Nicholas Nickleby has revealed her most nerve-racking part – filming a love scene with heart-throb Johnny Depp.

Sophia Myles – heroine Kate in the Dickens adaptation concluding today – had to get into bed with Depp in the film From Hell about Jack the Ripper.

And the 19-year-old blonde says stripping naked with Depp in front of the cameras was terrifying.

But she says she soon warmed to the task of filming the raunchy love scene.

She says: “I’d be lying if I said: `Oh, it’s just work’. It was fantastic. And Johnny was charming.

“There were three or four scenes and one of them was this love scene.

“When we shot it, he was totally normal and very kind to me.

“Of course when I told my friends I went to bed with Johnny Depp they said, `You Bitch’!”

Sophia, who still lives with her parents in Isleworth, Middx, was always destined for stardom.

She was first spotted by the BBC while she was still doing her GCSEs at the age of 16 – and later starred in the drama The Prince and the Pauper.

14
Apr 2001
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From Daily Express / By David Allsop

WHEN I FIRST met Sophia Myles there was an uncomfortable possibility that I had spent the previous two hours dribbling on her shoulder during a flight to Prague.

Just before takeoff, I stepped into the isle to allow a young woman in jeans and a baseball cap to move into the window seat next to me. As is invariably the way with strangers on a plane, we politely ignored each other – she clamping on a pair of headphones and leafing idly through a magazine, me fighting a losing battle to remain conscious until the drinks trolley came round.

When I awoke, my head was lolling invasively over the armrest demarcation zone and the plane was in its final stages of descent. My fellow passenger had somehow managed to shrink into the furthest half of her economy-class seat. Later, as we waited for our luggage, she generously dismissed my concerns about being used as a pillow.

She went on to reveal that she was an actress, on location in Prague to shoot a short scene for ‘From Hell‘, the latest film version of the Jack the Ripper story. Using the winding alleys and cobbled
streets of the historic Bohemian capital as a backdrop, I presumed. “Well, not exactly,” she answered. “I’ll be spending all the time in bed with Johnny Depp. I play his wife, and it’s a flashback sequence”. Tough job, then. “Right,” she laughed, “that’s what I’ve been telling all my friends.”

Three months later, we meet again in Soho to talk about her latest TV role, as Kate in the new ITV costume drama, ‘Nicholas Nickleby‘. “That was probably the most surreal experience of my life!” she exclaims, recalling her weekend in the sack with the man once voted as the sexiest in the world.

One minute she was filming ‘Nicholas Nickleby‘, she tells me, and the next minute she was on a plane to the Czech Republic to film a bed scene with Depp. “Sometimes I’m just sitting at a bus stop or on a tube and I just want to jump up and shout about it. To be honest, I hadn’t had time to think about it, and it didn’t hit me until I saw him getting out of a car on the film set, and I was almost sick. I spent about three hours in bed with him, and we’d only just met! But he was sensitive, compassionate and just charming.” Poor Johnny, it must be a tough job for him as well to have to meet beautiful young Englishwomen in such trying circumstances.

The story of how this 20-year-old vicar’s daughter from Isleworth in West London progressed from the lead part in a school play to Depp’s screen lover in the space of four years is arguably the stuff of every teenage girl’s fantasy. But she insists she never wanted to become an actress. “This was never my ambition, and I still can’t quite believe I’m here now. I was furiously academic and was going to do a degree at Cambridge. I was a terrible swot: I adored school.”

This is not the presentation of a young woman who feels that she could have fulfilled her academic potential had she tried; Sophia actually did it at her West London comprehensive, gaining straight A grades at A-level, and a place at Cambridge to read philosophy. But from the moment a BBC casting director happened to see her inaugural acting performance when she was 16, her immediate future was mapped out. She was asked to audition for the part of Lady Jane Grey in the BBC TV costume drama ‘The Prince and the Pauper‘. “I went, they cast me, I filmed it, and I had the time of my life. It was like going into the dressing-up box and putting on fantastic clothes. But I thought it was a one-off, and I’d go back to school and then to Cambridge.”

Fate, however, has conspired to thwart Sophia’s intended career path. An agent telephoned her on the night that her first TV role was screened and asked if she was interested in doing more of the same. “I said all right, but only in the holidays because I didn’t want to do anything to jeopardise my studies.” The proviso was respected, but within a year she had been cast again in a Fay Weldon-scripted Channel 4 drama ‘Big Women’. “Then I did my final A-level year, got my results, and it just went pear-shaped.”

One of her set texts had been ‘Mansfield Park‘ by Jane Austen, and another was a Harold Pinter play. By strange coincidence, the day after her last exam she was phoned by her agent and asked to audition for the BBC adaptation of ‘Mansfield Park‘. “My initial reaction was ‘aaaargh, no!’ because I detested the novel, and I assumed the script would stick close to the book’s text, a bog-standard treacly adaptation – but she sent me the script and it was fantastic.”

Sophia learned how to speak in an authentic Portsmouth accent (circa 1806) in the space of one day, and was promptly cast as Fanny’s younger sister. By even stranger coincidence, she discovered that Harold Pinter would be playing the part of her uncle. “I think at that point I had decided that I had really fallen in love with the job. I was thinking, ‘why sit in a classroom studying Pinter plays and ‘Mansfield Park‘ when I can be bringing them to life?’ It’s not that I am against university, but I can go at any point in my life. I can’t decide when I’m going to work in this business. So I just think that while I’m on the wave I’m going to ride it until it breaks.”

There is little sign of it breaking just yet; Sophia seems to have cornered a market in playing corset-strapped, angst-ridden distressed damsels. As Agnes in the recent TV adaptation of ‘Oliver Twist‘, and now as Kate in ‘Nicholas Nickleby’ she is, by her own acknowledgment, a natural at playing “innocent mistreated virgins”. (“I like Dickens, but his women get a bloody hard time,” she says wryly).

Recently, she has stepped tentatively outside character to play “a feisty little monster, a 17-year-old spoilt brat – it’s great”, co-starring with Alice Evans in the soon-to-be-released period romp ‘The Abduction Club‘.

She confirms that she has often been compared to Kate Winslet and, confronted by her particular brand of luminous radiance, I find it easy to understand why. What is more unexpected is why she has been described as bearing a close resemblance to the actor Leonardo Di Caprio (currently vying with Brad Pitt as the world’s sexiest man – with Johnny Depp relegated to number three).

Maybe it’s the exaggerated arch of the eyebrows, the opalescent complexion or the widely set blue eyes. Or perhaps they’re both related to ex-chancellor Norman Lamont (who has also had comparisons drawn with Leo). But Sophia is, to my surprise, flattered by a comparison first made by the American press when she appeared in ‘Mansfield Park‘.

“Kate Winslet and then Leonardo Di Caprio? I thought they were having a laugh – that, or the journalists were very tired. But then the other magazines said that I looked like his younger sister. So maybe when they make Titanic 2, I could be their lovechild.”

Sophia Myles shows a refreshing degree of perspective and maturity about her choice of profession. “It’s bizarre and sometimes I think it’s quite unhealthy because it’s not normal. You’ve got to remember also that it’s ‘pretend’, it’s not real, and you’ve just got to stay grounded. Otherwise I’d go insane. But it’s fun and, if I could afford to, I would pay to do what I do. That’s how much I love it.”

Her parents have given her their unstinting support, and, revealing that her younger brother, Oliver, is a compulsive surfer living in a caravan in Cornwall, she says: “We have found our passion. That’s all they’re worried about – as long as we’re happy.” And she still lives at home in the vicarage, although she no longer attends church. “It’s not because I’m not religious, but I wouldn’t want to be in a classroom where one of my parents was the teacher. Anyway, it’s odd going into church having had a big bust-up with your dad in the morning and he’s saying ‘I forgive you for all your sins’ – and you’re going, ‘Yeah right, Dad.’

She admits that she still worries that someone will come up to her in an audition or on a film set and tap her on the shoulder saying ‘What are you doing here? Please leave – without the script’.

“I read once that the two worst things that can happen in your life are: achieving your dreams, and not achieving your dreams,” she says. “I’m living living my dream and I’m scared. I think that it can’t go on like this because it’s too perfect. I can’t plan my life because at this stage in my career I’m not in control of it. I believe in fate; after all, it happened to me.”

7
Apr 2001
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from The Mirror (UK) / by Graeme Whitcroft

Sophia Miles talks about her meteoric rise to fame and reveals what it was like to kiss a screen hunk.

Four years ago Sophia Miles was just a gawky schoolgirl from Middlesex studying for her exams. Not even in her wildest daydreams did she imagine she would one day end up in bed in Prague, kissing Hollywood heartthrob Johnny Depp.

“It was incredible,” says Sophia, who plays Depp’s wife in the forthcoming thriller From Hell, based on the Jack the Ripper killings. “I tried to be cool and pretend it wasn’t a big deal, but I have to admit it was brilliant. I was being paid to go to bed with Johnny Depp and, yes, he was a great kisser.

“I always thought he was great actor and a very sexy man and it’s true, he’s both. The kissing scene took seven or eight takes, but I wasn’t complaining. The strangest thing was that a few weeks ago I went to see Chocolat and there was Johnny up on the huge screen. I was thinking to myself, `I’ve done a love scene with that man’!”

Alas there was no real romance between the smitten Sophia and Depp, who is happily married to French pop singer and actress Vanessa Paradis.

“He was such a gentleman,” she says with a sigh. “He showed me photos of his wife and baby girl. He is obviously madly in love with them both.”

After filming that project, Sophia went straight into making the lavish two-part ITV adaptation of Charles Dickens’ The Life And Adventures Of Nicholas Nickleby, which starts on Sunday. It concerns what befalls Nicholas and his sister Kate, played by Sophia, when they are forced to seek refuge with an uncaring uncle after the death of their father. The stellar cast includes Charles Dance, James D’Arcy as Nicholas, Gregor Fisher, Pam Ferris and Liz Smith. It shows just how far Sophia, who has just turned 21, has come. And she owes her success to a silly schoolgirl crush.

“I only chose drama as a GCSE option because I had a massive crush on my teacher,” she laughs. “As part of the course we put on Teachers by John Godber. After the performance, this man came and asked if I could go to the BBC TV Centre tomorrow to audition for The Prince And The Pauper.

“I was gobsmacked and said something stupid like, `I can’t, I’ve got maths tomorrow’. Anyway I went, had two auditions and they cast me. At the time I thought it was just a laugh. I was still sitting my GCSEs and I believed this was just a one-off and would never happen again. Then I got a call from a woman, who later became my agent, who asked if I would consider doing more acting. I said yes, as long as it was during the school holidays.”

Alongside her studies more film and TV work followed. She appeared in Big Women, Close And True, Oliver Twist and a film of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park. “That was funny because I was studying Mansfield Park as one of my set texts for A-level and I absolutely hated it!” she laughs.

It soon became obvious that Sophia had to make a choice between acting and university.

“I had a place at Cambridge to study philosophy and my parents were keen for me to go,” says the only daughter of a vicar. “But I’d had enough of education by then. I thought I can either sit in a classroom and study Jane Austen or I can bring Jane Austen to life on screen and get paid lots of money for it – no choice really.”

Unfortunately, that decision has meant she’s been so busy working that she has not had time for romance.

“I had a boyfriend for about a year, but that ended seven months ago,” she says. “I think my career frightened him off. There has been no one since then. My problem is that I can’t have casual flings because when I am with someone I have to be very serious about him.”

Despite her success, Sophia’s feet are firmly on the ground, something she puts down to her family. “My 17-year-old brother Oliver is not at all star-struck or interested in what I do,” she grins. “I know he won’t watch Nicholas Nickleby because he’s just not interested in that kind of thing.”

Her parents are also coming to terms with her choice of career. “Mum and dad were more frightened about it than me,” she says. “They were worried that I might struggle, but now I’m earning more than the two of them put together they are starting to relax. Like most parents they are happy if I am happy. They are as baffled by all this as I am.”

Sophia, who shares a flat in West London with a girlfriend, next plays the lead in The Snow Queen based on Hans Christian Andersen’s classic story

“It starts filming in October in Budapest, then it moves to the Dolomites, and then I have to go to the North Pole for two weeks. I’m learning to ice skate and I will have to ride an elk at some point. It’s going to be totally wild,” she says.

But being out of work for six months at one time made her realise there are hard times as well as good. “I was on my own in London and I started to wonder if I’d actually made the right decision to go into acting,” she recalls.

“That taught me a lot. Up until then it had all been plain sailing and I was starting to get a bit blase about the whole thing. I know I’ll have long periods of unemployment in the future, but now at least I’m prepared for when it happens again.”

The Life And Adventures Of Nicholas Nickleby, Sunday, ITV, 9pm

1
Apr 2001
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From Sunday Mirror UK / by Daphne Lockyer

There’s no denying it. Sophia Myles looks uncannily like Kate Winslet. So much so that she and her friend (who, by the way, looks uncannily like Natalie Portman) were once pursued down London’s Oxford Street by a gaggle of Japanese tourists baying for their autographs.

“To be honest with you, I get the Kate Winslet thing all the time. And, obviously, there could be worse comparisons. On that occasion my friend and I just forged the signatures, I’m afraid. I mean, we didn’t want to disappoint them.”

Before long, of course, Sophia (pronounced with an “eye” sound rather than an “ee”) is likely to be approached in her own right. Already, the beautiful 21-year-old actress has been seen in a host of prestigious productions. She played Oliver Twist’s tortured young mother, Agnes Fleming, in Alan Bleasdale’s TV adaptation of the Dickens novel and has had parts in the film of Mansfield Park.

More recently she’s been at work on a psychological thriller, Dead In The Water (due for cinema release later this year), in which she co-stars with Sophie Ward. There’s also another period drama, Abduction Club – a feature film with Matthew Rhys and Nigel Hawthorne. “It’s a romp set in Ireland in the 1780s about two young girls who get abducted,” she explains. “It’s a very sexy. Full of horse riding, stuff like that…”

She also about to appear in a new television adaptation of Nicholas Nickleby – more of which later. But first we want to know how, during filming, she earned herself the nickname Miss Prague? “It happened because one weekend I had to fly to Prague for a snogging scene with Johnny Depp. I’d been cast as his wife in the film From Hell. And though it was a very small part it was incredibly exciting. Actors go on all the time about how this sort of thing is no big deal. But come on! We’re talking about a tongue situation here with Johnny Depp. Excuse me! I and my friends happen to think that’s soemthing rather special!”

Her success is rather special too. Sophia is still expecting to be “found out” every time she goes to a read through for a new part. “When I think about it the whole thing seems incredible.”

Certainly her story has a fairytale feel. Until five years ago, Sophia was doing her GCSEs, one of which just happened to be drama. “I was fiercely academic and drama was my one light-weight subject. In fact, I was only doing it because I fancied the drama teacher like mad. As part of the course we put on John Godber’s play Teachers. And one night a BBC director was in the audience. Afterwards he asked if I’d like to audition for a small part in a BBC costume drama to which I think I said something like, ‘You’re having a laugh aren’t you?’ But he wasn’t and the next day I auditioned and got the part of Lady Jane Grey in The Prince And The Pauper. From there I was signed by my agent, who’s the mainstay of my life.”

Certainly without the agent it’s possible that Sophia would have followed a very different path.

At school – a comprehensive in Isleworth , Middlesex – she was consistently top of the class. She got 10 GCSEs (six Grade A+ and four grade As) and top marks in her three A-Levels.

A degree in Classics at Cambridge beckoned. “But what can I say? By accident I had discovered my passion, something that really sets me on fire and, right now, I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

For someone so young, she appears remarkably grounded. Here she is for example on the subject of boyfriends – and her lack of one. “Actors are always blaming their lack of love life on their busy careers, but I don’t agree with that at all. If there was someone around I wanted to be with I’d make the time, believe me.”

For now, time off is spent with family instead. “We’re very close,” she says. Her mother writes English books for foreign schoolchildren, her dad is a Church of England minister. She and her younger brother, Oliver, were raised in vicarages. “But being a priest was just something my dad did for a living.”

Though fiercely protective, Sophia’s parents Peter and Jane are also hugely encouraging. “I think they enjoy what I do. Even when things get a bit near the knuckle sometimes they accept I’m acting and that I’m pretty good at protecting myself. I think that as an actress you need to do that.”

Her part as Kate, the innocent sister in Nicholas Nickleby, is a case in point. During one scene she’s subjected to an attempted rape by Sir Mulberry Hawk, played by Dominic West. “In real life, Dominic is the loveliest guy so I had to say, ‘It’s OK, scare me as much as you like.’ Which, he did, I can assure you. Afterwards I had bruised lips but I didn’t feel violated. It helped that the director was so straightforward about it. It was like, ‘Dominic I want you to grab Sophia’s arse now’. I think that’s a lot better than edging around people.”

The refreshing lack of embarrassment in everything Sophia says also reminds you of Winslet.

“I don’t think being embarrassed is really part of my make up.”

She wasn’t even embarrassed by possibly the most embarrassing line any actress has ever had to deliver. Playing a saucy wood nymph in Rik Mayall and Ade Edmonson’s comedy film, Guest House Paradiso, she had to fly in through a window and say: ‘Come Love Nymphs, out of respect for Ritchie let us get our great knockers out and wobble them around a bit!’

“No matter how long I’m in the business I don’t think I’ll ever have a better line than that.”

Nicholas Nickleby is on ITV over Easter