from BBC Films / by Anwar Brett
A 24-year-old Londoner on the verge of big things, Sophia Myles has only been acting seriously for the last eight years. Spotted by a casting director performing in her school play as a 16-year-old, Myles’ TV roles have come in Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby. Her film appearances, meanwhile, include Mansfield Park, From Hell, The Abduction Club, and Underworld. Now she’s playing Lady Penelope in Thunderbirds.
Playing Lady Penelope seems to have been an action-packed experience. Did you come away with any injuries?
Actually there’s a bath scene early on that took about two days to film. I think they used a really cheap bubble bath to get these big bubbles, but it made me itch like mad. I ended up having to go to a dermatologist because I had a rash all over my body and skin like an alligator by the end of the week. It was horrible. Not an experience to be repeated.
How about the fight scenes – did you have to do a lot of training beforehand?
This was the most exercise I’ve ever done in my whole life – two weeks with a great group of stunt co-ordinators. We just broke the sequence down every day, bit by bit. Lady P is very acrobatic and elegant, although I have to point out that I had two stunt doubles, so any time I look cool, it ain’t me.
Was there any other preparation required?
Both Ron Cook [who plays Parker] and I sat and watched all the DVDs of the original series. We studied them very closely, but we weren’t interested in copying them. We wanted to do it justice but also give it a fresh twist and make the characters our own.
And yet your Lady Penelope seems more sexually aware and flirtatious than the character from the series, doesn’t she?
Well the original was made out of wood! The fantastic thing about Lady Penelope is that she’s such a positive role model for young children. She’s bright, intelligent, funny, strong and sexy without being provocative. I think it’s nice to have a role model for children who isn’t dancing around with her midriff showing and everything hanging out. She’s just a great character to play, and having a sidekick like Ron is a joy. We had a great time.
Have you had a chance to discover yet how kids will react to you after seeing you as this character?
I went to the Tribeca Film Festival and had lots of little girls coming up to say “I really love your car”. But Sir Ben Kingsley [who plays The Hood] was there too, and they would only come up to him with their parents. So they really bought into it.
I’m off to work on a Terry Zwigoff film called Art School Confidential. I play an American art school student in New York, and the film stars John Malkovich, Jim Broadbent, Anjelica Huston, and Steve Buscemi. I like doing different things, and I want to work with great directors and great casts because that’s where you really learn.