Do Lady Penelope and Parker have a no-strings fling
from Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland) / by Siobhan Synnot
That’s what fans ask Sophia Myles as she brings the world’s most glamorous puppet to life on big screen.
DIFFERENT countries are fascinated by different aspects of Thunderbirds’ glamorous agent Lady Penelope.
The Japanese adore her passion for pink. The Americans like her classy act. And the British?
‘They just want to know if Parker and Lady Penelope have had sex,’ laughs 23-year-old Sophia Myles, the girl set to bring her to life on the big screen.
For the record, however, Sophia reckons posh Penelope and the former jailbird-turned- chauffeur are ‘just good friends’.
But that doesn’t stop her flirting outrageously with him from the back of her pink limo and in her bath.
As a puppet, Lady P always had a certain sexy style about her. And now Sophia is helping transfer her top totty charms from the puppet series to a new pounds 50million live action film. Every young actress from Sophie Dahl and Anna Friel to Bond girl Rosamund Pike had been considered for the role, but in the end, the film makers decided to go with a vicar’s daughter from West London who has never had a lead role in a film before.
Like Lady Penelope, Sophia is trim, blonde and elegant, though the filmmakers sent her for deportment and elocution lessons to be certain that she could be as posh. She also had to get used to a new wardrobe dominated by one colour only – pink.
Sophia’s Lady Penelope has a different costume in every scene, every one in Lady Penelope’s favourite colour and a variety of girly fashions.
‘I never dress up in real life as I’m a bit of a tomboy, so I enjoyed the change,’ says Sophia.
‘The heels were difficult to get used to and sometimes when I turned up early in the morning and put on the costumes, I felt like a man in drag.’
Sophia is speaking from the Cliveden estate, the home of the fabulously wealthy Astors, synonymous with Christine Keeler and the Profumo scandal – and Lady Penelope’s residence in the film.
Outside on the driveway today is Sophia’s FAB1, the shocking pink limo with six wheels and the ability to fly. Controversially, Lady P’s car is no longer a Rolls-Royce, as the company refused to licence its car.
So Ford stepped in and came up with a luxury vehicle that took three months to build and paint. When it comes to cars, Sophia may not fancy Lady P’s huge limo, but like the aristocratic agent, she never tires of fuchsia.
Sophia says: ‘I probably shouldn’t say this, but I’d love a pink Mini Cooper.’
Other things are reassuringly unchanged. Lady Penelope still has a cup of tea in the bath and enjoys a glass of champagne in the back of her car – which is still driven by her trusty old chauffeur Parker, played by Ron Cook.
However, when it came to the scenes where Lady Penelope appears in a bubble bath, Sophia showed her own regal side by refusing to stick her foot out of the water to press a switch on the bathroom control panel.
This wasn’t diva behaviour, however – Sophia simply hates her feet and felt her toes were too ugly for pretty Penelope.
But she won the film crew’s hearts by being a good sport, gamely spending two days sitting among the bubbles as her skin started to wrinkle and redden.
She shudders: ‘I think they used a cheap bubble bath because they wanted big bubbles.
‘It began to make my skin itch and I ended up going to a dermatologist with a rash all over my body. By the end of the week, I had skin like an alligator. That bath is not an experience to be repeated.’
Besides skin-stripping bubble baths, Sophia also gets to show off her fighting skills as she battles the Hood (Ben Kingsley) and his cronies with her kickboxing skills.
However, Sophia admits she’s anything but a natural athlete.
She sighs: ‘It was the most exercise I’ve ever done in my life. Lady P has a very acrobatic and arrogant style when it comes to fighting. But if you see me doing anything really cool, it’s more likely to be my stunt double.’
For years, Thunderbird fans have been waiting for a movie version of the cult puppet show that followed the adventures of the Tracy family and their top-secret organisation International Rescue.
Lady Penelope is one of the show’s favourite characters and is supposed to have been modelled on Sylvia Anderson, wife of Thunderbirds’ creator Gerry Anderson.
A massive hit in the Sixties and still popular to this day, the series has been shown in 66 countries and has an estimated 100 million fans around the world.
After a series of small roles in costume dramas such as TV adaptations of Oliver Twist and The Life And Adventures Of Nicholas Nickleby, as well as a part in the Johnny Depp film From Hell, Sophia has seized her chance to really shine.
But only five years ago, she was just another schoolgirl doing her GCSEs.
Going to Cambridge to study philosophy always seemed a more likely step than using her drama course.
She explains: ‘I was fiercely academic and drama was the one lightweight subject in my studies. In fact, I was only doing it because I fancied the drama teacher like mad.’
Sophia was first spotted in one of her school productions. A BBC director was in the audience and came backstage later to ask if she would audition for a small part in a costume drama. She couldn’t believe her luck.
She continues: ‘I think I asked him if he was having a laugh.
‘But he wasn’t and the next day I auditioned and got the part of Lady Jane Grey in The Prince And The Pauper.’
However, there was no question of abandoning her schoolwork for acting and Sophia went on to gain 10 GCSEs (six Grade A+ and four grade As) and top marks in her three A-Levels.
Though fiercely protective of their daughter, Sophia’s parents Peter and Jane are also hugely encouraging. Her mother Jane Myles writes English books for foreign schoolchildren, while dad Peter is a Church of England vicar.
She and younger brother Oliver grew up in vicarages, but this has always been the norm for the entire family.
Sophia says; ‘Being a priest was just something my dad did for a living.
‘I think my parents enjoy what I do. Even when things get a bit near the knuckle, they accept I’m acting and that I’m pretty good at protecting myself. I think as an actress you need to do that.’
She admits her most nerve-wracking moment to date has been a love scene with Hollywood heartthrob Johnny Depp.
In the Jack the Ripper drama From Hell, she played his wife and had to undertake her first nude scene.
But stripping in front of the Pirates Of The Caribbean star wasn’t too demanding.
She says: ‘I’d be lying if I said: ‘Oh, it’s just work’. It was fantastic. And Johnny was so charming.
‘There were three or four scenes and one of them was a love scene. When we shot it, he was totally normal and very kind to me.
‘Of course, when I told my friends that I went to bed with Johnny Depp, they all said, ‘You bitch!’
But when a string of period dramas followed, Sophia began to feel trapped in what she called ‘corset roles’ and asked her agent to find something a bit different. As Lady Penelope in Thunderbirds, there’s not a corset in sight and already it seems to have changed her fortunes.
She’s just bought her first flat, but doesn’t expect to spend much time there in the near future since she’s just signed up for Art School, a dark comedy which will also feature John Malkovich and Anjelica Huston.
She will also be seen opposite Forsyte Saga hunk Damian Lewis in ITV’s new pounds 5million World War Two drama Colditz. So has Sophia’s big gamble of swapping Cambridge for the big screen paid off? Corset has.