Joining the Myles High Club
Unknown Thunderbirds actress Sophia Myles is about to be engulfed by instant film stardom
She is the unknown actress plucked from obscurity to play one of the icons of children’s TV, Thunderbirds’ Lady Penelope. London-born vicar’s daughter Sophia Myles was spotted in a school play at the age of 16 and hasn’t looked back since.
She won a nomination for most popular newcomer at the 2001 National Television Awards for her role in Nicholas Nickleby and has also starred in Mansfield Park.
Her happiest moment to date was playing Johnny Depp’s wife in From Hell. She had only four lines of dialogue but she did get to take part in a love-making scene with the much-fancied actor.
Now, at the age of 24, she is about to become a household name thanks to the big screen adaptation of Gerry Anderson’s classic ’60s puppet-based series.
Here, Sophia tells The Ticket about how she went from being broke and unemployed to getting her big break in Hollywood.
When Thunderbirds opens this weekend, you will instantly become a big star. How does it feel? I’ve just got back from LA and I’m very, very excited about it all. I feel as if I’m getting married. I’ve been all around the world promoting the film and everyone is different as to what they are interested in. For example, in Japan, all they wanted to talk about was the clothes. And I have just got my own apartment in London, so Lady P bought me a pad!
Your rise seems very sudden. Getting cast as Lady Penelope has changed everything for me. Even before I started making the film, the press did a lot when Ron Cook, who plays my chauffeur Parker, and I were cast. I had quite a while to gear myself up towards it but I still don’t have any idea what it will be like as of next week after the film comes out.
What was your reaction when you heard you had got the part? I was in a Greek restaurant in Soho with a friend of mine and I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
Why cry? Because I was so broke at the time. I was just coming out of debt. I’d been learning to ice skate for a film of the Snow Queen which Hallmark were going to do. But it collapsed two months before we were due to start shooting.
I had rented this really expensive flat in Bayswater, West London, to be near the ice rink and, because I had been out of work, I ran into a bit of financial trouble. I trained for eight months and then suddenly I was unemployed for another 18.
That was very scary. So it was such a huge relief when I got the part and I was really excited.
Did you watch Thunderbirds when you were a kid? Well, I’m only 24 and I don’t remember it being on very much when I was growing up. I’ve watched a lot of them since, though. I had to.
You don’t have many scenes with the rest of the Tracy family. No, not really. Me and Ron were in London while everyone else was on Tracy Island. But we did get to fly out to the Seychelles where they were all filming. We were only there for a week but they only shot for one day so we ended up having a fantastic holiday for the rest of the time. It was also a good chance for me and Ron to get to know each other.ther.
There’s a rumour that you had deportment lessons to prepare for this. Is that true? I didn’t have a choice! The producer knocked on my door three days into the shoot and I thought, “Oh God, they’re recasting”. But he told me that I wasn’t walking properly. He was trying to be polite about it. I have never worn high heels in my life and she is supposed to be so elegant and graceful. But it’s hard walking properly and gracefully in heels. Have you ever tried?
Er, no. How did they teach you that? With a book on my head. Seriously, I kid you not. In front of a ballet mirror.
Was it hard work acting on such a big movie? While filming Thunderbirds, I was so tired at the end of each day that I would come home, have a bowl of Thai soup and then go straight to bed before getting up and doing it all over again. I was up at 5.30am each day. But I love it, I really do. However, you don’t have time for a normal life when you are working like that.
How did you get started in acting? I was spotted in a play at school when I was 16. Julian Fellowes, who wrote Gosford Park, came to see it and he cast me in a BBC costume drama called The Prince And The Pauper.
Did you always plan to go into acting? No. I never really had an idea of what I wanted to do. I was probably going to go to university. At the time, I had no visions of what my future would be, but it certainly wasn’t this.
How did you feel, being plucked from school like that? I was really shocked. I had to go and audition for them three times. But it was strange – as soon as I walked onto that set I just knew that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I love being on film sets. My parents were very excited but also slightly wary. And then when I said I wanted to continue with it they were very supportive.
I went and did my A-levels and then did Channel 4’s Big Women, followed by Mansfield Park. I took a gap year after my exams, supposedly before going to Cambridge to read philosophy, but I never made it to university. It became a gap decade.
How have your parents reacted to you becoming a major star? I think they are very excited. My brother is a lifeguard down in Cornwall and they are equally proud of him as of me.
How did you find life over in LA? I love it in Los Angeles. I’m now shooting a film called Art School Confidential. I see London as my base but I am having a great time in LA. I quite like to spend a lot of time out there. I love the climate. I want to be able to get in my car and drive in the sunshine and relax.
Are you dating at the moment? Is there anyone you can take with you on your drives? No, not yet. I will have to meet someone out there. I have made some very good friends such as Brady Corbet, who plays Alan Tracy in Thunderbirds.
Have you ever fallen for a co-star? Mmmm, no. But I have been really lucky as a lot of my leading men have been quite gorgeous and easy on the eye.
What about Ron Cook? Ron is adorable. He is my favourite.
What kind of man are you looking for? I don’t know. As soon as I meet him I want it to click. To cope, he will have to understand the industry and be supportive of what I do.
Thunderbirds is out today