From Female First / by Helen Earnshaw
Sophia Myles returns to the big screen this week as she stars in now horror movie Blackwood, which sees her team up with first film filmmaker Adam Wimpenny.
This is the second film for Myles this summer, having starred in box office smash Transformers: Age of Extinction and she will be returning to the small screen this autumn with Our Zoo.
We caught up with the actress to chat about Blackwood and working with Wimpenny, as well as looking back at working on Transformers.
– Blackwood is about to be released on the big screen, so can you tell me a little bit about the film?
Blackwood is a psychological thriller that follows a family who move to the countryside with their young son. The husband suffers from mental health issues, which my character Rachel – his wife – thought was under control. Clearly, as the film unravels, they are not.
– You take on the role of Rachel Marshall in the film, so what was it about this character and the script that initially drew you to the film?
I couldn’t put the script down when I read it as I just thought it was so gripping. I loved the fact that it was also a well-written role for a woman, as these are roles that come around all that often. So I really just jumped at the chance to be a part of it.
She is an incredibly interesting character because she becomes almost like a lioness and wants to protect her son. The moment that her son is potentially in danger that is when she gets very scared but also very strong as well.
– Blackwood marks the feature film directorial debut of Adam Wimpenny, so how did you find working with him bearing in mind he was a first time filmmaker? He has done quite a lot of work in television.
I loved working with Adam, you would never have known that he was a first time filmmaker as he feels like a old pro. He is so competent and I would work with him every day of the week if I could. I think he is just fantastic.
– And how collaborative a process was it between the director and the actors as you were developing your characters and the scenes? Was he quite open to actors throwing in their ideas?
Yes, he was open. At the same time, she was also very sure of what he wanted and his vision. I do always admire that in a director because I prefer to be told want to do.
I really do like it when the director is the captain of the ship because it makes you feel safe and makes you feel that somebody knows what direction you are going in. I trusted his instinct because it felt very strong to me.
– Rachel has a very interested – and at time quite troubled – relationship with her husband Ben. So how did you find developing that relationship with actor Ed Stoppard?
It was a very organic process really. He is such a good actor and so that made my job incredibly easy. It really just evolved as we went along really.
– With movie like this the setting is everything. The house almost becomes a character in itself, so how did you find shooting in it? How much to you prefer being on location as an actor compared to a set that is built of green screen?
I thought the house was incredible – I would never spend a night alone there. It had a very intense energy about it, which only really helped create an atmosphere in the film. However, it was very cold as we shot over the winter. It was nice to be confined to one location and I enjoyed it immensely.
I think it is like asking someone if they would like to move into an old house or do you want a new build? They are two very different energy and experiences.
I think there is more history and intensity to something that has been around for many years, as opposed to something that is brand spanking new. I don’t really have a preference they are just different. It like saying to you prefer coffee or tea?
– The movie played at the London Film Festival last year, so have you been able to gauge the response to the film ahead of the release next week?
I have only seen it once and I never plan to see it again because I was so terrified, even thought I am in the movie (laughs). I went to a very small screening of the film, and I made a complete fool out of myself because I couldn’t stop screaming all of the way though.
It is so brilliantly edited and it really had me jumping out of my seat. I was rather traumatised by the end of it. I do give people a warning if I tell them to go and see it because it is terrifying.
As a cinemagoer, I don’t like horror films or thrillers, I like to be made laugh or feel warm and fuzzy and I don’t like to be scared shitless (laughs). If you like that kind of thing then this is the perfect movie for you.
– You also returned to the big screen earlier this summer with Transformer: Age of Extinction – which is already the most successful film of the year – so how did that film come about?
I was asked to audition and I did a self-tape at home. I really didn’t think that I would get a job like that: I suppose often it is the jobs when you least expect… I don’t know, it was a huge shock and a wonderful surprise. It really was an incredible experience.
– Transformers couldn’t be more different from Blackwood, so how did you find stepping on the set of such a mammoth film and working with Michael Bay?
I adored it, I adored it. The people were just so wonderful. Also getting the chance to work with Stanley Tucci was the highlight of the filming process for because he is such a brilliant actor and a really great person. He constantly made me laugh.
I loved it, but I loved Blackwood equally. I think it is very much about the people that you surround yourself with really, and they were both lovely crews and casts on both films. The money to me is irrelevant and it really is all about the experience.
– You have also completed work on TV series Our Zoo, so can you tell us a bit about that?
That is the BBC’s flagship drama for the autumn, and is a period drama that is set in 1930s. It is based on a true story about a working class family that set up Chester Zoo in the late 1920s early 1930s. My character is an aristocrat called Lady Katherine, who – up until the story begins – has spent the last three years in Kenya.
However, she has got herself into a bit of trouble and has had to come back to England and is hiding away from society up at her uncle’s house: which just so happens to be the house next door to the family that has set up the zoo.
She befriends them and becomes a very active in trying to help the family to set up their dream. It was fun and it was lovely to be back in England.
– Throughout your career we have seen you move between TV & film projects, so how do the two mediums compare? And what made you want to return to television?
The story was what really drew me to this. I don’t really think about the size of the screen that the work is going to be on, whether it be the cinema or the telly. I really do just choose work based on the story, the script, and the people: that is all that really matter to me and I don’t think about all of the other stuff.
Television has definitely come on leap and bounds in the years that I have been working in the industry, and it is now completely equal – if not sometime superior – to movies.
There really is great material around. I think that there is great material everywhere; you just have to look hard enough for it and find it.
– At the beginning of the interview you said that you don’t often come across this well written and strong female roles, so just how difficult is it to find these roles?
It is not a problem; it is just a big like searching for diamonds. I just don’t think that female roles are written or given… I just think that there are more strong roles for men. Maybe it is because women are more complex and maybe people don’t understand them and so cannot write for them (laughs).
It is just lovely when you find a character that is not just in the story as a love interest for the man or the object of sexual desire. It is just great when you get a woman in a film that has her own story and narrative that has depth and substance.
And it is always exciting when you get to explore the workings of her soul and you are not just looking at this character as a body, as it were.
– Finally, what’s next for you going through the second half of this year?
I am putting my feet up. I am just going to put my feet up because I have been working solidly, and I am going to be having a baby.
Blackwood is released 1st August.