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Why I was paid to go to bed with Johnny Depp

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

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There are worse things than being compared

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

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Sophia Myles

from Harper’s & Queens UK, January 2001 / by Marianne Brace

Marianne Brace talks to five artists who are about to be big

She has given birth on screen, been ravished an a billiard table, and ridden horseback half-way across Ireland – and all before hitting 21. Vicar’s daughter Sophia Myles was spotted at sixteen in a school play and offered a small part in the television version of The Prince and the Pauper. Filming during her GCSEs, she revised at night in a hotel and still got ten grade As.During her A levels, she appeared in Fay Weldon’s Big Women. She turned down a place at Cambridge in favour of acting. ‘Doing what I do sets me on fire.’

Rather like Kate Winslet with Slavic eyes (she has a Russian grandmother), Sophia was cast as Susan in Patricia Rozema’s feminist Mansfield Park and as Oliver Twist’s mother in the Bleasdale adaptation (‘I had to stand for hours on top of a cliff crying’). Now she’s starring with Charles Dance in Nicholas Nickleby as the hero’s sister. This year also sees Sophia in two movies – The Abduction Club, a period romp, and From Hell, an American thriller. What is the most exciting thing that has happened yet? ‘I snogged Johnny Depp in From Hell,’ says Sophia. ‘To get paid to spend four hours in bed with Johnny – I kept thinking, “I’m so lucky.'”

‘Nicholas Nickleby’ will be shown on ITV in January.