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Sofia Myles

Sunday Herald (July 2004)

Ask most 24 year old actresses for their ultimate ambition and you’ll be offered a familiar litany. Top billing in a Hollywood blockbuster. An Oscar acceptance speech. A role where, for purely artistic reasons, a bedroom scene with Johnny Depp is required. Sophia Myles, however, has a slightly loftier aim. Having already ticked the last of these off on her wish list, the British actress most commonly referred to as the new Kate Winslet is setting her sights on the stars.

“I’d like to go to space,” she declares, curled up on a sofa in Cliveden, the country house where Lord Profumo was introduced to Christine Keeler. “Just to go up there and look at this planet and realise how insignificant we actually are. Also it’d be cool to say ‘yeah, I’m off to space tomorrow. I may not see you again’. But I won’t go until I’m old, in case we burn up. I’ll do it when I’m ninety. You only live once, you should try and do it.”

For the majority of her eight year career, the closest Myles has come to the heavens has been standing in the pouring rain on a clifftop, strapped into yet another corset. At 16, she played Lady Jane Grey in The Prince And The Pauper TV series and went on to struggle with restrictive clothing in Oliver Twist, The Life And Adventures Of Nicholas Nickleby, the movie version of Mansfield Park and From Hell, with Mr Vanessa Paradis.

“I had four lines in that film,” Myles laughs. “’I’m pregnant.’ ‘The doctor says…’ Bish bash bosh bye bye. I was only 18 and I only had one day on the movie and it’s scary walking onto a set when everyone’s already bonded and you’re the new girl. And then it’s Johnny Depp and then it’s a bed and it was such a surreal experience. But he’s a lovely lovely guy. So cool it’s untrue. The most incredible face. You could photograph him from360 degrees. (I)And(I) he can act.”

A vicar’s daughter from Isleworth in Middlesex, Myles was a straight A student with plans to study philosophy at Cambridge before she turned to acting full time. “I love debating and I’m fascinated by people’s theories about life, death and the cosmos and philosophy seemed like a fascinating thing to do. But that all changed when I walked onto the film set of my first job and thought ‘this is where I want to be’.”

Myles struck up a friendship with Kiera Knightly after starring with her in Oliver Twist and the pair even planned to write a script together. “I remember sitting in my bedroom chatting. Neither of us were getting job offers. We wanted to do something dark. We didn’t want to write the stereotypical thing about two young girls. It was more going to be along the lines of ‘Heavenly Creatures’. But it never happened.”

While Knightly found success with Bend It Like Beckham, Myles became “caught in the corset trap for a couple of years, playing the little virginal girl and the sweet character.” Comedy seemed like the best escape route, so when the role of Lady Penelope in Thunderbirds came up, she leapt at the chance. “It’s more fun doing comedy,” Myles nods. “I’d much rather spend a day being witty then spend a day crying on the top of a cliff in the pissing rain. In a corset as well. Wearing a pregnancy pad. Oh god…”

Myles steals the film with her supremely unruffled and effortlessly sexy Lady P. While bedlam erupts around her, she glides elegantly onwards tutting at the state of the begonias. “What I like about Lady P is that she’s very sexy without being provocative. She’s very elegant, she’s funny. It’s nice to go back to that old style of glamour. Be very sexy but not have to get the midriff out, because that’s not me. It’s not all about sticking your tits out and saying ‘look at this guys’.”

In conversation, Myles appears friendly but driven, able to laugh about her spacefaring ambitions (“I think I would fucking shit myself,” she howls. “I’d probably have a heart attack”) but extremely serious about her acting career and its possibilities. “I would say I’m a very friendly person and I like to be sociable but I also like to be quiet,” she says. “I’m either bursting with energy or I’m (exasperated sigh) and I don’t want to talk to anyone.”

With Thunderbirds ready to fly and a forthcoming role opposite John Malkovich in the bag, Myles’ career looks like it’s about to take off. But does she want to be famous? “No, not really. I’m not anti it because it’s part of the job, but it’s a pain in the arse sometimes. Especially for people who are attached to cult things so…” She looks down at her pink Thunderbirds t shirt and laughs. “Oh shit.”

Planet Earth is blue and there’s nothing she can do.

Ian Watson
Music, film, comedy and travel journalist based in London

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