HUNTER THE FOX; Sophie Hunter Is Better Known for Dating the Artist Conrad Shawcross Than for Her Acting. but That's about to Change, Thanks to Her Star Turn in 'Vanity Fair'. Emma Cook Meets a Driven Young Diva

The Evening Standard (London, England), January 14, 2005 | Go to article overview

HUNTER THE FOX; Sophie Hunter Is Better Known for Dating the Artist Conrad Shawcross Than for Her Acting. but That's about to Change, Thanks to Her Star Turn in 'Vanity Fair'. Emma Cook Meets a Driven Young Diva


Byline: EMMA COOK

Sophie Hunter lies on a shabby sofa wearing the tiniest shred of silk that has ever passed for couture. She motions to one of the stylists for more lip gloss then throws her face from one side to another, hands sliding through her dark hair. 'Gorgeous,' says the photographer, but Sophie doesn't smile. She looks suitably sultry but a little detached, as if she'd like to be somewhere else entirely. Possibly the set of a French art-house movie.

There is something Gallic about Sophie Hunter, helped by the fact she looks strikingly similar to a young Sophie Marceau. At 26, she seems to combine all the necessary qualities of a French film star: luminous complexion, intense seriousness and just a touch of haughtiness. 'A lot of people don't think I'm English,' she says in a soft, well-spoken whisper.

'I've lived in France and people do think I'm French but I don't see myself as having a glamorous look. Maybe I am getting too serious.

But I just don't see myself like that.' It is her serious approach, no doubt, that has landed her a breakthrough role in Vanity Fair with no previous film experience at all. In it she plays Maria Osborne, Amelia Sedley's manipulative sister-in-law, alongside Jim Broadbent and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers. In terms of stardom, she has been hotly tipped to be this year's Keira or Sienna. Difficult to imagine the latter, given that she is more Left Bank than Boho but, like Sienna, it is her potential as one half of a glamorous London couple that makes her so intriguing. Sophie's boyfriend is artist Conrad Shawcross, 27, son of William Shawcross, the Queen Mother's biographer, and author Marina Warner. He is also a protege of Charles Saatchi who, two years ago, bought one of his sculptures for [pounds sterling]26,000.

Sophie's soft features turn steely when I mention his name. 'We met at Oxford and we were really good friends there,' she says. 'And, yes, things went from there and we are very happy together.' They started going out with each other 18 months ago, although they are not living together - she has just moved to West London and he lives in Dalston in an old, converted textile warehouse which he shares with five other artists. At the moment she doesn't have any plans to settle down with him, she admits. 'No, to be perfectly honest, I can't imagine getting married. I've got a lot to do before I have children - they are way off.' For now, she is obsessed with her work. Her drive and ambition come, she says, from her parents. 'I was always encouraged to think; they championed the idea of the independent woman. You spend a lot of time studying and you want to do something with that.

Something that's tangible like creating a show, writing a screenplay, making a difference.' The eldest of five children, her father is an insurance executive turned professional card player and her mother works as an administrator. …

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