Norfolk is still favourite place for Inkheart actress

Emma Lee Actress Sienna Guillory returns to the big screen this Christmas in the family fantasy blockbuster Inkheart. Now based in LA, she tells EMMA LEE why there's no place like Norfolk.

Emma Lee

Actress Sienna Guillory returns to the big screen this Christmas in the family fantasy blockbuster Inkheart. Now based in LA, she tells EMMA LEE why there's no place like Norfolk.

After eight years of zipping backwards and forwards across the Atlantic, rising film star Sienna Guillory has moved stateside full time.

But even though she's now based in LA, she still describes Norfolk, where she grew up and got her first big acting break, as her “favourite place in the world.”

Sienna returns to the big screen this Christmas in the family fantasy blockbuster Inkheart, alongside Brendan Fraser, Paul Bettany, Helen Mirren, Andy Serkis and Jim Broadbent.

Following on from roles in Resident Evil: Apocalypse and Eragon, she's getting herself something of a reputation as an action girl - although life on set isn't without its mishaps.

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“I did one stunt by accident,” she laughs, speaking to EDP2 from LA.

“On my first day on Inkheart I managed to do a huge fall. I slipped on some cobbles and managed to land flat on my face. But during filming I had to fall through floors and do lots of escaping. I think probably the highlight of the film for me was being strung up in a net. Then I found myself in a cage for 10 days with Jim Broadbent. He kept me very entertained,” she says.

Sienna describes it as an honour to work with such a star-studded cast.

“I was thrilled. Helen Mirren [who is a close friend of Sienna's family] is my favourite actress in the whole world. And Jim Broadbent is extraordinary,” she says.

Based on the best-selling book by Cornelia Funke and directed by Iain Softley, Mo Folchart (Fraser) and his 12-year-old daughter, Meggie (newcomer Eliza Hope Bennett), share a passion for books.

They also share an extraordinary gift - they bring characters from books to life when they read aloud. But it comes with a danger. When a character is brought to life from a book, a real person disappears into its pages, which is exactly what happened to Meggie's mother, Resa, played by Sienna.

“I've accidentally been read in to the world of a story,” Sienna explains. “She hasn't seen me in nine years, and it's about that journey. It's very exciting.”

There was also a twist in the tale for the actress.

“My character's mute. She's lost her voice, which is one part of being read from one world to another. It was quite a challenge.”

Filming did have its perks, though.

“We filmed for a couple of months just before Christmas near a village called Alassio on the Italian Riviera. It was October, November and we could still swim in the sea. It had its own microclimate,” she says.

Sienna, who moved to Norfolk when she was 11, won her first major role in a TV adaptation of Jilly Cooper's Riders when she was just 16 and studying for A levels in French and theatre studies at Gresham's school in Holt.

She moved to London where she worked tables at the celeb haunt the Groucho Club and launched a successful modelling career - she was the Milk Tray girl and the face of Boss perfume.

Her acting career was given a big helping hand when she starred in a TV adaptation of Take a Girl Like You, by Kingsley Amis, and she also appeared in Love, Actually, the Time Machine and played the lead role in the mini-series Helen of Troy.

She's married to fellow actor Enzo Cilenti (she proudly reports he's just been filming with Daniel Day Lewis in London) and her latest project is the pilot for what it is hoped will become a new sci fi TV series, co-written by the creator of Battlestar Galactica.

“I've just finished working with a director called Peter Berg on something called Virtuality. It's set in the future, very different from Inkheart - especially as I had a lot to say and remember. It was a lot of fun. I'm not sure yet what it's going to end up being, whether it will be a TV show or a film. But fingers crossed,” she says.

“I think that a lot of the really great writers are writing for TV at the moment. It's really creative. And I love working in an ensemble and being inspired by the people around you.”

While Sienna was, for a time in her early career, an 'It' girl and a mainstay in the gossip columns, these days she tends to shy away from the glitzy and glamorous side of acting.

“LA is a very strange city. There's a huge mountain range in the middle of it. And there aren't really any street lights at night time. There are coyotes and strange animals making noises and climbing into your garden and falling into your pool. And then if you drive a couple of hours you can go skiing. Or you can be in the desert,” she says.

Sienna's great passion is horse-riding - she and her mum, who runs the Carrier Company, recently went on a riding holiday in Turkey, flying via Norwich airport.

“There's nothing like it,” she says. “I do miss Norfolk - I miss my Mum, of course. I love Holt, horse riding on Holkham beach, the marshes.

“And there's a really brilliant shop called Old Town in Holt that Enzo and I are huge fans of - it's a cottage industry that makes the most beautiful clothes. In LA people always ask us where we get them from and we can't possibly tell them.

“But the beaches here are really beautiful. I put up my Carrier Company windbreak and it makes me feel at home.”

Inkheart is in cinemas now. View the trailer at