Sophie Hayat

Sophie Hayat

Despite being in the business for ten years it's Sofia Hayat's new movie The Unforgettable that is finally bringing her recognition.

In the lead role opposite Raji James the movie premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2008 to rave reviews. She has also penned an autobiography that talks about her difficult upbringing in a strict Muslim family.

I caught up with Sofia to talk about her new movie and how her past experiences have made her so determined to succeed.

- You new movie is The Unforgettable so can you tell me a bit about it?

It’s a story of psychological love, I play the lead role in this film, and the story is quite an intelligent film in a sense that the language is an evolution of Shakespeare but not really English. It’s beautifully written and is a true story of one of the directors.

My character she is a very confident women when you first meet her and is very beautiful, almost a bit bitchy at the beginning, but then she falls in love with this writer who doesn’t believe in love. Through their affair and passion they both fall in love and then she disappears, there’s deceit that goes on; this is the first time that he has ever fallen in love.

I won’t tell you the end of the story and why she disappeared, but it’s an unusual story of love that shows love through all the ugliness that makes love of one the greatest emotions.

- You take on the character of Padma so what was it about the character and the script that drew you to the project?

At the time I had two scripts in front of myself. I had been offered both of them, one was The Unforgettable and the other was a Bollywood film and the Bollywood films don’t tend to go into subjects seriously, Bollywood films are beautiful but it’s almost like a pantomime and it’s very beautiful and very song and dance it is quite emotional but the storylines aren’t that developed and don’t take to many risks.

But with this film there was a lot of risk taking, may character for example she was not portrayed as women in Bollywood movies are generally portrayed she was a very strong woman who knew what she wanted. 

She initially meets this guy and makes him believe in love she’s not a shy retiring type in Bollywood films generally the women are quite, even though they are strong they have this naivety about them, the man is always the strong one but Padma is strong and very independent of her thoughts and her actions.

But towards the end of the film, what I loved about her is there are so many contrasts at the beginning of the film you hate her and think she’s a bitch and by the end you just want to hold her in your arms like a baby.

- The movie did cause a bit of controversy because of the sex scenes so how comfortable were you with that and how surprised are you by the fuss?

To be honest with you when I was shooting the scenes I was very nervous, I hadn’t even done a proper screen kiss, so it was my first screen kiss and love scene all in one go. It took a whole day to shoot, we had a closed set so there were only about three people on set, but I didn’t feel sexy at all at any point I was just cacking myself, if you will excuse the expression.

I was really scarred so every time they cut to reset the camera I would run back to my room and just stare in the mirror saying ‘my name is Padme and I’m in control’ so I had to keep doing that to tell myself that I was Padme and not Sofia. 

It was difficult, I won’t say that it’s easy, but it will make it easier next time around as I understand that it’s not sexy at all. The other side where the film is coming out on 11th September, which is the month of Ramadan, and it a little bit offensive to some people because the writer and director is a Muslim and so am I. 

The fact that there is a love scene in a movie that’s coming out in the holy month has caused controversy and I have had a couple of emails, no more than two, saying ‘this is terrible and you shouldn’t be doing this’ but the thing is I’m hoping that it will bring about change.

Unfortunately in a huge part of Bollywood in India, Pakistan, especially the film industry, they think that if you show your body or kiss properly on TV then you are cheap and when I was eighteen I probably thought the same think because I was brought up that way.

Now as an adult why should women be ashamed of who they are? It doesn’t matter how fat you are or how thin you are if a woman is showing her body or doing things, especially in my culture, they think it’s really it’s really disgusting and bad and you are bad, not bad as in committing a crime but bad as in the sense that she is showing her body she’s a slag. 

I really really hope that this film can bring about change because it is an intelligent film, the sex scene isn’t in there for the sake of it and when you watch it you with think ‘I wish that was me’ and ‘I wish I could make love like that’, but I’m hoping that it will change ideals and empower women. 

Why does the woman have to take responsibility? If a woman dresses up on a short skirt and a man comes onto her and she is upset why is it her fault? It’s the way that the men think really.

If we want to go out and be beautiful, shown our bodies or make love why does that make us bad people? We are put under so much pressure in the way that we have to look and behave in society and I think it’s totally totally wrong. I completely embrace the woman who, no matter of her shape, size, colour or religion, can go out and be themselves.

- The Unforgettable has been touted as a film that defies rules and stereotypes so what’s your view on the film?

I thin kit’s absolutely stunning and yes it does define stereotypes and stereotypically, as I was talking about women and love, the idea of love in most movies that we watch is that you meet, fall in love and live happily every after and we know that’s not real.

I grew up wanting to meet somebody, everyone wants that Pretty Woman story,  we all believe in fairytales but then you become an adult and you may date one two three four guys and you realise that it’s not like the movies.

And this is what this film shows you that love is a powerful emotion which, in reality, can be quite ugly an it’s not what we perceive and the movies do perceive love to be quite beautiful but love can be quite ugly if you walk in on rows and some of those rows are vile.

So love can be beautiful and ugly and that is what this movie does show you, it will shock you, there’s a twist at the end that isn’t expected and it completely throws the movie upside down and makes you look inside yourself.

It’s one of those films where something happens in the film that you don’t think that you are capable of and you didn’t think would happen but when it does, and I don’t want to tell you what it is, even though it’s wrong you will look inside yourself and think ‘Gosh I’m capable of that.

- You have been labelled as one of Britain’s best upcoming Asian actresses what do you think of this statement, does it add pressure?

Not at all. I think pressure comes from having an ego (laughs) and it doesn't matter to me. Sometimes I think that I have so much more to do, when you look at the likes of Angelina Jolie and Robert De Niro and you think wow they have done so much, made so much money, in the papers every day.

But the reality of it for me isn't about the money or what labels you get put on you I've had stupid things said about me, my skin is quite light for an Asian person but then it goes dark in the sun, and I've had people say that I bleach my skin and someone else said I had dated some famous actor, which I hadn't I have a fiance who is involved in finance and doesn't get involved in all of this.

If you believe everything, I do believe the good things that people write about me, the one thing that I have remembered all my life is something my mum said 'we are all born the same and we all die the same no one is above you or beneath you'.

Great my acting is my art and if I'm making waves with that, it's all very well doing a film with big names, but if you can make a film that makes people think and stop and hold their breath for two seconds and go 'wow' then you have done something.

As I say I don't do this job for the money I do it because I love the art and at the end of the day when you see what you have created, and also to lose yourself in the character and become someone else is quite beautiful, and also to make a million people fell something that has come from nothing, it's come from a script, to make them feel and think that's just really powerful.

- You have also penned an autobiography Dishonoured so why did you decide to write your memoirs?

What it was, I have been in the business for over ten years I started off doing presenting of all things, and over the years I have helped a lot of Asian women who have come to me, they've read my interviews which were quite honest my life didn't start off very good, and they would write to me and I helped a few of them.

Then a journalist friend of mine, who knew the publishing company, thought that they would be interested in my story and at the time, I know everyone says 'I would like to write my autobiography', but it wasn't something that I had thought about. It wasn't until Emma approached me that I said yeah let's try. It took two years in total to write.

Now I associate myself with a charity called Ashiana.org.uk and they are charity in the UK who are victims of honour crime and violence and forced marriages, in my book I was taken to Pakistan to get married, I was kidnapped by my own family before I was able to run away from my family. A lot of people don't think that those things go on in this country and it does.

People didn't know to the extent of what happened in my life they just saw the red carpet pictures in the magazines and they think that your life is perfect and I think it was a duty of mine to write that book and help others.

It landed on my lap, I didn't try to get a book deal, it landed on my lap and I thought if I don't do it then there are a lot of women out there that are losing a voice, someone was giving me a voice to talk about the violence and the forced marriages and the honour killings, and if I keep quiet I will be like every other woman who is too afraid to speak up.

So as much as the book is about my life, three quarters are about the sad thing that happened in my family and my culture, there is triumph in the end. I wanted to show people that it doesn't matter where you come from or what life you have had you can be whoever you want to be and we should support progression and not oppression.

Hopefully by the end of the year I will be doing a little more work with Ashiana, I didn't know too much about them, and I would like to bring more awareness to them.

The problem with a lot of these charities that help women who are victims of violence etc the woman is always presented with a bruise on her face, down trodden or sad and I said that we needed to portray the image of success, beauty and progression, if you have been in that situation in the past it doesn't mean that you have to stay there.

They really liked it and we came up with the logo 'Progression Not Oppression' and I just think that's a great way for women to see that to see that and say 'well look at where she's come from and look at her now I too can be like that.' I hope people enjoy reading the book.

I have had some really good feedback for the book from young women and if I'm making an impact on these young women and giving them a little bit of hope then I'm doing something with my life.

- What was it about your lifestyle and career choices that your parents didn't necessarily agree with?

My family are very strict Muslims they cover the body up and they pray and a girl who wants to be an actor and go into performing was a big big no no for them, my mum actually told me when I was thirteen that singing and acting was a form of prostitution in our culture.

When I went to university they found out that I had started going clubbing and going out and that was another thing that didn't marry with my culture, and that's where the kidnapping came in, they wanted me to give up my acting and performing as well as going on stage and going out. I don't think that they knew at that time that I was dating, but any of the stuff Western people take for granted they didn't like.

It was tough for me because I had always sung, so it wasn't I had changed overnight it was something that I always did, so what I have today, from the smallest achievement to the biggest achievement, I'm so grateful for because I know that I have had to fight for it.

Sometimes I get a bit sad because I wish I had gone to a proper drama school, if I had a child who was singing and dancing at five years old I would find out what the best drama school was and send them there, and I know now, from seeing my peers who have gone to RADA, if you go to those schools you get a better chance and a quicker chance of getting work, and it took me a long time to find work because I didn't know about drama school or agents.

So there is a part of me that is a bit sad and think I have lost ten years of my life not knowing, I went to university at eighteen and I'm now thirty four, I should have gone to drama school at fifteen and so I have lost ten or fifteen years of my life finding my way, because that is what I did it was like wearing a blindfold saying 'is this the right door?' 'What do I do next?'.

So it wasn't easy and that does hurt me sometimes because friends of mine who have been doing this for so long have done some great stuff and went to some great schools and I wish I had had that opportunity because I had such talent. There is a great sadness there but I'm not going to sit on my arse and be sad all my life I'll do it now, I'll do it tomorrow and I'll keep trying.

I'm actually writing script at the moment which is based on part of my life, it's not directly from the biography, but it's sort of part of that that I have built up. So I'm enjoying that and I'm enjoying being creative. This next step of writing has come because I wrote the book and I got the idea for the script someone liked it but they couldn't get a writer and I just said 'bugger that I'll try it'.

I just sat down one day after a yoga class and just started writing my agent then introduced me to the production company who read it and said that they really like it. I hoped that the would then say that they would take it off my hands and get a professional writers but they said 'we will re-arrange some of the scenes, bring out a few characters, then we will give it back to you to re-write.'

I'm just finishing the re-writes this week but that's taken me three or four months and it's taken me a year to do the first draft. I didn't realise how much work goes into writing a film script, the biography took me two years and this will probably take me two years as well.

- Well that leads me into my final question what's next for you?

It's this film really and I'm hoping to go into production with it next year as the script, touch wood, will be finished by the end of September, but I know that they are going to come back and say we need to do this this and this so I reckon it will be a month or two before we start getting some funding and casting.

I would like to play myself in the film altough everyone's saying that's not a good idea and I should be behind the camera telling everyone what to do, but I can kind of do that as well.

There are two sides of the story one before I was sixteen and one after I was sixteen, obviously I wouldn't be playing the five year old, so I would like to play the older side because I know the emotions. It's not a definite that I will play myself, it's only partly based on my life and partly fiction.

So that's the next thing but, maybe next year, I might go out to LA and tread the boards out there.

The Unforgettable is released 11th September.

FemaleFirst Helen Earnshaw

Despite being in the business for ten years it's Sofia Hayat's new movie The Unforgettable that is finally bringing her recognition.

In the lead role opposite Raji James the movie premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2008 to rave reviews. She has also penned an autobiography that talks about her difficult upbringing in a strict Muslim family.

I caught up with Sofia to talk about her new movie and how her past experiences have made her so determined to succeed.

- You new movie is The Unforgettable so can you tell me a bit about it?

It’s a story of psychological love, I play the lead role in this film, and the story is quite an intelligent film in a sense that the language is an evolution of Shakespeare but not really English. It’s beautifully written and is a true story of one of the directors.

My character she is a very confident women when you first meet her and is very beautiful, almost a bit bitchy at the beginning, but then she falls in love with this writer who doesn’t believe in love. Through their affair and passion they both fall in love and then she disappears, there’s deceit that goes on; this is the first time that he has ever fallen in love.

I won’t tell you the end of the story and why she disappeared, but it’s an unusual story of love that shows love through all the ugliness that makes love of one the greatest emotions.

- You take on the character of Padma so what was it about the character and the script that drew you to the project?

At the time I had two scripts in front of myself. I had been offered both of them, one was The Unforgettable and the other was a Bollywood film and the Bollywood films don’t tend to go into subjects seriously, Bollywood films are beautiful but it’s almost like a pantomime and it’s very beautiful and very song and dance it is quite emotional but the storylines aren’t that developed and don’t take to many risks.

But with this film there was a lot of risk taking, may character for example she was not portrayed as women in Bollywood movies are generally portrayed she was a very strong woman who knew what she wanted. 

She initially meets this guy and makes him believe in love she’s not a shy retiring type in Bollywood films generally the women are quite, even though they are strong they have this naivety about them, the man is always the strong one but Padma is strong and very independent of her thoughts and her actions.

But towards the end of the film, what I loved about her is there are so many contrasts at the beginning of the film you hate her and think she’s a bitch and by the end you just want to hold her in your arms like a baby.

- The movie did cause a bit of controversy because of the sex scenes so how comfortable were you with that and how surprised are you by the fuss?

To be honest with you when I was shooting the scenes I was very nervous, I hadn’t even done a proper screen kiss, so it was my first screen kiss and love scene all in one go. It took a whole day to shoot, we had a closed set so there were only about three people on set, but I didn’t feel sexy at all at any point I was just cacking myself, if you will excuse the expression.

I was really scarred so every time they cut to reset the camera I would run back to my room and just stare in the mirror saying ‘my name is Padme and I’m in control’ so I had to keep doing that to tell myself that I was Padme and not Sofia. 

It was difficult, I won’t say that it’s easy, but it will make it easier next time around as I understand that it’s not sexy at all. The other side where the film is coming out on 11th September, which is the month of Ramadan, and it a little bit offensive to some people because the writer and director is a Muslim and so am I. 

The fact that there is a love scene in a movie that’s coming out in the holy month has caused controversy and I have had a couple of emails, no more than two, saying ‘this is terrible and you shouldn’t be doing this’ but the thing is I’m hoping that it will bring about change.

Unfortunately in a huge part of Bollywood in India, Pakistan, especially the film industry, they think that if you show your body or kiss properly on TV then you are cheap and when I was eighteen I probably thought the same think because I was brought up that way.

Now as an adult why should women be ashamed of who they are? It doesn’t matter how fat you are or how thin you are if a woman is showing her body or doing things, especially in my culture, they think it’s really it’s really disgusting and bad and you are bad, not bad as in committing a crime but bad as in the sense that she is showing her body she’s a slag. 


by for www.femalefirst.co.uk
find me on and follow me on



  1. by Kassie Carpenter 02nd Sep 2009 16:15

    Wow, I wish all actresses were as honest as her, the interview was great amd really honest..Not many people are like that. Rock on Girl! To woman Power and to women with real purpose

  2. by Rockstar 02nd Sep 2009 18:25

    the reviews have been outstanding ! Look out , this film is going to be big !