Jodhi May plays Miss, the Governess. Her illustrious career began when she was just 12 with her award-winning role as the neglected daughter of an anti-apartheid activist in the film A World Apart, and she recently starred in Warriors and Aristocrats.
"I am a great fan of Henry James' work. The Turn of the Screw is one of those rare gothic ghost stories which has a lot more depth to it because so much is about the psychology of the main character, her paranoia and fears, and typically with a Henry James story, about suppressed sexual desire.
"My character -- Miss -- is quite dark and complicated, and it is her psychological complexity which attracted me to the role. She is at odds with the moral and religious values she has been brought up with, but she does not have the vocabulary to express her own desires and impulses. Henry James is renowned for making his heroines incredibly complicated, fascinating and full of contradictions within their own identities, which come into conflict with the society of their time."
The Turn of the Screw was on May's reading list when she took time out from her successful acting career to return to her studies at Oxford.
"I remember listening to a radio adaptation of the story years ago, which was genuinely scary. The prospect of seeing people who you know in your own mind cannot possibly be appearing before you is terrifying. What is most terrifying for Miss is that she sees something which other people don't. I saw her character as somebody who had to believe she was not wrong, irrational or mad about what she could see, but that she was actually an incredibly rational and judicious person.
Miss is at an age where she is becoming more sexually aware, and she has an infatuation with the Master. But it exists purely within the realm of fantasy, and she is not in a social position where a relationship between them could become a reality. When she meets him it is the first time she has been outside the family home, and sat alone with a man without a chaperone."
On set May was "chaperoned " by the production team as the intimate scenes between Miss and the Master were filmed. The Miss is driven by her feelings for the Master. Her thoughts are dominated by images of him. She is motivated by the responsibility the Master has placed on her.
Colin Firth (Pride and Prejudice) plays the Master, who charms the young governess. "Colin Firth was lovely, a complete joy to work with. But he was only on set for a day," May laments.
May admits she collapsed in fits of giggles during some of them most tense moments of filming this classic ghost story, thanks to her co-star's wicked sense of humour.
"Pam (Ferris) is hysterically funny and often made me laugh at inappropriate moments. We both had attacks of giggles, which wasn't particularly conducive to the seriousness of the scenes," says May.
Born and brought up in London, May was just 12 when she made her feature film debut in the controversial film A World Apart. Her performance as the neglected daughter of anti apartheid activist Ruth First, won her the best actress award at Cannes, and Most Promising Newcomer Award in the Laurence Olivier awards.
After appearing in five films and three television series, May decided to resume her studies, and went to Wadham College Oxford to read English Literature. Her eighth film, The Gambler, released in 1997, marked her emergence as an adult actress, in which she starred with Michael Gambon as the stenographer who goes to work for Dostoevsky, and later marries him. May's film credits include The Last of the Mohicans, in which she played Alice Munro, Sister, My Sister, with Joely Richardson, and The Woodlanders with Rufus Sewell. Her television credits include Signs and Wonders, Aristocrats, and Warriors. May also stars in a film to be released next year, The House of Mirth, with Gillian Anderson.
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