1966. Sarah Miles is an Essex girl whose career as an actress kicks off with two sexy roles. Her debut, age 21, is as Shirley Taylor, a “husky wide-eyed nymphet” in Term of Trial (1962), starring opposite Laurence Olivier with whom she has an affair. The following year she’s “Vera from Manchester” in The Servant (1963). Film critic David Thomson observes that she “thrust sexual appetite into British films.”
Next year she will marry screenwriter Robert Bolt, who will adapt Gustave Flaubert’s novel, Madame Bovary, into the film script for Ryan’s Daughter (1970). Sarah will be nominated for the Best Actress Oscar for her performance as Rosy. She will also have an affair with her co-star, Robert Mitchum, if the rumours are to be believed.
David Hemmings is the son of a biscuit salesman. As a boy soprano he formed a close friendship with Benjamin Britten, in whose chamber opera Turn of the Screw (1954) he created the role of Miles before going on to pursue a career as an actor and director.
His role in Blow-Up will propel him to iconic status but he was doubtful he’d get the part. He had to compete for it against some outstanding British actors including Terence Stamp. And he thought he’d blown his chances as Michelangelo Antonioni shook his head constantly throughout his audition. Only later does he discover that the great director has a mild form of Tourette’s Syndrome, which causes him to move his head from side to side.
And it is in Blow-Up, a mystery about a fashion photographer in Swinging London, that he co-stars with Sarah Miles. Photo by Arthur Evans.