Sleep with Me coming to ITV1

by Lisa McGarry

Adrian Lester, Jodhi May and Anamaria Marinca star in an Andrew Davies adaptation of Joanna Briscoe’s erotic thriller Sleep With Me for ITV1. Dark secrets and infidelities are revealed as Richard and Lelia are lured into Sylvie’s seductive and menacing game in this story of obsession, desire and betrayal.

Richard Fearon (Adrian Lester), a literary reviewer, and his long-time girlfriend Lelia Phillips (Jodhi May) meet the mysterious Sylvie Lavigne (Anamaria Marinca) at a party, a quiet mousey woman who seems lost and out of her depth…

After a number of “chance” meetings with Sylvie, Richard begins to warm to her, to take her under his wing. However Richard also begins to receive a string of mysterious e-mails that seem to be extracts from a novel describing feelings of jealousy…

Gradually it is revealed that after her father’s death Lelia spent a hot summer during her teenage years in France, experiencing her first shivers of sexual desires with local boy Mazarine, lustful memories that are still with Lelia…

With Richard falling under Sylvie’s spell, growing more infatuated by the day, Lelia reveals that she is pregnant. Richard asks her to marry him and she happily accepts. Despite this Richard finds himself bewitched with Sylvie, wanting her all for himself, his obsessive desire spiralling out of control. Sylvie tells Richard that she feels the same way but she won’t let him sleep with her…

It is also revealed at this point that Lelia’s relationship with Sylvie has been blossoming too, the sexual chemistry between them too much to bear as they finally kiss…

Even on his wedding day Richard can’t stop thinking about Sylvie, his desire for her reaching boiling point. Then he discovers that his best friend Macdara (Adam James) is himself flirting with Sylvie. Richard is furious and attacks Macdara, the wedding party ending in chaos…

Only weeks into his wedding Richard realises that it is Lelia who he loves, Sylvie is a mere infatuation. But it is too late, Richard returns home to find that Lelia has left him…

With Lelia now living with Sylvie and refusing to talk to Richard it is revealed that Sylvie is actually Mazarine, Lelia’s first sexual encounter was in fact a girl. Having harboured these sexual desires for Sylvie all these years, Lelia was unable to believe her eyes when she first saw Sylvie…

However, on the cusp of childbirth, Lelia realises that it is Richard who she needs and truly loves, who she wants to spend her life with. Sylvie is crippled with this rejection and calls Richard arranging to meet him…

Richard goes to meet Sylvie, hoping to discover where Lelia is. Realising she has lost Lelia to Richard, Sylvie out of desperation and need, plans finally to let Richard sleep with her, but Richard is only interested in Lelia and her well being. Sylvie tells him where he can find her and then mysteriously disappears.

Reunited with Richard, Lelia gives birth to her child and she and Richard almost live happily ever after, the presence of Sylvie a constant shadow haunting their relationship…

Clerkenwell Films produced this compelling and evocative, two hour drama, adapted by one of British television’s most prestigious screenwriters, Andrew Davies, from the best selling novel.

Andrew Davies is one of Britain’s most celebrated screenplay writers. He has penned classics including Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice, Vanity Fair and Tipping the Velvet. He has won a series of awards including four Baftas, an Emmy, and five Writers’ Guild awards.

The producer is Steve Lightfoot, the director is Marc Jobst and the executive producer is Murray Ferguson.

Best selling novelist Joanna Briscoe says there was no need for screenwriter Andrew Davies to spice up her book for television viewers.

“It’s a writer’s dream to have a novel adapted by Andrew Davies. Though he’s famous for inserting a sexual element into his adaptations, here’s a novel where he didn’t need to!

“I could hardly believe it when I first heard that Andrew was interested in adapting my novel. It was so exciting…I’ve watched a lot of Andrew’s productions. I remember watching Mother Love, and I was so enthralled by that. Then along with everybody else Pride and Prejudice absolutely hooked me.

“I think what mostly informs my book is sexual tension, because actually there is not so much actual sex. There is a lot of longing and tension and that is part of what drives the story and builds it up.

“I hadn’t expected any of Andrew’s characters to match my characters visually. By this stage it was Andrew’s script and I was not possessive about itI always felt my book was in safe hands.

“I got a double shiver when I first met Anamaria who plays Sylvie. She is so creepily how I envisaged her.”

Joanna was inspired to write Sleep With Me by a woman she met at a dinner party.

“I met someone at a dinner party who was very mousy and I honestly barely noticed her. But there was something about her which stayed in your mind afterwards. It was quite a big dinner party and the hostess said people were calling her the next day and asking ‘who was that woman’.

“She inspired the idea for the character of Sylvie. I thought she was this rarefied odd character, but there are people who are the odd ones in life and they are very powerful. I wanted to see what trouble she could make and what powerful, sexual, psychological effect she could have on the other characters.

“She is like a cuckoo in the nest, and then it turns out she is not there by chance. Then you have to think about what were her motives.

“It is a tense thriller with surprises all along the way.”

Adrian Lester shed the slick trickster image he is best known for to take the role of gentle writer Richard Fearon in Sleep With Me.

“Mickey Stone in Hustle is a con man. My character in Sleep With Me couldn’t be more different; Richard Fearon is a sensitive soul, “says Adrian.

“It is nice to play someone who isn’t slick, who doesn’t know what they are doing, and who doesn’t have an idea about themselves never mind how to manipulate someone else, and is a little bit lost when events start to take place. To play this kind of complexity of passion with such subtlety is a gift.

“Richard wants to be novelist, and admires the work of great writers do, but has ended up critiquing their work rather than doing it himself as a book reviewer on a newspaper.

“There is a sense of lack of fulfilment also I suppose a fear as well. He feels there’s that side of him that fears his lack of ability to try that out. So there’s also a part of him that is not really honest with himself and therefore not really honest with his partner, Lelia

“He wears a kind of mask every day. His buffer in life is to use humour and he tries to defuse many things with a light hearted comment and all those social niceties that sometimes people have.

“When the mask comes down he is very still and very vulnerable, and Sylvie does that to him quite a lot. When she meets him for the first time she says ‘I like your writing’ and he tries to dismiss it but she persists. She works on him using his own fears and insecurities.

“The piece is much more about the insecurity and the emotional messiness of relationships and what it can be like if you are not honest with yourself. The complexities that are portrayed for the most part by all of us doing almost nothing: I love the chance to play that degree of subtlety and complexity in one thing.

“Richard isn’t the kind of guy who thinks ‘oh I’m going to have a bit of an affair’. He can’t do that. He has to convince himself he has fallen in love with someone and therefore that’s the reason for the affair. That is kind of noble in a way.”

Thursday, 31 December 2009, 9:00PM – 10:35PM

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