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16 May 2017

Mathilda May

Beautiful and talented Mathilda May (1965) is a French film actress. Her film work is primarily in French and made by such acclaimed directors as Claude Chabrol, Werner Herzog, and Jacques Demy. She also appeared in a few Hollywood blockbusters, but with little success.

Mathilda May
French postcard by Musée de l 'Elysée, Lausanne / News Productions, Baulmes. Photo: Bettina Rheims / Sygma. Caption: Mathilda May - La Beauce, 1987.

A deep-tanned, brown-eyed beauty


Mathilda May was born Karima Mathilda Haim in Paris in 1965. Her father is playwright Victor Haïm, who is from a Greek- and Turkish-Jewish family. Her mother is the Swedish ballet teacher and choreographer Margareta Hanson. She was a prima ballerina for the Sweden Malmo ballet company.

At age 16 May won the Premier Prix du Conservatoire de Danse de Paris (First Prize of the Paris Dance Conservatory). After a part in a German TV series, she made her film debut opposite Jason Connery in the fantasy Nemo/Dream One (Arnaud Sélignac, 1984). Jason Buchanan at AllMovie about her: “A deep-tanned, brown-eyed beauty whose background in ballet lends her a certain onscreen elegance unrivalled by many of her contemporaries.”

Internationally she is best known for her role as a seductive vampire in the British Science Fiction horror film Lifeforce (Tobe Hooper, 1985), with Steve Railsback and Peter Firth. Wikipedia notes that May is naked for most of her performance in this film. Lifeforce was the first film of Tobe Hooper's three-picture deal with Cannon Films, following his enormous success with Poltergeist (1982), which was a collaboration with producer Steven Spielberg. The other two films are the remake of Invaders from Mars (1986) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986).

May followed this with parts in French films such as the comedy Les Rois du gag/The Gag Kings (Claude Zidi, 1985) with Michel Serrault, and La vie dissolue de Gérard Floque/The Debauched Life of Gérard Floque (Georges Lautner, 1987).

She won a César award for Most Promising Actress for her role in the French-Italian thriller Le cri du hibou/The Cry of the Owl (Claude Chabrol, 1987) based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith. She starred opposite Yves Montand in the musical Trois places pour le 26/Three Seats for the 26th (1988), scripted and directed by Jacques Demy to music by Michel Legrand. In 1989, she was the recipient of the Prix Romy Schneider.

Mathilda May
French postcard by Especially for you, Réf. 7.

Joy of Love


During the 1990s, Mathilda May appeared in such non-French films as Naked Tango (Leonard Schrader, 1991) with Vincent D'Onofrio, Becoming Colette (Danny Huston, 1991) and the Spanish-French production La Teta y la luna/The Tit and the Moon (Bigas Luna, 1994) with Gérard Darmon.

She also appeared in the space adventure game Privateer 2: The Darkening (Steve Hilliker, Erin Roberts, 1996) and played the Basque terrorist Isabella in the action film The Jackal (Michael Caton-Jones, 1997) with Bruce Willis and Richard Gere.

Her most interesting film of this period is Cerro Torre: Schrei aus Stein/Scream of Stone (Werner Herzog, 1991) about a climbing expedition on Cerro Torre, one of the mountains of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field in South America. The film was shot on location at Cerro Torre, with several scenes filmed close to the summit.

In 1992, May recorded an album called Joy of Love. In the following deacades May mostly worked for TV. Her incidental French films include Là-bas... mon pays/Return to Algiers (Alexandre Arcady, 2000), the drama and thriller La Fille coupée en deux/A Girl Cut in Two (Claude Chabrol, 2007) starring Ludivine Sagnier, and the omnibus comedy Les Infidèles/The Players (2012) directed by and starring Jean Dujardin and Gilles Lellouche.

Mathilda May has been married three times. Her first husband was Paul Powell, while her second husband was French actor and singer Gérard Darmon, with whom she has two children, daughter Sarah (1994) and son Jules (1997). Her third husband was Philippe Kelly.

Mathilda May
French postcard in the Le jour se lève series by Editions Humour à la carte, Paris, no. ST-177. Photo: Jean-Pierre Larcher.

Sources: Jason Buchanan (AllMovie), Wikipedia, and IMDb.

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