Is Miller's Girl Based on a Book? The Movie's True Story Influences Revealed

By Klein Felt Posted:
Miller's Girl Jenna Ortega

Miller's Girl, a 2024 drama featuring Jenna Ortega and Martin Freeman, may not be based on a book, but it pulls its influences from elsewhere. 

Written and directed by Jade Halley Bartlett, Miller's Girl initially came to theaters in January 2024, but it sprung back in conversation with its April 26 debut on Netflix in the U.S.

The drama follows the relationship between a student and teacher which gets dangerously predatorial. The film has caused plenty of uproar in the wake of its release, with some audiences taking issue with the connection between Freeman's educator and Ortega's teenage pupil. 

[ Miller's Girl Movie Plot Explained: The True Meaning of the Film ]

Was Miller's Girl Based on a Book?

The Direct Image
Miller's Girl

Writer-director Jade Halley Bartlett revealed the Martin Freeman and Jenna Ortega-led film was based on a play - not a book - that she wrote in 2011. 

Speaking in an interview with What To Watch, she said, "It was originally a play that I wrote in 2011" that she wrote for an actress who was a friend of hers:

"Well it was originally a play that I wrote in 2011, way before I ever turned it into a screenplay. I wrote it for an actress, a friend of mine. I was a bartender living in New York City, this is like post-recession. I couldn't get a job, I have no formal education, so I was like what am I going to do with my certificate of participation from an acting school? I was like 'I guess I'm going to write a play for my friend.' So I called her and I was like, 'if you could play any character, who would it be?' And she said Rhoda Penmark from 'The Bad Seed,' who if you remember is a psychotic child killer."

Bartlett also cited the MeToo movement as an influence on the film, giving her the inspiration to further explore the script:

So I knew I wanted to write a villain and I did. In the first iterations of the play Cairo is a villain. And then MeToo happened in 2016, around the Blacklist time, and I was like, 'oh s**t, I've written two villains.' And that was really exciting and it pushed the screenplay into this whole new place because I realized my internalized misogyny, as I was learning through MeToo, I couldn't see what I had written right in front of me. So I got to develop John and that side of John through the iterations of the screenplay — he is that version in the Blacklist and moving forward."

Other influences she also mentioned Southern Gothic stories like Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf among others:

"So Southern Gothic, for sure. I consider myself a Southern Gothic writer and it's definitely what I wanted to have. Every good Southern Gothic has a ghost, and that's who Cairo is; John is also a little bit of a ghost. My influences are Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, the 1993 Secret Garden, the one with Maggie Smith, Park Chan Woo's The Handmaiden, which is so, so beautiful."

She said Southern Gothic offers that "scary, but not scary in the way you anticipate it" quality that drew her in and felt like a perfect fit for Miller's Girl:

"I wanted something really scary, but not scary in the way you anticipate it, you know? I think a Southern Gothic has to drip. It's like you take a bit of fruit that you think is sweet and then you realize that sweetness is rot, that's what I wanted."

So, while Bartlett did not directly adapt something when writing Miller's Girl, it was an amalgamation of personal influences, the world around her, and some of her favorite literature. 

Miller's Girl is now streaming on Netflix. 

- In This Article: Miller's Girl
Release Date
January 26, 2024
- About The Author: Klein Felt
Klein Felt is a Senior Editor at The Direct. Joining the website back in 2020, he helped jumpstart video game content on The Direct. Klein plays a vital role as a part of the site's content team, demonstrating expertise in all things PlayStation, Marvel, and the greater entertainment industry.