Actress Natasha Richardson took a crash piano playing course for her new film THE WHITE COUNTESS only to discover she was too nervous to play in front of the cast and crew when her big scene came.

The English star wanted to impress director James Ivory and costar Ralph Fiennes by learning to play the piano for a musical scene in the period film, so she studied in secret with a costar.

But, though she became proficient and confident, she found she didn't have the nerve to show off in front of the cameras.

She explains, "The man who plays my neighbour in the film is an old friend of mine and he's a brilliant pianist, so he gave me piano lessons in New York before we started filming and then, when we were on location, he would teach me.

"I was really good and I did practice... I got quite confident and, on the day of the scene, I had total performance anxiety because I'm not a pianist and I really couldn't do it. It was embarrassing.

"They told me not to worry because in every Merchant Ivory movie there's a scene where a woman plays piano and they know how to shoot around it. I was pleased because the noise coming out of this piano was so horrendous I couldn't concentrate on the scene. I was a total failure at it."