‘Rebecca’ proves to be the novel that keeps on giving

Director of the movie Wheatley poses at the premiere of
FILE PHOTO: Director of the movie Ben Wheatley poses at the premiere of "Free Fire" in Los Angeles, California, U.S., April 13, 2017. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

October 20, 2020

By Rollo Ross

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Daphne du Maurier’s beloved novel “Rebecca” has seen multiple screen adaptations but the director of the latest film version believes his may be the closest to the 1938 book.

The thriller about a young, naive woman who marries an older aristocrat but finds herself in the shadow of his late wife, Rebecca, was an Oscar best picture winner for director Alfred Hitchcock in 1940, starring Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine. But the ending of the book was changed.

The new film, directed by Ben Wheatley and starring Lily James, Armie Hammer and Kristin Scott Thomas, will be released on Netflix on Wednesday.

“I went back to it and kind of re-read it and realized that this is the first script for a feature version of the book that had all the plot in it. Before, there had been things taken out and major story points which had been removed,” Wheatley said.

James, who plays the young woman, said the novel was packed with themes including male-female power dynamics as well as “obsession and jealousy and the patriarchy and everything within a very addictive, commercial, gothic horror thriller romance.”

Scott Thomas, a longtime fan of the book, said she was thrilled to be cast as the manipulative housekeeper Mrs. Danvers, played in the 1940 version by Judith Anderson.

    “I reveled in creating her, in creating the image and in the sort of construction of her. But actually doing it, actually being her when they say ‘Action’ and having to be so beastly, it’s actually quite hard,” she said.

    “I think people love those sort of stories where something suddenly appears incredibly realistic and true and you can really identify with it and then suddenly it sort of slips into something a bit more of a fantasy,” Scott Thomas said 

(Reporting by Rollo Ross; Editing by Peter Cooney)