What drew you to re-adapting the novel? I read the script and loved it, it felt so far away from stuff I’d done in the past. So everything in the house was kind of suggesting how the murder happened in the boathouse. Normal movie morality does not lead us to them getting away in Cairo. In the book, she just kind of fades out. He's like Dean Martin pretending to be drunk all the time. Are you sure you want to delete this comment? We talked about it, and we go, "Oh, maybe we shoot somewhere else." Wheatley’s version of Rebecca sees the film built in a Russian-doll style; a romance wrapped in a thriller wrapped in a mystery, our nameless heroine (Lily James) falls in love with the brooding and handsome Maxim DeWinter (Armie Hammer), only to see their picture perfect holiday romance haunted by his dead wife Rebecca when they arrive back at Manderley, his estate. Color came into it a lot. What new side of the actor did you discover while making this film? “I felt like we were able to make her stronger, and that helped us with a modern audience. Most people would not step on turf claimed by Alfred Hitchcock, whose take on Maxim de Winter, his new flame, and the long shadow of his deceased wife Rebecca struck a nerve in 1940. “I like the idea of, let’s watch a film that takes us on holiday for twenty minutes. It's quite a big job to shut those bits down, and everyone gets really cross. That is Maxim de Winter’s story. The tone is actually a little sweet? You see it [jump off into] Patricia Highsmith and all those kinds of things. It’s probably highly unlikely any of that’s true, or how much of Danvers’ account is true as well. Can you talk to me about the relationship between Mrs. de Winter and Mrs. Danvers? “I thought this is going to be a real challenge but I thought this probably should be something I do. And then she goes, "Well, actually, I'm going to take that character and completely destroy it. “Armie is like a man out of time in many ways, he’s like a 40s matinee idol,” he said of his leading man, “He’s like 100 foot tall and incredibly good looking and looks great in a suit. I knew I could do the scary stuff. But there just isn't anywhere else; there's no way you could do it. Why was that change made, and do you think that affects the viewing experience at all? It was south of France, and it was shot back in the UK as well for the UK portion of it. … And in the end, she decided that maybe we should build it from as many amazing houses in the UK as possible and cherry pick the best bits from all over the place, rather than shoot in one particular location. The other thing I really loved about it was the way that it was kind of a Russian doll of different genres just packed inside each other. I don't know if you've interviewed him or you've seen him interviewed, but he's very relaxed and very self-deprecating. But a lot of that stuff had to be done because it works in the book, but it’s a very difficult thing to portray. What was it about the story that challenged you and motivated you to tackle the project? “[Doing romance] was fine. I wanted also what you get with ’40s films, where they’ll just stop in the middle of the film and do a song, the actress will just rock up and stand next to a piano and, and a pop star of the day will play a tune and then Bogey will come in and the film will start again.
She's been living this lie; she's been mourning for her friend Rebecca, but really she doesn't know half of what's happened, but also that she's been duped by Rebecca herself, as in that she wasn't told what happened about her illness and all those things. A lot of time was spent on that, and all this stuff hides in the frame. And that’s when I started to get excited about it. There are weird watery noises across the whole movie. And if you make the character too strong, then it breaks the structure of the book - she goes, "I'm a lawyer, and I'm leaving you!" I was very excited about that. Armie Hammer is phenomenal in this; he has a lot of range and a lot of talent. And she’d also translated the book fully onto the screen, which hadn’t really been done before. So, how much of it do you believe?
Rebecca itself has become part of the culture, but it's one of those things where you go, "Yeah, I know it." Ballard’s book High-Rise, Wheatley has made a name for himself by sinking his teeth into material that pushes the understanding of what cinema can do and can make an audience feel. I felt like the naivety of the character and the difference in positions of privilege and power between the two, that hasn't changed. note: The rest of this interview contains bigger spoilers for Rebecca.]. Read our full mailing list consent terms here. And then Julian Day did the costume design on it. But in this, they completely get away. You have such a great grasp on psychological thrillers, but Rebecca is a little bit outside of your wheelhouse. In films like the aggressive, twisty 21st-century horror masterpiece Kill List; the black-and-white psychedelic trip A Field in England; and the slippery, psycho-nightmare take on J.D. As he tells Polygon in this in-depth interview (which, beware, dips into the ending and other spoilers halfway through), a great Rebecca movie trolls as hard as du Maurier did back in 1938. Then, when I re-read the book, I loved the idea of du Maurier basically going out there to troll her fan base. It doesn’t matter if you if you spot it or not, but it’s the kind of subliminal building of evidence for something that’s going to be revealed later on. It's Danvers' slow realization that she's been duped - and duped on lots of different levels, not just by de Winter. You have to load it all into your head in one go to understand how the place works. Ben Wheatley: Yeah. It’s a tale of privilege: What do you do when you’ve got nothing, and when you’re dealing with people who’ve got everything who are good looking and super rich, and who literally get away with murder and saunt through life as a charmed life? So, when I read it in the script, that's really when I thought, "This is the time to present it back to a new audience.". It's expensive and really disruptive. His latest project, a lavish take on Daphne du Maurier’s renowned novel Rebecca for Netflix, feels like a departure. Rebecca was intended for Netflix, though its sweeping visuals and achingly beautiful cinematography allow it to seamlessly slip onto the bigger screen. But when I was shooting there, we had hundreds of extras all in costume, and it was 360 degrees everywhere you looked. Ben Wheatley: I was doing some development work at [the production company] Working Title, and we were working on some stuff for a year or so, and then they said, “We’ve got this script of Rebecca.” And I was like, “Oh, that’s a crazy thing to do.” Generally, my choices are like that.
Ben Wheatley: I read it at school, if I remember, originally. What I found that I really liked about it was this idea that there were so many different competing levels of reality. [Ed. Rebecca is available to stream on Netflix now. The latest director to take a stab at it is Ben Wheatley, and he has performances from the likes of Lily James, Armie Hammer, and Kristin Scott Thomas to rely on. I thought I knew it; I'd read the book and I'd seen the film, and I still fell for all the twists. “Enjoy the grand house!” But now you’ve got the memory of the holiday and then that will all be soured as the film goes on. The film takes place in the past, but how did modern context affect the telling of it? Recently, I did a film called Happy New Year, Colin Burstead, which was the first movie I made where no one died. Did that play a major role in how you went about making the film? I love watching Lily James and Kristin Scott Thomas onscreen together; their chemistry was extraordinary. But the actual problem isn't in that transition; it's probably up the movie, 10 minutes the other way. So, the tracking of her nervousness across the movie was always like - the schedule was like confetti in the air. He's all like, "No, it's no effort at all." “But Netflix is a big boom and I’m really happy with that. No more specific than that, and then he would go get the costumes and sort that out. And the Mrs. Danvers character is a character that seems to crop up again and again, in different guises in different movies, and all those things. The second Mrs. de Winter is remembering it, but she's also reporting things that have been said to her by Maxim de Winter and by Mrs. Danvers. But yeah, there was a lot of discussion about the south of France. There are so many reasons that this is a dangerous thing to do, so that’s probably exactly why I should be doing it. There’s obvious stuff, like the contrast between France and England, and the yellow and the electric blue to the green and the gray of England. So, it was quite a stress. Seeing them in the clothes and the car was great.”And while readers were initially drawn in to the nameless narrator, Wheatley agreed that the self-deprecating heroine may not be so likeable to a modern audience – and noted that James’ interpretation is a little steelier than the novel’s version. But my role in it is more talking about strategies and structure.
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