“Rebecca” starts after a whirlwind romance in Monte Carlo with handsome widower Maxim de Winter (Armie Hammer), a newly married young woman (James Lily) arrives at Manderley, her new husband’s imposing family estate on a windswept English coast. Naive and inexperienced, she begins to settle into the trappings of her new life, but finds herself battling the shadow of Maxim’s first wife, the elegant and urbane Rebecca, whose haunting legacy is kept alive by Manderley’s sinister housekeeper Mrs. Danvers (Kristin Scott Thomas).
During a recent online interview, the stars of “Rebecca” discussed the timeliness of the novel and what they are most excited about the film adaptation.
For James, 31, it was “always daunting” for her.
“But also it’s like, I always say, it’s a bit of a double edged sword because you feel this trepidation and fear to not do justice to such a great piece or to something that’s already been characterized by these great actors, but at the same time it’s such a rare opportunity to have material that’s so rich and and difficult and complex so you sort of have to switch off your internal monologue and you switch off your doubt, and you just go for it,” she said.
Thanks to the musical score, James was able to decompress herself after doing such an emotional scene.
“I think that after emotional scene music is really useful because I think music, as soon as you put that in your ears, it shifts your emotional state so I listen to music or have a glass of wine, or I get an early night and just tuck up and put myself in bed. I mean, sometimes it’s really easy to shake the feeling of a character, and other times in ‘Rebecca’ I found it much harder. I think because it is so psychological and like I was saying I had to bottle up a lot of my emotions so I felt like I got quite a lot of anxiety after this film,” she said.
“I found it hard to let go of, it was sort of a traumatic experience making the movie, even though there was also a lot of laughter because army’s hilarious Kristen’s wonderful and Ben. Ben has a very relaxed set. So it wasn’t, it was it was it was a sort of mixture of feeling very free and other times feeling pretty in my head.”
As for Hammer, he actually didn’t feel much pressure to live up to fans expectations as much as he felt pressure that he just put on himself to try to do as good of a job as he could.
“I think that’s a more important pressure than the exterior pressures, the internal pressure you put on yourself to do a good job,” he explained.
In terms of the film itself being based on a novel, Armie reiterated that it “doesn’t scare” him at all.
As much, if anything, he feels like it’s very helpful because he has a lot of information that he could use.
Hammer noted how his previous works “The Social Network” and “Call Me By Your Name” were also adapted from books.
So how much pressure was there to live up to the book?
Thomas thinks the novel is “stupendous.”
“It’s a fantastic novel that I’ve read more than once and, you know, over a long period; and it comes from a world that is very, very specific to Daphne du Maurier. Initially, I’m a great fan of her novels. And I’m very interested in her life actually, because before I was asked to participate in a documentary that was being made about her; I did the voiceover basically. So I learned all this stuff about her that I was very interested in. And the novel, The Mrs. Danvers in the novel is very, very different from the Mrs. Danvers, that we’ve created for this film that is made in 2020. Some of the backstory, a lot of the backstory, in fact, all the backstory that we invented for our Mrs. Danvers originates in the novel. It’s not if you didn’t see it on screen, but the backstory originates in the novel, but the rest of it is very, very different.”
In terms of their working environment, Kristin has nothing but good words for Lily.
According to the 60-year-old English-French actress, she has worked with Lily before, and it is just “extremely easy, fun, relaxed, and organic.”
“It’s, we were both going in the same direction,” was how she put it.
Scott related how Lily is really a “lovely girl.”
“There aren’t many girls as lovely as she is. She’s really so nice. And it just felt very friendly and relaxed and normal and easy,” she reiterated. “And despite the fact that I was doing really horrible things to her most of the time, which actually isn’t particularly enjoyable, it kind of gets to you after a while when you’re being so negative and destructive and all these really unpleasant emotions that you have to kind of conjure up and then harness and then direct at somebody is not actually particularly pleasant. The scene in Rebecca’s bedroom for example, you know, all that was, was quite heavy going but you know, we were able to sort of joke about it and laugh about it and slightly take the mickey and when, you know, we ended up sort of giggling a lot. So it was all right.”
So with the latter’s character being very scary and negative towards her character when the camera is rolling, how was the ambiance behind the cameras?
“Definitely onset Mrs. Danvers is terrifying, it was very traumatic but yeah Kristin is, I’m sure you just saw she’s an amazing woman, she’s hilarious. She has such a sharp wit. She’s very kind of cheeky. And she’s really, a really supportive woman’s kind of woman and I just think she’s wonderful.”
Armie also praised the two ladies, noting how two were both “such generous and amazing actors.”
The 34-year-old American actor said Lily and Scott in offered so much in different ways.
“You know, Lily is very present in there and has done so much work and takes her job very seriously. So she’s always ready to work hard on set. Kristin is one of the most impressive actors I’ve ever worked with. She has complete control over her entire instrument. She can do anything in the world with her acting, and it’s incredible to watch. It’s scary, almost.”
They also discussed the relevance of the movie. “We’re still dealing with jealousy, poor communications, feeling threatened by your partner’s ex, creating a reality that might not be real –all those things, they’re things we do now. If anything we do even better now, because we have social media that makes it so much worse,” said.
For Kristin, she thinks there’s certainly a feeling of being trapped in this beautiful environment that people can’t get out of.
“And I think we’re all feeling slightly cooped up at the moment, we’re all feeling very sad and frustrated about not being able to get out and do what we used to do normally. And I think that there’s an element of that in this film. And I think that there’s something about the ghost of the past. The ghost of Rebecca, who’s haunting this house, and haunting this woman’s life, is possibly something that a lot of people can relate to at the moment,” she maintained.
Lily, on the other hand, described the many great things about the movie.
“It’s such a gift that we can stream on Netflix because it means it can reach all of our homes, regardless of whether we’re in lockdown or you know what state, wherever we are in the world, our country is,” she added.
“But I think the kind of great thing about ‘Rebecca’ as when I never can choose what to watch on Netflix and ‘Rebecca’ is a romance, a horror, thriller, a murder mystery so I do feel like whoever you are, or whatever you’re into, you’ll probably find something in ‘Rebecca’ that you’re drawn to. So, if you can’t decide what to watch ‘Rebecca.'”
She shared how she, herself, personally loves the novel.
“I think it’s complicated and dark and romantic and it had all these different elements to it — thriller, gothic, horror. You know in a way, you as an actress get to exist in all these different movies inside one movie. So it was an easy decision for me that I definitely wanted to be a part of this, this reimagining of this wonderful story,” she declared.
Directed by Ben Wheatley and produced by Working Title Films, “Rebecca” a mesmerising and gorgeously rendered psychological thriller based on Daphne’s beloved 1938 gothic novel, is now available on Netflix. Also in the cast are Keeley Hawes, Ann Dowd, Sam Riley, Tom Goodman-Hill, Mark Lewis Jones, John Hollingworth, and Bill Paterson, among others.