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Entertainment Netflix's Rebecca director opens up about "painful" decisions and Hitchcock version

09:50  18 october  2020
09:50  18 october  2020 Source:   digitalspy.com

Review: Did we need another 'Rebecca'? No, no we didn't.

  Review: Did we need another 'Rebecca'? No, no we didn't. It’s asking for trouble remaking Hitchcock, but with “Rebecca” you might be able to see a sliver of an opening. It’s justly revered as a ghostly Gothic masterpiece and the only film of Hitch's to win best picture. Yet Hitchcock, himself, said it’s not “a Hitchcock picture.” He called his adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s 1938 book “a novelette, really” and noted that, besides, the Oscar didn’t go to himself but to producer David O. Selznick. AndAnd it’s true, to a certain degree. More than any other top-tier (OK, second-tier) Hitchcock, “Rebecca” — the director’s first Hollywood film — isn’t a full expression of the filmmaker's devastating mischief, his clinical mastery of suspense.

Rebecca has been given a major feature-film update with horror specialist Ben Wheatley brought in to direct , and Armie Hammer and Lily James (above) taking on the central roles. The handsome de Winter is an unhappy widower when he meets a pretty but unworldly ladies’ companion (James) in

Reliably rip-roaring space yarnage. Fridays, Netflix . A fascinating concept from the director Patrick Eakin Young, staging dramatic works in an immersive audio format. (Ben Wheatley) 122 mins Wheatley takes on Du Maurier ( and Hitchcock ) in his adaptation of the romantic mystery novel.

Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca sees its unnamed protagonist haunted by the memory of Maxim de Winter's first wife as she adjusts to life at Manderley.

Fittingly, you might assume that Ben Wheatley would have been haunted in a similar way by the Oscar-winning adaptation of Rebecca from Alfred Hitchcock, but the director didn't see it that way when he was making the Netflix movie.

"It's not the Hitchcock film that haunts me. It's the du Maurier book. That's the shadow, that's the elephant in the room," he told Digital Spy.

"You've been put in charge of bringing this book to the screen which is such a classic book and such a well-loved book. And that's where the tension is, because you're like, 'Oh my God, I don't want to screw this up'."

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Armie Hammer, Ben Wheatley are posing for a picture: Armie Hammer and Ben Wheatley on set of Rebecca © Kerry Brown / Netflix Armie Hammer and Ben Wheatley on set of Rebecca

Wheatley's take on Rebecca is a lavish and romantic throwback to classic Hollywood, something you might not expect from the director behind the likes of Kill List, Sightseers and High-Rise.

But it was the chance to do such an "unashamedly romantic, emotional and glamorous" movie that attracted him to it. So did he dare look back at Hitchcock's 1940 classic or the other screen versions of Rebecca before bringing his take on it?

a close up of a sign: Rebecca (VMC) (Virago Modern Classics) © amazon.co.uk Rebecca (VMC) (Virago Modern Classics)

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"I've watched everything, obviously, but it's more due diligence to make sure that we don't end up putting stuff in the film that was from the film adaptation and not from the book. There are crossover bits which were changed," Wheatley explained.

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"When you're working with the same material, you end up with beats that are similar, but there's a lot of made-up stuff in the Hitchcock version that we just wanted to avoid having in our film."

One of the main things that Wheatley's movie shares with previous adaptations of Rebecca is keeping the fact that the main character, played by Lily James in this version, doesn't have a name at all.

a woman wearing a hat: Netflix: Rebecca © Kerry Brown / Netflix Netflix: Rebecca

He joked that it would have made his life "a hell of a lot easier if she had a name", but chose not to give her a name in order to keep with the message of the novel.

"Technically, within the film, no one can shout to her, her name. What do they say? Like, 'Oi! You!'. So that was a massive problem, but I think that's a big part of the book, it's really important," he outlined.

"The fact that she's fighting for her own identity, and that identity is erased by the fact she doesn't have a name, and that struggle to become someone, to become human in the course of the movie. So, as painful and difficult as it was, we stuck to the book."

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That's a decision that applied to most of the Netflix movie as Jane Goldman's adaptation is extremely faithful to du Maurier's original novel, meaning fans can expect modern takes on classic scenes such as the pivotal costume ball.

There's not a house like Manderley, so Wheatley made the decision to create Maxim's family estate out of "four or five" different spaces ("there'll be no Manderley tours, unfortunately, unless there's a coach involved").

a small house on a dirt road: Manderley in Netflix's Rebecca © Netflix Manderley in Netflix's Rebecca

And when it came to the ball scene, those locations proved to be an added challenge for the creative team.

"How do you shoot with 200 people dancing, and you've only got a certain amount of time to do it in? Or shooting within these grand houses where you're not allowed to have any atmospheric smoke," Wheatley recalled.

"On some locations, we weren't even allow to take water in because they were worried about damaging stuff.

"But generally, it felt like it was hard won, and I think most of it was because of the location – because we kept moving all the time. If it had been all studio-based, the glory of the studio is that you settle in and you just get on with it.

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"You can keep going back and redoing stuff, but then you just don't get the unique look. You couldn't build those spaces for sets, because it would cost hundreds of millions of pounds, basically."

Lily James standing in front of a mirror posing for the camera: Netflix: Rebecca © Kerry Brown / Netflix Netflix: Rebecca

Rebecca is Wheatley's second book adaptation after High-Rise, starring Tom Hiddleston. While he admitted Goldman had the "heavy lifting" in adapting du Maurier's novel, High-Rise taught him a key thing when it came to adapting Rebecca.

"We made decisions on High-Rise that we would stick to plot points that we knew would make it become an outlier outside of a traditional three-act structure or make characters unlikeable, and we stuck to it because we liked the book," he reflected.

"It's the same thing with this. There's elements of it that you could change to make people more likeable or more traditional in terms of the tropes of modern cinema, but then you destroy the book.

"And really, sometimes those criticisms are just people noticing that it's different from other stuff, and it's a question of, 'Why isn't it like everything else?'. But at the same time, everyone goes, 'Why is everything the same?'.

"So it's not an argument you're ever going to win."

Rebecca is released on Netflix on October 21.

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