Armie Hammer, Lily James, and Kristin Scott Thomas take on three iconic literary characters in a new adaptation of Daphne Du Maurier’s 1938 novel, written by Jane Goldman, Joe Shrapnel, and Anna Waterhouse and directed by Ben Wheatley. The film is set to premiere October 21 on Netflix and in select theaters. Here’s the Rebecca trailer:
Hammer and James star as Maxim de Winter and his new bride, who is never given a name beyond Mrs. de Winter. The two meet in Monte Carlo and marry after a whirlwind courtship, returning home to his estate, Manderley, in rugged and beautiful Cornwall. Though the house is beautiful and lavish, reminders of Maxim’s first, deceased wife, Rebecca, are everywhere—and his devoted housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers (Scott Thomas) won’t let Mrs. de Winter forget that she isn’t the first in that role. As Maxim’s new wife investigates his former wife, she begins to realize that everything at Manderley is not quite as it seems.
Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 adaptation of Rebecca won Best Picture (the only time a Hitchcock movie ever won that particular Academy Award). That film starred Laurence Olivier as Maxim, Joan Fontaine as his second wife, and Judith Anderson as creepy Mrs. Danvers. The film’s mostly faithful adherence to the novel’s plot was unfortunately interrupted by the Hays Code, a code that regulated onscreen depictions of certain acts deemed immoral. If you want to read more about that, this IndieWire article breaks it down, but be warned: there are spoilers.
It’s safe to say we don’t have quite the same moralizing in Hollywood these days, so Wheatley’s adaptation may be able to go for it in a way Hitchcock couldn’t. But the new movie has big shoes to fill. Hitchcock’s Rebecca is a classic. Hitchcock actually knew Du Maurier personally and adapted several of her other works, most notably her short story The Birds. Hitchcock was, of course, known as the master of suspense, a film sensibility that suited Du Maurier’s work almost perfectly.
So what do we do while we wait for October 21? Watch the Rebecca trailer again and again? Luckily for us, Du Maurier was a prolific writer. You can read one of her many other novels—I suggest Jamaica Inn or My Cousin Rachel to start. Adaptations exist of those books as well, so get busy watching them so you’re in the right late-October gothic-spooky headspace by the time Rebecca comes out. You can brush up on your gothic horror knowledge by reading this post. And Rebecca is a retelling of another classic, Jane Eyre, so you could reread that, move on to one of these modern writers upholding the feminist gothic tradition, or read one of these books like Crimson Peak, a movie that’s very similar in plot to Jane Eyre and Rebecca.
Though reaction to the new Rebecca trailer has been a bit mixed so far, it makes the movie look equally stylish and creepy. Director Ben Wheatley is an accomplished horror and thriller director, which is very promising. Will this new adaptation live up the first Rebecca movie and the novel? We’ll find out soon.