"I was not subtle at all."
Kristin Scott Thomas has worked with some of the best directors in the business and performed everything from Chekhov to Fleabag, earning her numerous accolades for her work on stage and screen: an Academy Award nomination for The English Patient, a BAFTA for Four Weddings and a Funeral, an Olivier for The Seagull. Now she’s taking on the iconic role of Mrs Danvers in the latest adaptation of Rebecca.
The new Netflix feature-length film is the latest version of Daphne Du Maurier’s 1938 gothic novel of the same name. Directed by Ben Wheatley (High Rise, Free Fire) it tells the tale of a wealthy widower Maxim de Winter (Armie Hammer) who falls in love with an unnamed young woman (Lily James) in France, and whisks her off to his mansion in Cornwall. There, the unseen title character, de Winter’s late wife, Rebecca, shadows the young protagonists every move as she bears the brunt of the icy scorn of head housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, who still holds intense loyalty to her late boss.
From Clementine Churchill in Darkest Hour to Lady Sylvia McCordle in Gosford Park, Kristin Scott Thomas has played her share of austere and elegant women. So to play the mysterious head housekeeper Mrs. Danvers seemed like a perfect match.
“If the glove fits,” Thomas told Variety. In fact, Thomas was so determined to play the iconic Mrs Danvers, that she pestered the producers until she was cast. “As people have said, I think I’m perfect for this role,” the actress told Variety. “I was literally pestering Eric [Fellner] and saying, ‘You have to hire me!’ Every time I would see him, I would ask, ‘When are you going to offer it to me?’ I was not subtle at all.”
Casting Thomas was an easy decision for director Ben Wheatley. “Danvers is a character that needs to hit the ground running,” Wheatley told Variety. “It needed someone who could look into the audience and command their attention.
“It needed Kristin to pull this off,” he added. “She is a commanding performer who can navigate through complexity and intensity with ease.”
Did stepping into a role that has been played to great acclaim by the likes of Diana Rigg and Judith Anderson have an impact on Thomas? “I think it’s going to be a Rebecca for a new generation,” Thomas says. “And it’s wonderful to keep a story like this alive.” It also helped that Wheatley wanted to depart from previous incarnations to explore a more sympathetic Danvers. “We don’t talk about it in the film but there are hints of her relationship with Rebecca,” she notes. “We wanted to ask, What is her relationship with Rebecca? Is it one of lust? Is it one of love? Is it one of possession? We really enjoyed playing with those ideas.”
Rebecca streams on Netflix from Wednesday 21st October.
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