Bringing Rebecca’s Manderley estate to life in Netflix film
- Credit: Kerry Brown / Netflix
“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” The first line of Daphne du Maurier’s novel Rebecca is one of the most memorable and evocative in literature. So where is Manderley in the new movie starring Armie Hammer, Lily James, and Kristin Scott Thomas?
Filmed on location in Devon, Dorset, Hertfordshire, Sussex and Surrey in England and in Nice and Monaco the south of France, director Ben Wheatley’s version of Rebecca is released globally on streaming service Netflix on October 21.
It can also be seen in selected cinemas this week, including Campus West in Welwyn Garden City.
If ever there was a case where a setting was truly a character in a story, it is Manderley’s presence in Rebecca.
So what house was used for Manderley in the 2020 Netflix movie Rebecca?
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While it would have been easy for producers to use a single English stately home, they decided to piece together their Manderley on screen from eight different estates.
READ MORE: Rebecca is more than just a romance
According to production designer Sarah Greenwood: “One of the first things that Ben [Wheatley] and I talked about was the fact that this house is this massive character.”
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But with so many of England’s most famous estates having been featured in numerous productions over the years, the task of making Manderley seem new and never-before-seen was tricky.
Greenwood skilfully brought Maxim de Winter’s Manderley home to life by combining the best of eight different country houses and estates, including Jacobean mansion Hatfield House, the childhood estate of Queen Elizabeth I in Hertfordshire.
Dorset’s Cranborne Manor and Mapperton House, Loseley House in Surrey, West Sussex’s Petworth House, Hartland Quay in Devon, Blegberry Farm, also in Devon, and Osterley House in Isleworth were also used for filming of Rebecca.
“The design of Manderley itself was informed by the book massively,” says director Ben Wheatley.
“In the book, Manderley is a composite – some of it’s from du Maurier’s childhood, some of it’s based around where she had a house in Cornwall.
“That started us thinking, well, maybe Manderley is a composite of many different bits of houses from all over the place, and the best bits so that it’s a space that can’t really exist.
“It’s a space of dreams in a way. The way everybody talks about it being so amazing, it couldn’t be one particular place.”
The array of locations used for Manderley also benefited the story by amplifying the feelings of bewilderment that the second Mrs de Winter, played by Lily James, would have felt upon arriving at this famed house.
She is introduced to Mrs Danvers in what is the Marble Hall of Hatfield House, one of Manderley’s on screen locations.
“When she walks into this house, she has no idea about etiquette, about process, and the fact that you have a morning room, dining room, library.
“All these different places for all these different purposes. It’s just an absolute bafflement to her,” says Greenwood.
“But that was one of the things that was kind of freeing: You never got the geography. In fact, we’re positively anti-geography in the house.
“We’re not explaining the house because it isn’t explained to her. Maxim (Armie Hammer) takes her there and drops her in the arms of Mrs Danvers (Kristin Scott Thomas).
“That allowed us this freedom with the house in that nothing had to match.
“It starts off as Elizabethan, then you turn a corner and you’re into Georgian, you turn another corner and you’re into Victorian, and then you turn another corner, and it’s Edwardian.”
Filming all over the country wasn’t easy though.
“It was complicated. We made our lives really, really hard,” says Wheatley. “They go out one door at one scene and appear 200 miles away in another house.
“But I think it was definitely worth it. It gives a feel to the house that we would never have had if we stayed in one place.”
When it came to the interior of Manderley, the other tricky factor was building out a presence for the one character who doesn’t actually make an appearance in the film – the first Mrs de Winter, the titular Rebecca.
“We almost had to put a line in the budget for Rebecca,” jokes Greenwood.
“For this film it really was about the storytelling and not about the period. You had the house, Manderley, and then you’ve got this character, Rebecca.
“You don’t know anything about her, but she’s this massive character that has an influence throughout the whole film.”
To show Rebecca’s influence over the mansion, Greenwood kept the interiors dark and aristocratic, but with notably sumptuous touches that signalled Rebecca’s Hollywood-like glamour and otherness.
“There were sensuous fabrics she brought in – velvet, satins, a polar bear skin rug – but when you finally go into Rebecca’s bedroom, her world, it’s such a contrast to everything else in the house.
“The bedroom is mirrored and all the edges and colours are sharp. It didn’t have that soft, mellow aristocratic quality that the rest of the house has.
“Even in her morning room, there’s a lightness, but that doesn’t mean a joyous lightness. It’s just whiter.
“So, you have this really sharp world that Rebecca is bringing into Manderley, and that’s essentially her character. She’s like a knife through the heart of Manderley.”
Standing in stark contrast to the scenes at Manderley’s various UK locations are, of course, the romantic, sun-kissed scenes in Monte Carlo.
Producer Nira Park recalls the days at those locations – which included the Ancien Hotel Regina in Nice, the Villa Eilenroc in Antibes, and the Exotic Garden of Monaco – being as lovely as one could imagine.
“Filming in France was really special. I think we all felt very lucky indeed to have had that experience.
“It was an amazing way to start the shoot. A brilliant way for everyone to bond.
“We were really lucky with the weather, we shot in stunning locations and we ate fantastic food every night.
“I’ll never forget arriving at the hotel set on the very first day when we were shooting the opening of the film with Lily getting out of the taxi.
“We were completely blown away by the production design. Ben, Lily and I were wandering around just picking up props and getting overly excited about the incredible attention to detail.”
You can see the results on cinema this week, and on streaming service Netflix from October 21, 2020.