Kristin Scott Thomas on her role as Mrs Danvers in film Rebecca
2020 © Netflix, Inc.
Dame Kristin Scott Thomas plays Mrs Danvers in the latest film adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s classic novel Rebecca.
The new Mrs de Winter enters the Marble Hall at Hatfield House, one of the locations doubling for Manderley.
Played by Lily James, she meets for the first time the menacing Mrs Danvers.
On being introduced to the second Mrs de Winter, Mrs Danvers says rather ominously to her: “Welcome to Manderley!”
Producers knew exactly who they wanted to play the main antagonist in Working Title’s sumptuous new interpretation of the iconic 1938 novel by British author Daphne du Maurier.
The responsibility of taking on one of literature’s seminal – and perhaps most misunderstood – villains fell on the inimitable Dame Kristin Scott Thomas.
She was first choice for the role of Manderley’s devoted housekeeper bent on keeping her former mistress’s memory alive.
“She truly is one of our greatest acting assets,” says producer Eric Fellner.
“We’ve been lucky enough to work with her from Four Weddings and A Funeral to Darkest Hour.
“When the opportunity arose to cast Danvers we thought, ‘Oh, my god. It has to be Kristin.’
“Thank God she said yes, because after her, it’s a struggle to think who could be half as good.”
Kristin Scott Thomas says: “I’ve always wanted to play this part, full stop.
“What drew me to it was the mystery. We’re never really told anything about her background.
“The only thing we know about her is that she’s a ‘Mrs.’ and that she looked after Rebecca.
“What drives a woman to burn a house down? What drives her to this insane obsession and shrine-building?
“What drives her to these destructive impulses? That’s what interested me, because it’s a blank canvas, basically.”
Fresh from outfitting hit musical biopics Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman, costume designer Julian Day created Mrs Danvers’s signature look with a “dominatrix-like” vibe.
Day chose to outfit Scott Thomas in a suit that was deliberately sharper, sexier, and ever so slightly inappropriate for her role as a housekeeper – the skirt a touch too tight, the heels a bit too high – as a way of intimidating and asserting her dominance over the new Mrs de Winter upon her arrival at Manderley.
This is evident as the pair walk along the famous Long Gallery at Hatfield House, the Hertfordshire stately home doubling for Manderley in the movie.
“I wanted to give Danvers a slightly dominatrix-like vibe,” says Day. “My initial idea was to present her like a bruise.
“She was the wound of Manderley and so all her colours are reflective of the colours of a bruise, aubergines, blues, ochres, all of those things, and how a bruise changes over time.
“She only has one suit in the whole film, but a number of blouses, all the same design, but different colours.”
“Working with Julian is always very easy for me,” says Scott Thomas, who worked with Day previously on Salmon Fishing In The Yemen and Nowhere Boy.
“He understands my shape, what reads on my body. He understands that perfectly.
“With Danvers, we wanted to present a character who’s not going to budge. Who’s obsessed with a period of time and a look she’s developed and must stay the same.”
Oscar-nominated for The English Patient, Dame Kristin is the recipient of a BAFTA Award, four Evening Standard British Film Awards, two London Critics’ Circle Film Awards, and a Screen Actors Guild Award for her film work, cementing her place in cinema history.
A bilingual actress equally at home playing French and English-language roles, she received Academy Award and Golden Globe Award nominations for her starring role opposite Ralph Fiennes in Anthony Minghella’s Best Picture Academy Award-winning The English Patient.
Her breakout role was in another Best Picture Oscar-nominated classic comedy, Four Weddings And A Funeral, written by Richard Curtis and directed by St Albans-born Mike Newell.
Ben Wheatley, the acclaimed director of Free Fire and High-Rise, says: “It’s intimidating when you work with people who’ve had these incredible careers, been in all these brilliant movies, worked with all these brilliant directors, and have seen it all.
“On one hand, when Kristin was cast, I knew I was very lucky indeed to have her on this project.
“Then the reality kicked in where I’m like, ‘Now, I’m going to have to talk to her about how we’re going to do the part.’
“But she just instinctively got it from the beginning.”
Rebecca is out in cinemas now and can be seen on streaming service Netflix from October 21.
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