British filmmaker Ben Wheatley, known for darkly comedic genre fare like “Free Fire” and “High Rise,” is about to remake an Alfred Hitchcock classic. The director, who most debuted the scaled-back family dramedy “Happy New Year, Colin Burstead” at the BFI London Film Festival has signed on to helm a remake of Hitchcock’s gothic romance and psychological thriller “Rebecca.” Lily James and Armie Hammer will star in roles originally played by Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier. “Rebecca” won two Oscars, Best Picture and Cinematography, out of a total 11 nominations at the 13th Academy Awards in 1941. The film is set up over at Netflix and Working Title Films, known for their relationship with filmmaker Edgar Wright and Oscar prestige fair like “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” “Les Misérables,” “Anna Karenina,” “Theory of Everything,” “The Danish Girl” and many, many more.
“Rebecca,” the original, is the story of a young woman (Fontaine) who marries a fascinating widower only to find out that she must live in the shadow of his former wife, Rebecca, who died mysteriously several years earlier. The young wife must come to grips with the terrible secret of her handsome, cold husband, Max De Winter (Olivier). She must also deal with the jealous, obsessed Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson), the housekeeper, who will not accept her as the mistress of the house. There’s also a ghostly element to the original, and it was a big influence on Guillermo del Toro’s gothic drama “Crimson Peak.”
“Kingsman” series and “X-Men: First Class” scribe Jane Goldman penned the screenplay, but one wonders how much Wheatley will get in there given he writes all his movies with his partner Amy Jump.
While he’s played with bigger scopes and brand name actors like Tom Hiddleston, Elisabeth Moss, Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy and more, so far, Wheatley’s always stayed within the lower-than-$10-million budget frame and this “Rebecca” remake sounds like it may be his biggest project to date, especially with Netflix helping foot the bill. Hammer was among the ensemble pack of Wheatley’s 2016 British crime comedy “Free Fire,” and he appears in the upcoming “On the Basis of Sex” in December. Lily James is coming off “Baby Driver” and “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” and will also star in next year’s Untitled Danny Boyle/Richard Curtis musical.
This isn’t the first time someone’s attempted to remake “Rebecca.” “A Royal Affair” helmer Nikolaj Arcel signed on to direct a new version in 2013, but the project never came to pass. Before that “Eastern Promises” scribe Steven Knight was set to write a screenplay. Here’s the original trailer.