Armie Hammer and Lily James Break Down Their 'Twisted' Take on 'Rebecca' (Exclusive)
By John Boone
Daphne du Maurier published her seminal novel Rebecca, a Gothic romance of love, jealousy and the things they make you do, nearly a century ago. (In 1938, to be exact.) It was adapted once before -- into Alfred Hitchcock's Best Picture-winning film in 1940 -- and now, again for Netflix.
This imagining, from Free Fire director Ben Wheatley, likewise sees widower Maxim de Winter (Armie Hammer) meet an unnamed young woman in Monte Carlo who helps bring him back to life. Following a whirlwind romance, they marry and the de Winters soon return to Manderley, the estate Maxim once shared with his late wife Rebecca.
Though this take returns to the same time period as its predecessors, Lily James, who stars as the new Mrs. de Winter, sees it all through an especially modern lens. "We were talking a lot about how Rebecca is a very modern tale, because it reflects, in a way, the world of social media," she explains to ET.
"My character has this whole idea of Rebecca, but the truth is entirely different. And often in social media, that's the case. You present this world that's very, very far from the truth," she says. "It's about, like, appearance versus reality and how they can be so, so far apart."
Hammer and James aren't exactly precious about sharing what that reality is for Rebecca -- one of the big twist of both du Maurier's novel and their film. On the off chance that you haven't heard this story before, consider this a spoiler warning.
"I guess it doesn't go so well for my character," James says. "Although having said that, I think through her experience meeting this man and through their relationship she finds herself. And actually, even though it's so twisted -- the journey that they go on -- I think that they love each other. I think they rescue each other. But it's just in a very morally tricky setting, especially once she finds out that he murdered his wife."
Haunted by the memory of Rebecca, the second Mrs. de Winter eventually discovers Maxim killed his first wife and did away with her body. Which is to say, it may have behooved her to ask a few more questions before agreeing to marry him. Like, "'Have you murdered any of your wives?'" James laughs.
"He might've murdered his wife, fine," Hammer deadpans. "But at least she was pregnant, too."
"That was the second question," James continues. "And was she pregnant?"
"I think this is a cautionary tale for what might happen if you do just throw yourselves into [a relationship]," Hammer concludes. "You might end up with someone who murdered his spouse. Or you might end up with the greatest thing in the entire world! But I guess you don't really know if you don't roll the dice."