Lily James Q&A / Rebecca
Following her breakthrough performance as Lady Rose in Downton Abbey, Lily James was tapped for stardom when Kenneth Branagh gave her the title role in Cinderella. Subsequent work in Mamma Mia 2 and last year’s Yesterday served as further proof that she was an exceptionally talented actress. But now she’s poised to join the ranks of Hollywood’s A-list with her appearance in REBECCA, Netflix’s highly anticipated remake of the eponymous Daphne du Maurier Gothic novel.
James plays Mrs de Winter, the shy, naive wife of a fabulously wealthy, brooding industrialist, Maxim de Winter (Armie Hammer). The character was first made famous by Joan Fontaine in the original Oscar-winning 1940 Alfred Hitchcock screen adaptation which also earned the legendary actress an Oscar nomination. Similar glory could well await James should her take on the iconic role have the same impact. Certainly, the 30-year-old James believes that the film represents an important stepping stone for her.
“Making Rebecca was one of the best experiences of my life, perhaps because it was extreme,” James says. “Before the shooting started I had read the novel at least a dozen times and by the time we finished the film it was as if Rebecca had taken possession of me. It was both a terrifying and electrifying experience for me.”
She adds: “I found it really hard to let go of the character,” James says. “She’s really bullied and gas-lighted [and] lives in a difficult headspace. I kept having panic attacks after it finished, I couldn’t shake it off.”
Directed by Ben Wheatley (Free Fire) and co-starring Kristen Scott-Thomas as the evil Mrs Danvers, head housekeeper of the de Winter mansion, the film will make its theatrical debut in September prior to being made available on the global streaming giant, Netflix, which financed the production.
James expects that audiences will find this Rebecca “very different” from the Hitchcock version and in another recent interview confessed that she has never thrown herself into a character as deeply as she did with Mrs de Winter.
“God, the inner workings of her mind. She’s in such conflict, such turmoil…For a while after filming I felt unsettled and discombobulated. It’s certainly the role I’ve inhabited the most. Even talking about it, I get kind of breathless. It’s crazy…I’m definitely an insecure person and the character is so deeply insecure that playing her preyed on my own insecurities…”