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Kristen ReCasts the Classics: Rebecca


Cover of "Rebecca"
I’ve mentioned on Twitter over the last month or so about doing a feature wherein I give my casting suggestion on the countless unnecessary remakes of classic films that are being touted.  The best part of this feature is that anyone can agree or disagree with me, and give me your own suggestions of who we should cast.  For the inaugural feature let’s look at an announced remake from a directing legend: Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca.

The remake was announced at the end of March, with Royal Affair director Nikolaj Arcel brought on to rewrite the script originally composed by Steven Knight who wrote Eastern Promises.  I get that Arcel has experience adapting books, not just A Royal Affair but the original Girl With the Dragon Tattoo were written by him, but I’m not seeing this translating well to modern-day.  The original Rebecca was a languid pulse-pounder loaded with sexual innuendo that might get overshadowed.  I would hate for this to turn into some sexual thriller/mystery.  As for the casting, I’ll give my thoughts on who will step into the shoes of  Laurence Olivier (Maxim De Winter), Joan Fontaine (the second Mrs. De Winter), and Judith Anderson (Mrs. Danvers).  Feel free to argue with me, or give your own casting suggestions in the comments.

Maxim De Winter (originally played by Laurence Olivier)

Yes, this might be considered bias because if I had my way I’d cast Michael Fassbender in everything!  In this case, the decision is warranted because he has that striking vocal cadence that Olivier had, as well as the ability to leapfrog through genres.  Just watch Fassbender’s performance in Jane Eyre, and see if you don’t spot similarities in the mysterious quality Maxim has throughout Rebecca.  You need to believe him as a romantic leading man, but one who could be a cold-blooded murderer.

Second Choice: Ralph Fiennes.  I know Fiennes has been rumored for the role, and he would have that austere, British quality, but I think he’s too obvious a choice.

The second Mrs. De Winter (originally played by Joan Fontaine)

Dormer isn’t a household name yet, but if you watch Game of Thrones, or have seen her fantastic performance as Anne Boleyn in The Tudors, you should see the power Dormer possesses.  I’ve always been irritated with Joan Fontaine’s skittish, nervous persona and would hope that a remake would make Mrs. De Winter timid, but clever and at least suspicious of what’s going on at Manderlay.  While Dormer has played ladies who are manipulative, deceitful, and sexual aggressors, she could parlay all of that into vulnerability and a tenacity to fight.

Second Choice: Jessica Chastain.  She’s another name commonly thrown around, and I do believe she’s got more pluck while still remaining in the Joan Fontaine vein.

Mrs. Danvers (originally played by Judith Anderson)

This one was difficult, and I kept returning to Emma Thompson.  I haven’t seen Thompson play outright insane, and I think that playing Mrs. Danvers would stretch her into darker territory.  The character is one filled with complexity, not the least of which is possibly lesbian tendencies, and the way Thompson has that old-world charm, magnanimity, and simmering fire underneath her, I believe she’d kick ass as Mrs. Danvers.

Second Choice: Michelle Pfeffier.  This might be controversial, but if you want a character to exude sexual chemistry, Pfeffier might be the best, and it would definitely be a meatier  role than what she’s been handed lately.

Agree?  Disagree?  Who would you cast in a remake of Rebecca?  What other movies would you like to see me recast?

Kristen Lopez View All

A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.

18 thoughts on “Kristen ReCasts the Classics: Rebecca Leave a comment

  1. I think that a new version of Rebecca is a good idea because it could adapt the book’s ending without the confines of the production code, but I digress. I agree with you that Fassbender would be a great choice for Maxim, but I wonder if it’s too safe? He already played Mr. Rochester, and a lot has been said about the influence of Jane Eyre on Rebecca. As for the second Mrs. De Winter, I read commentary somewhere that suggested Alicia Vikander because she already worked with Arcel in A Royal Affair. I haven’t seen the film, but based on her work in Anna Karenina, I could definitely see her as Mrs. De Winter. Looking forward to seeing more of these features!


    • True, Jane Eyre has ruined the surprise, but considering the belief that Ralph Fiennes is better (and I see him as far too safe), I think it still has merit. I don’t recall Vikander from Anna Karenina, but I must admit I wasn’t a huge fan of that movie in general. If you have interesting movies worth recasting, don’t hesitant to let me know!


  2. I agree with Emma Thompson as Mrs. Danvers, but I’d go with Anne Hathaway for Mrs. De Winter and Matthew Macfadyen for the husband.


    • Anne Hathaway’s names been thrown around, but I just didn’t see her as being meek enough. I fear that her role as Fantine might have salted her ability to be so internal. She would definitely provide A-list funding though!


  3. Fassbinder (Maxim de Winter), Mia Wasikowska (Mrs de Winter), Tilda Swinton (Mrs. Danvers), Clive Owen (Jack Favell)… This is my cast..


  4. I think Richard Armitage would make a good Maxim. I’m cautiously excited that someone is doing a remake. I just hope it’s really faithful to the book, which is perfect just as it is. (Rebecca was my favorite novel for years and years and I’ve read it many times.) I too am glad they’ll be free to make the ending as it is in the book – unlike the Hitchcock movie. I actually don’t think Olivier was all that great in it. For example, the way he kept putting his hand up to shade his forehead when he was upset – it just seemed phony and melodramatic. I’m sympathetic to the argument I read elsewhere online that it’s not really accurate to refer to this as a “Hitchcock remake” since it’s based on one of the great novels of the 20th century, not on the Hitchcock film.One last thought – I think it would be fantastic to include some flashbacks in the film with an actress actually playing Rebecca. I think Jane Seymour would’ve been great in that role when she was young. That’s all – thanks for letting me share!


    • True, one has to separate Hitchcock’s remake from the book, and if so it’ll be to the film’s benefit. Armitage is a great choice, just enough name recognition but able to do his own thing without having to live up to Olivier’s performance! Thanks for reading!


  5. Who knows Bonnie Wright as the young Mrs de Winter. She has a touch of shyness and smoothness that
    character asks. And his age is consonant with what the novel describes. It would be a beautiful
    opportunity for her to get rid of the weight of the character in the Harry Potter and grow as an actress


  6. You’re welcome! In fact, I loved the novel Rebecca, since I first read it at age 16. After watched the Hitchcock film, as well as the BBC miniseries (both 80s, like 97), but, I confess. I always thought the cast outdated and aged in relation to the novel describes. Your blog was a precious find for me, it is a subject that delights me! Thank you for the pleasant pastime and have a good week!


  7. I recently saw Rebecca on TCM. I’m prepared to be crucified for saying this, but I actually felt that Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine severely lacked on-screen chemistry. For that reason, I would welcome a recast with someone like Michael Fassbender.


    • Hello, nasen 75! I took the liberty to answer because I read in a publication about the film, in fact, had much unresolved differences between Sir Olivier and Miss Fontaine. The truth is that Olivier wanted Vivien Leigh, his wife at the time, stayed with the role of Mrs de Winter. But Hitchcock vehemently rejected because he wanted Joan Fontaine at any cost. Olivier then proceeded to harass her, on which was followed by other actors, who mortgaged her solidarity. But Hitchcock, nobody knew how to play, and took advantage of this climate to extract the best actress to pass the feeling of inadequacy of character. Rebecca was my favorite novel, what makes me me interested in everything related to it.


  8. George Sanders was perfect, yes! Possessed the cynicism of the character and exposed just right! But since it is a remake, I thought of Clive Owen. Has the sarcasm necessary to the character and look intimidating enough to let the young Mrs. de Winter sufficiently scared!


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