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.
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?
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.