In this age where Hollywood remakes and reboots reign triumphant, most everyone has been waiting for the inevitable announcement(s) about certain Best Picture Oscar-winning titles being refurbished for the 21st century. Sure enough, a revamping of My Fair Lady has been in the cards for a while – and now, we can add Alfred Hitchock’s 1940 psycho-drama/Noir tale Rebecca to that list (a list which could very well be growing longer in the future).
DreamWorks and Working Title Films are behind this new cinematic treatment of Daphne du Maurier’s original 1938 literary work. The project is tentatively being sold as more of a true re-interpretation of the source material (a la David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) rather than a direct reworking of Hitchcock’s film.
Variety reports that Oscar-nominee Steven Knight has been charged with the task of re-adapting Maurier’s original Rebecca novel. Knight is best known for penning the screenplays for acclaimed films like Stephen Frear’s dark social drama, Dirty Pretty Things, and David Cronenberg’s crime-thriller Eastern Promises. He also wrote an early script draft for the Shutter Island adaptation – which was not the final shooting script used by director Martin Scorsese – and has been earning early positive buzz for his adapted screenplay of Dan Brown’s latest best-selling Robert Langdon novel, The Lost Symbol.
That’s all to say: Knight boasts a pretty rock-solid writing resume and is as qualified as anyone to attempt to turn Maurier’s Rebecca source material into yet another captivating film, which revolves around a naive young woman who marries a wealthy widower – only to realize that her husband’s (deceased) ex-wife maintains a disturbing grip on not only his mindset, but also that of his devoted house servant.
However, the problem with DreamWork’s preliminary attempts to disassociate the Knight-scripted Rebecca from Hitchcock’s original movie is that the latter is a pretty faithful re-telling of Maurier’s novel – with the exception of one important plot point, which will not be spoiled here. In other words, Knight’s screenplay will have to deviate more significantly from Maurier’s source material in order to better distinguish the project from Hitchcock’s -unlike other upcoming projects that are part remake, but also part more loyal re-interpretation (ex. Total Recall).
There have been multiple literature adaptations that have managed to throw in some clever plot complications without straying so far from the original novel’s narrative that the movie version feels entirely unrelated (The Woman in Black, being a recent example). Knight, as mentioned before, also isn’t on new ground here, as far as bringing a book to life on the big screen is concerned. So, that all bodes well for his ability to churn out a version of Rebecca that feels somewhat more original.
Similarly, while Hitchcock’s adaptation of Rebecca is well-renowned among cinephiles, it’s not really as widely-beloved and well-known outside of devoted film lover circles – especially when compared to other classic Best Picture Oscar winners like, say, Casablanca or The Godfather.
That technically qualifies Rebecca under our Top 5 Rules for Movie Remakes – in the sense that the Knight-scripted version of the story could be to Hitchcock’s what Scorsese’s Cape Fear is to director J. Lee Thompson’s – ie. a partial remake that still respects the original screen adaptation. Of course, that will also ultimately depend on whomever is brought onboard to direct the new cinematic take on Rebecca.
We will keep you up-to-date on the status of the new Rebecca as the story develops.