Variety‘s Jeff Sneider is reporting that DreamWorks and Working Title Films have agreed to pool forces on a remake of Alfred Hitchcock‘s Rebecca. The script will be written by Eastern Promises scribe Steven Knight, who “will go back to the original book” by Daphne DuMaurier. Has there ever been a trade story about a remake of a well-known Hollywood classic in which the principals didn’t say they’d base their script on the original book?
I’ll tell you what it’ll mean to “go back” to the DuMaurier book. Maxim De Winter (played by Laurence Olivier in the Hitchcock original) won’t confess to having “struck” Rebecca, causing her to accidentally hit her head and die — he’ll admit that he flat-out shot her. That’s all it will specifically mean as the Hitchcock version stuck close to the novel save for letting Maxim off the hook.
What also will happen, of course, is that the new film will leave less to the imagination and be more explicit in various ways so as to meet the expectations of today’s less educated and sophisticated girly-girl audience. The lesbian current between Rebecca and Mrs. Danvers (whether verbally suggested or dramatized in flashback) will almost certainly be more explicit. The nameless lead character (played by Joan Fontaine in the 1940 original) will probably be given a name. The dead Rebecca will become a literal ectoplasmic ghost, I’m guessing, and will also be played by an actress in flashbacks. Will the DreamWorks-Working Title version keep the story in period, setting it in the late 1930s, or will they bring it into the 21st Century so as make it more familiar and inviting to the none-too-brights?