When it comes to the classic story of Rebecca, there are the human characters, and then there is the other character of the book, which is Manderley, the estate that Maxim de Winter owns and the place where he brings the protagonist of the story once they're married. The house is as much of a character as Rebecca is, and it is a focal point of the story. The first line of the book, "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again," is placing the concept of Manderley as something bigger than just a home. In this new adaption that was released on Netflix director, Ben Wheatley was asked during a virtual roundtable with journalists how he went about finding the perfect location for Manderley. It turns out that there isn't one central location, and that is very much the point.
The actual place where it was shot was on location over five or six different houses in the end. What we realized when we did the research on Manderley, the house where [author Daphne] du Maurier wrote the book comes up a lot, but Manderley itself is in Cornwall. So it has the environment and the cliffs and everything, but the house is tiny. The stuff I'd read suggests that she was basing it on a house that she'd seen as a child.
So Wheatley did what anyone would do, and he went to see the location that Daphne du Maurier was basing the location on in Rebecca, the novel. It turns out that the house didn't exactly fit the aesthetic or feel of someplace that was so grand that it took on a life of its own.
We visited the actual house. It was a perfectly great house, but it wasn't as grand as it was being described in the book. And it felt to me that Manderley is the memory of the house or it's the memory of it from the perspective of a child. So everything is massive and overpowering. It's a place that doesn't actually exist. We were never going to find one location that was going to make it work. What it ended up being is — Sarah Greenwood the designer came up with it — was to bring together the best bits of many houses that we could physically get to.
Much in the same way that there are different styles of Houses depending on when someone got their money and even whether or not they did any work on the house they worked on. For Rebecca, Wheatley went to a bunch of different houses with a bunch of different styles, so the house in the movie doesn't feel like it makes sense, and that was very much deliberate.
There's two kind of styles of these houses. One is like new money and you just build the thing from scratch and that's it, it's done. Or the family builds it over hundreds of years. So you'll have a Tudor house inside of an Edwardian house inside of another Victorian house and whatever. And each generation will knock a bit down and build a new bit. You get these houses, which are just a mishmash of architectural styles inside and out, so that the passageways within it have no rhyme or reason either. That was something that we were after, the idea of it wasn't an actual physical space, but it like a dream space.
Rebecca is currently streaming on Netflix.