'Downton Abbey' Alum Lily James to Star in New 'Rebecca' Adaptation

Lily James in "Downton Abbey" Season 5 (Photo: (C) Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2014 for MASTERPIECE)

Downton Abbey star Lily James is heading to Manderley again, headlining a brand new remake of Daphne DuMarier’s classic novel Rebecca.

She’ll be starring opposite current It Guy Armie Hammer (of Call Me By Your Name fame) as the unfortunate “second Mrs. de Winter” who, upon arriving at her husband’s estate, finds herself living in the shadow of Maxim De Winter’s first wife. The titular Rebecca’s legacy continues to haunt the house, largely due to the presence of the De Winters’ oppressive and generally terrifying housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers.

James is basically perfect for this role, even if the very existence of this film is bound to draw unflattering comparisons against the original, which was directed by Alfred Hitchcock, won the Academy Award for Best Picture and is generally considered a classic of American cinema.

This new Netflix adaptation will be written by Jane Goldman and directed by Ben Wheatley.

At this point, it’s probably unnecessary to refer to James as a Downton alum given the scope of success she’s found since leaving Highclere behind. Besides being a real life Disney princess in the live action adaptation of Cinderella, she’s played a younger Meryl Streep in Mama Mia! Here We Go Again, another charming period drama heroine in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and a gutsy secretary to Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour.

So, yeah, she’s doing pretty well for herself. So well, in fact, that she’s one of the few original cast members – save Dan Stevens, obviously – who isn’t returning for the highly anticipated Downton movie.

Most intriguingly, there isn’t any word yet on who will be playing the iconic Mrs. Danvers. Judith Anderson played the housekeeper in the 1940 Hitchcock version, and it’s certainly the sort of role that any one of a dozen titanic British actresses could knock out of the park. (Personal pick: Olivia Colman, but she’s got her hands full with The Crown these days. Tilda Swinton is my dark horse candidate, as she is generally born to play women like Mrs. Danvers.)

What do you think of this casting? Do you feel like we need a modern take on Rebecca? Let’s discuss in the comments.  

Lacy Baugher

Lacy's love of British TV is embarrassingly extensive, but primarily centers around evangelizing all things Doctor Who, and watching as many period dramas as possible.

Digital media type by day, she also has a fairly useless degree in British medieval literature, and dearly loves to talk about dream poetry, liminality, and the medieval religious vision. (Sadly, that opportunity presents itself very infrequently.) York apologist, Ninth Doctor enthusiast, and unabashed Ravenclaw. Say hi on Threads or Blue Sky at @LacyMB. 

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