Saltburn Director Emerald Fennell Doesn’t Know Anyone Nice

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Emerald Fennell is aware of a wonderful factor when she sees it. For Vanity Fair‘s “Notes on a Scene” collection, the Saltburn director did a deep dive on setting up the pivotal scene the place Oliver (Barry Keoghan) first arrives on the lavish British property Saltburn and is taken on a tour of the grounds by Felix (Jacob Elordi) earlier than they spend a fateful summer season collectively. 

Fennell kicks off the video by singing the praises of Keogahn, who stars in Saltburn as Oliver Quick, an outcast Oxford scholar who one way or the other falls into the great graces of Elordi’s extremely in style, charming, and über-wealthy Felix. “I saw Barry in Killing of a Sacred Deer and I thought it was the best performance I’ve ever seen,” says Fennell. “Just full stop. I think that the best performance any actor’s ever given. He seemed to get the thing that I really love in all movies and really wanted in this. He’s both a real person and a feeling too. He knows how how to be super grounded and real, but how to be other worldly.” 

Oliver’s arrival to Saltburn kicks off what Fennell describes as essentially the most “gothic moment of the film.” The transition from Oxford’s campus to Saltburn represents a turning point, she says. “We go from Secret History, Brideshead Revisit, to ‘Oh, we may be in a hammer house of horror movie” Fennell says. At this home of horror, Oliver greeted coolly by butler Duncan, performed by Paul Reese. “He is Saltburn,” says Fennell. “He could have lived for 1000 years. He’s one of the bricks.”

Shockingly, the precise property of Saltburn has by no means appeared in any piece of media earlier than. “There are no photographs of it,” she says. Fennell knew that Saltburn needed to be the placement for the movie when she took a tour of the property and seen one thing quirky about the home. “They had hats on the busts. These kind of priceless beautiful marble statues, and they had these silly hats on them,” says Fennell, circling one in the background of a shot. “That’s exactly what this movie is, the kind of surreal and the kind of mundane kind of beautiful and the silly all, like, together in one.” 

Fennell is fast to level out that Saltburn, set in the summertime of 2006, is technically a interval piece, which she needed mirrored within the costuming. She then factors to Felix’s Livestrong bracelet, which she cheekily calls a “crucial period detail.” To seize 2006, she made positive that Felix was groomed appropriately.  “Long hair, sideburns. That was 2006,” she says. 

“So many times the costume designer would be like, ‘We found this super lame dress,’” quips Fennell. “I’m like, ‘It’s in my cabinet. I put on it on a regular basis. I’m gonna burn it once I get house.’” 

Fennell was instantly taken by the Euphoria star’s audition, particularly the best way he performed towards kind as a member of British aristocracy. “This is why Jacob Elordi is such an absolute genius. And why the moment he came in and auditioned I wanted him to play the part,” she says. “When people auditioned they came in and gave a sort of Brideshead type performance—it was quite lush and sort of arch. And Jacob came in and was just kind of this normal guy.” Fennell goes on to elucidate how tough it’s to play “nice guy” kind characters. “When it comes to character in general I don’t think any of us are nice,” she says. “I just don’t know anyone nice… not really. Not anyone I know well. I don’t think I’m nice.” 

As for the tour of Saltburn: Fennell needed the viewers be wowed by the home, but additionally to be centered on Felix. “This is Felix’s tour,” she says. “This is one of the reasons we chose this house. This house is so beautiful, so exceptional. It was also important to me framing-wise that even though it’s a tour of the house, even though we’re all dying to see it, even though it’s the most beautiful house in the world, we’re not looking at it.” 

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