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January/February 2024

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riter/director Emerald Fennell has long established herself as a provocative, prolific and hugely talented multi-hyphenate in film, television and theatre. As an actress, her credits include memorable turns in such diverse films as Barbie, The Danish Girl, Pan and Anna Karenina, and she was Emmy nomi- nated for her starring role in Netflix's award-winning drama series, The Crown. She also served as the showrunner on Season 2 of Killing Eve, which garnered her two more Emmy nominations. But it was her feature directorial and screenplay debut — Promising Young Woman — her feminist, timely take on the revenge genre, which she also produced, that turbo-charged her career. She was nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, and won for Best Original Screenplay. The acclaimed hit also received a raft of other nominations and awards, includ- ing Golden Globe nominations for Best Screenplay and Best Director; six BAFTA nominations; and DGA, PGA and WGA nominations. In addition, Fennell won two Film Independent Spirit Awards for Best Director and Best Screenplay. For her second film, Saltburn, Fennell has crafted a twisty tale of social power games, class privilege and excess, full of beauty, ugliness and bad behavior — but one that is also full of suspense-filled sleight-of-hand. Set circa 2005, the story revolves around working-class student Oliver Quick (Barry Keoghan), who, while struggling to find his place at Oxford University, finds himself drawn into the world of the charming and aristocratic Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi), who invites him to Saltburn, his eccentric fami- ly's sprawling estate, for the summer. Madness and murder ensue in a Gothic horror story that also embraces high comedy and wrenching emotion. Here, in an exclusive interview with Post, I spoke with Fennell, whose eclectic credits include writing the contemporary Broadway musical Bad Cinderella with Andrew Lloyd Webber, and three novels, about making the film and her love of post. How much pressure did you feel to follow up your hit debut, Promising Young Woman? "Well, I was just really excited I was go- ing to be allowed to make another film. It's never a given, right? So Promising Young Woman gave me the opportunity to make this, and it was more thrilling than terrifying, though there's always a certain amount of terror with everything you make." At the start of the film it seems to be the story of a young innocent, who's sucked into this world where he's totally out of his depth, but the truth is very di¡erent. Did you enjoy misleading the audience? "That's why it's so much fun playing with genre. I don't do any of the misleading, the genre does. The opening scenes tell you all you need to know about Oliver — that he's a liar. But the power of the genre and the character of the outsider means that we ignore a lot of what we're seeing. You don't think of Felix as being the real prick he is, as he's so beautiful." Tell us a bit about how you collaborated on finding the right look with cinematographer Linus Sandgren, who won the Oscar for his work on La La Land. "He's just the best and so talented, and when we first met, we really connected on the vision for it and had a shared visual language. We both wanted to make something very expressionistic that could also work as e©ectively as a silent film as with one full of dialogue. We shot Super 35mm film in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio, which is the silent movie aspect ratio. A lot [of our discussions] were about how the scenes had to communicate the power dynamics and what kind of world we're in emotionally. And on the shoot, we shared a monitor and sat right next to each other. It wasn't the usual video village, where the DP's o© with the DIT. We streamlined all that." The film is stu¡ed with lots of wild, fun scenes. How tough was the shoot? (Laughs) "The truth is, to make it look like that is really hard work. It was about a 50-day shoot, and we had a lot of location work and night shoots. We shot in this one country house that had never been used [in a film] before, and did some exteriors, like the bridge scene at a nearby estate. So we shot all the exteri- ors and interiors at the same house. And then we also shot at Oxford and London. We built only one set, the bathroom, for the whole film, and that was built inside of a room. It's very important to me that a shoot is a joyful, collaborative experience for everyone, especially when you're making something in the Gothic tradition like this, that could go either way at any moment." Did you ever feel things were getting too wild and going over the top? "You have to ignore all the paralyzing ideas we still have about subtlety or good taste. That stu© is not that useful — not to say you don't pull back at times, EMERALD FENNELL DIRECTS SALTBURN THE PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN DIRECTOR TAKES ON HER NEXT CHALLENGE W DIRECTOR'S CHAIR 8 POST JAN/FEB 2024 BY IAIN BLAIR Director Fennell (left) during the 50-day shoot.

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