Nikolaj Arcel Meets Du Maurier's Rebecca

Last night he went to Dreamworks again

As revealed a year or so ago, a new version of Daphne du Maurier's classic novel Rebecca is coming together at Dreamworks. The screenplay is by Steven Knight (Eastern Promises), and the news just in is that the project has now found its director. Nikolaj Arcel will be taking the road to Manderly.

Arcel is being tempted over to Hollywood following his Oscar-nomination for A Royal Affair, last year's excellent Danish costume drama with Mads Mikkelsen. He was also a script consultant on Lars Von Trier's Antichrist, and co-wrote Niels Arden Oplev's version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

Rebecca is, of course, the story of the second Mrs Maximilian De Winter (Rebecca was the old one). She's the otherwise-unnamed girl wooed and wed by the wealthy Max but soon haunted not by Rebecca's ghost but by her own struggle to measure up to Rebecca's legacy, since her predecessor was seemingly beloved by all. Her new marriage isn't going so well, and dastardly housekeeper Mrs Danvers clearly loathes her. And there's an underlying mystery about what actually happened to Rebecca, and whether she was really as wonderful as she seemed.

The 1940 Alfred Hitchcock adaptation is an undeniable classic, but Rebecca has been adapted by other people since. The BBC did it for television in 1980, and ITV in 1997; Du Maurier herself adapted it for theatre; it's been on the radio; it's even been an opera. Susan Hill (The Woman In Black) wrote a sequel, Mrs De Winter, in 1993, and Sally Beauman wrote a sort-of prequel (Rebecca's Tale) in 2001.

Rebecca is one of the great novels of the 20th Century, so it's irritating that the Internet currently seems set on referring to the new Dreamworks adaptation as merely a Hitchcock remake, and moaning accordingly. It's like calling any new version of Dickens' Oliver Twist a David Lean remake, or any new version of Kafka's The Trial an Orson Welles remake, or the 2006 Casino Royale a remake of the 1967 one. Read the book, people! It's 16 years since it was last adapted for any size of screen, so we're saying now's as good a time as any for a revisit.

Shooting won't start immediately, since Arcel is already committed to the Don Winslow adaptation The Power Of The Dog. While he's busy with that though, expect Rebecca's casting to be hotly contested over the next few months.