Emerald Fennel Breaks Down the Arrival Scene from 'Saltburn'
Released on 11/20/2023
It's such a difficult thing to play a sort of nice guy.
When it comes to character in general,
I don't think any of us are nice.
I just don't know anyone nice.
Hi, I'm Emerald Fennell,
I'm the director of Saltburn,
and this is notes on a scene.
Our protagonist, Oliver Quick, played by Barry Keoghan,
has just arrived at his friend Felix's house for the summer.
Felix, sort of taking pity on him,
invites him to stay at his house.
Little does Oliver know that the house,
which is called Saltburn, looks like this.
[loud pounding] [door creaking]
I'd seen Barry in Killing of a Sacred Deer
and just thought it's the best performance I've ever seen.
Just full stop.
I think that any actor has ever given.
It was just so chilling and sort of sexy, and weird,
and real, and horrible, and you know,
and he seemed to get the thing that I really love
in all movies and really wanted in this
is that he's both a real person and a sort of feeling, too.
He understands how to be super grounded and real,
but also how to be otherworldly.
You are early.
I got the earlier train.
Well do let us know next time.
This is the most kind of gothic moment, in a funny way,
of the movie.
We go from, you know,
the kind of university secret history type bride's head tale
to the like, oh, we may be in a kind
of hammer house of horror movie.
You see the gates were not open.
That's, that's okay.
We'd sent someone to pick you up.
It was very hard to find Duncan.
Duncan is the butler at Saltburn
and he is it's sort of spirit.
Here we've got Paul Rhys,
who is just one of the greatest actors of his generation.
He's just extraordinary.
And when I was meeting people for this part, I said,
Duncan is Saltburn.
He could have lived for a thousand years.
He could be, you know, one of the, one of the bricks.
Everyone else was like, uh huh, yeah,
okay, I kind of get it.
And Paul was like, absolutely.
I mean the little look that Paul gives him there
just, I love it so much.
He does almost nothing.
This is amazing.
A huge shout out to the art department
who were just exceptional.
Because when we were looking at this shot, I said we need,
we need something, we need like a pair of knickers
that have been tossed up there during a party.
We need a streamer, we need some tinsel from Christmas.
Something old, something shabby,
something that's been missed.
Because this is a film about our obsession with beauty,
our kind of fetishization of like, stuff.
And Dave, who is our amazing on set dresser,
kind of went aha, aha, aha.
And just went and made this fly paper
and then all of the lovely dead flies, RIP.
This is a really, really good example
of why the aspect ratio works.
You can see the height of this.
The house is very tall and square.
We didn't wanna be cutting off
all the beautiful frescoes on the ceilings.
The squarer ratio made us,
made it just much easier to shoot,
just from a practical point of view.
The fact that we could get the floor
and the ceiling into this enormous room.
It was really something.
This house has never been seen in anything, ever.
There are no photographs of it on the internet.
But one of the things when I walked in,
the moment I knew that this was Saltburn,
was that they had hats on the busts.
The busts in there are, yeah, these kind of priceless,
beautiful, marble statues,
and they had these silly hats put on them and I thought,
that's exactly what this movie is.
It's the kind of surreal,
and the kind of mundane, the kind of beautiful,
and the sort of silly, all like together in one.
This is amazing.
Wow, just wow. Hmm.
I mean obviously super, super gothic.
It's incredibly kind of useful to play
some of these things in silhouette.
It gives you this sort of sense that all is not well.
Just leave your bag there.
Someone will get it for you.
Thank God you're here!
Duncan, I'll show him to his room, don't worry.
The incredible costume designer, Sophie Canali,
she and I, when we first spoke,
we were talking about this is,
this is a period drama in many ways or most,
the most part it is.
It's set in 2006, which distressingly is now very,
very much a period drama.
And I think it has the effect of
sort of slightly humanizing all of the characters
because there's nothing that kind of feels lamer
than 15-year-old fashion, and hair, and makeup.
You can see on his hand here some crucial period detail,
which is number one Live Strong bracelet.
For them, this house is just where they live.
They're always super casual,
or claim to be until they sort of dress for dinner.
And so part of the thing of being very beautiful and posh
is kind of not really trying very hard.
His shirt isn't ironed.
Can we just like peek there to see the sort of
slightly cringe seatbelt, like airplane seatbelt belt,
which was very much of its time.
Hair wise, the main thing was is sideburns.
Long hair, sideburns was 2006.
I know guys, I know.
I can just see everyone behind the camera being like, huh?
I mean so many times the costume designers was,
somebody would come in and be like,
oh my God look, we've found this super lame dress.
And I'm like, ha ha ha, just, it's in my cupboard,
I wear that all the time.
I'm gonna burn it when I get home.
Duncan, stop being so frightening in front of my friends.
Well, I'll try. Come on mate.
Shout out to Anthony Willis here, the composer,
one of my favorite people.
He did Promising a Woman as well.
This whole score as a jumping off point starts
from the very beginning, Zadok the priest,
which is the coronation, him in Britain.
And so that was always our kind of jumping off point.
This kind of super British coronation.
Duncan is so frightening.
And then immediately you just see him, you know,
he will have been there for whole of Felix's life.
And me and Paul talked a lot about how much he loved him.
Oh look here, double hats.
There you go.
Playing with light always.
Part of the reason that you choose like linen is for this.
You are always kind of catching the body
through the clothes.
And we see it again and again in this movie.
If, you know, we're always kind of shooting light
through night dresses or shirts.
You know, think when you're in love with someone,
you are always aware of their body.
And so it's important that we kind of got that element.
So this is Felix's tour.
And this is kind of one of the reasons
why we chose this house.
This house is so beautiful, so exceptional.
But it was also important to me framing wise that actually,
even though it's a tour of the house,
even though we are all dying to see it,
even though it's the most beautiful house in the world,
we're not looking at it.
Ah, red staircase.
I accidentally fingered my cousin here.
That's the kind of thing that Felix would say, right?
Like he doesn't care about the paintings, not really.
It's that thing.
It's the kind of constant dismissal of the beauty.
And the only things that are interesting to Felix
really are the kind of tawdry, silly things.
Henry Seventh's cabinet.
Ghost of Granny.
Us, the audience, get a sense of place.
So you can see that you know,
all of their stuff out of every window
we recognize every vista when we go upstairs to the bathroom
and we shoot people in the bath,
and out of the windows, we can see the scale all the time.
It enabled us to have these long kind of shining style takes
where you kind of could have an a real tour of the house.
There's also the exact inverse of this tour
much later in the movie,
that is the inverse and is hugely, hugely important.
Green room, garden,
some fucking hideous Reubens.
The enfilade here we kind of mimic upstairs,
which is, there's so much about these houses
is kind of the sense of being watched.
Of things being like, cleaned up without you noticing,
of everything just being like kind of whisked away.
People are always watching you,
they're always sort of judging you.
Also, there's an enormous amount of voyeurism in this film,
and kind of yearning.
And the thing about the number of mirrors
in the enfilade is being able to see through,
almost entirely through the whole of the house.
So cutting back to Oliver here was not trickery.
We did the whole shot always.
It was just important to see him occasionally.
This is the long gallery.
We created like a little sitting room.
And out here, which you can't see,
as Felix will tell us, is the maze,
which has four little balls in it.
Two are pewter and two are pearl.
You can actually play the maze game.
Just to quickly talk about the maze,
it was really important to me
that it was a real workable maze.
I read about a man named Adrian Fisher,
who's the world's foremost and I think only maze designer.
He designs all of the mazes for like,
video games as well as like, Hampton Court Palace.
I just had two stipulations.
There were two ways of getting into the center of the maze.
One should be the hardest maze he's ever designed.
Like the most complicated route,
the most impossible to get into the center.
And then the other is the cheats route.
Daddy's old teddy.
This is why Jacob Elordi is just such an absolute genius,
and why the moment he came in and auditioned for this
I wanted him to play the part.
When people auditioned,
they came in and they kind of gave
a sort of brides head-type performance.
It was quite lush, and sort of, sort of arch.
And Jacob just came in and did this,
which was just, he was just this kind of like normal guy.
Such a difficult thing to play, a sort of nice guy.
When it comes to character in general I'm not,
I don't think any of us are nice.
I just don't know anyone nice.
Not anyone I know well.
I don't think I'm nice.
I think we're all completely in denial
about our own characters.
I don't think it would be possible for any of us
to describe ourselves like,
accurately in the way that other people see us.
So that's always at the back of my mind
when I'm thinking of character.
So yeah, we're just through here.
Okay, my room.
You'll be staying just next door.
Always, which is my obsession,
is what I used to call on Promising Young Woman, gubbins.
Which everyone found hilarious
'cause it's not an American word apparently,
although it's very useful.
The stuff of life, like the clutter of life
that even if you live in a house like this, you have.
So guys, this is where we get into the like super detail.
Bright blue nineties Ikea lamp.
You know, he would've kind of had all his stuff
from when he was a kid.
Everyone's chain smoking.
Diet coke, empty.
We've got, think they're called Wilsdon cricket manuals.
Every bedroom one visited in 2006
of a certain type of boy had those.
You know, there's nothing to me that's more satisfying
than seeing like, this tapestry,
which is 30,000 pounds worth of kind of Flemish tapestry.
And then shit in front of it, you know?
That's how something becomes alive.
Every single frame of this movie
you need to be able to pause and it needs to feel like that.
It needs to have that amount of detail.
I don't know why you would make a film
if you weren't kind of obsessive over
whether it's Diet Coke or you know, Dr. Pepper,
or you know, what kind of books he's got.
Oh by the way, we're gonna be sharing a bathroom.
I hope you don't mind.
Otherwise you'd be miles away on the other end of the house.
Bathroom features very heavily in this movie.
This was just a kind of white, plain room I think before.
So these guys are, we had two of these built,
inbuilt sinks that are matching opposite each other.
So it meant the boys,
even when their backs are to each other,
they can always see each other.
And then the bath is freestanding
right in the middle of the room.
There's something very exhibitionist about the way
that people live in houses like this.
In the olden days, people would've just, you know,
servants would've just come in and out.
You're on display and that's very much part of this film.
And so you can see when you're sitting in the bath,
when Oliver's sitting in the bath later,
that, isn't that such a good picture?
Here are the taps.
You see him from behind
and you can just see the whole of the vista.
This is the most incredible Pierre Frey wallpaper
that Susie found, which looks,
it's both, looks like marble and smoke.
It was about finding stuff that was masculine.
Using a lot of like, mahogany, slate, dark,
masculine, sort of sexy fabrics.
What we usually have on here, wash and go,
bright green shampoo, hideous.
You've gotta have a kind of purple toothbrush
and some Colgate.
It's always about sort of just making sure
that no matter how beautiful it is,
you've still got the stuff you need to live.
And your room.
I mean, who doesn't wanna stay there?
Yeah, who would say no to Felix?
No one, I don't think.
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