Daphne du Maurier’s novel My Cousin Rachel gets a fresh new adaptation from writer/director Roger Michel (Notting Hill) – and it’s just as moody and mysterious as the story is written.

The premise centers on a young Englishman, Phillip (Sam Claflin), whose guardian mysteriously dies abroad after marrying a distant cousin named Rachel (Rachel Weisz). When she comes to England, Phillip is determined to seek revenge against the woman he believes murdered his guardian, only to fall completely and utterly under the beguiling spell of her charms.

ScreenPicks spoke with the talented Iain Glen, who plays Phillip’s godfather and mentor, about the Daphne du Maurier touch, along with his thoughts on the character Rachel herself.

As an added bonus, Glen, who portrays the stalwart, Greyscale inflicted Jorah Mormont on Game of Thrones, gave us some insight on what to expect in Season 8 of the show (returning in July).

Q: I didn’t really know it was a Daphne du Maurier story before I saw the film, but while watching it, I immediately said, “Well this is very Daphne du Maurier.” It jumps right out.

Iain Glen: It’s definitely her character in a psychological thriller it seems, it’s the haunt of all those stories really. She finds something … It was quite radical, the damage she writes in the sixties, as she always reaches back in history to place her stories. You know, to look at it as an adaptation, wasn’t it, it was Rebecca. Yeah, I think she’s very good and she really lends herself to films, stories really lend themselves to film because it’s all about what’s going on underneath the line, which film can do brilliantly.

Q: Roger Michel really captured du Maurier’s tone right away, don’t you think?

Glen: He’s a brilliant, he’s a much admired director here. Actors love working with him because he’s social, footing the right stories and guiding actors. He’s done as much, if not more, work in the theater in places like the National. He’s very, very comfortable with complex writing, complex stories. It’s the sort of film I really love. I mean I do really enjoy period films. I don’t think this is a staid period film, he’s always very free moving with the camera. I thought it was beautifully shot. I just got all the elements I enjoy when I go see a film. I really enjoy having to work, saying, “What is going on? God, don’t do that! What’s exactly going on?” I much prefer that than be told every step of the way what I should be thinking.

Q: What was your take on Rachel after reading the novel and then the screenplay?

Glen: I had a very, very similar reaction to both, because I do think it’s very faithful to the source novel. That is, I just don’t freaking know. I just don’t know. As much as I try to work it, I’d say “Oh, that’s the biggest clue!” That’s the most difficult thing that must mean that she’s definitely sinister. Something else will come along soon after that will be, no, because that could’ve happened because of that reason. Every time you think you’re onto it, the story upsets the strength of your convictions. It’s a very disorienting form. That’s kind of, I suppose, the psychological thriller element to it.

I basically followed the path that my character follows where I’m open, I’m entirely without preconception and then the initial information comes through that Ambrose, who I knew and had loved had gone abroad to try and recuperate had fallen in love, and that was a great thing, it was an unusual thing, because he hadn’t met any women in his life. Then little bits of information came through that all was not well, and then he felt he was getting poisoned, that he was dying. But then I knew that Ambrose had a history of, you know, it could be a brain tumor, and it could make him hallucinate and imagine things. I didn’t know what to expect when Rachel first arrived, and when she did, you were sort of entranced and charmed by her as she brings such a lovely breath of fresh irreverent air into our sleepy community.

Then I can see the young man who I’ve been the legal guardian for just go fall head over heels in love. There’s a good side to that, and then a very disturbing side to that, while he looks like he’s going to give his entire fortune away, which he doesn’t need to do. I follow, basically oscillate through the course, that’s what I felt when I read it. That was sort of my character’s role anyway. In some ways I suppose I’m the most rational mind in the piece. In a way I share the audience’s opinion about what’s going on.

Q: It’s true, you do because you are looking at it, trying to look at it as —

Glen: Trying to be dispassionate, yeah. Because that’s sort of my function, yes. I mean, more than anything, I just feel hugely protective towards Phillip, and I feel overwhelmed at whatever, whether she’s good or bad, and I’m not really in the best place to judge but nonetheless, there’s no need for him to throw everything at her. There’s no need for him to give everything away. If the love is good, then just let it burn for longer and let things evolve. But, because he’s so hot-headed and because he’s so unfamiliar with the world of femininity, it’s all very alien to him that he just wants to express what he feels in a very full way.

Again, you’re caught by wanting to offer advice but not wanting to cause distance between yourself and that person whose advice you want to give, because things can go very quickly wrong between friends or relatives when you start offering advice about relationships. It’s very tricky territory. You still want to be the solid support. You feel you want someone to be able to feel they can turn to. You don’t want to become a judger.

Q: Had you ever worked with Rachel Weisz before?

Glen: I had! I’ve done a film with her called Beautiful Creatures. It’s a black comedy quite a few years ago, where I played a psychotic, knife-wielding drug addict. I came back and was trying to recover my heroin from a golf bag, which had been hidden there by my wife, played by Susan Lynch. And yeah, we had some very funny scenes together. She’s in a quite an extraordinary wig. We both had very lucky memories of that job together, so it was nice work with each other again.

Q: You were saying about period pieces, what is it about a period piece that you love so much?

Glen: I suppose I just love the fact that everything is held in suspense more. In the modern era, and in life, and in film things are just right out there immediately. There’s less subtlety of emotion. I like in the period world that things are expressed more delicately, that things are kept, that sort of love feels more precious. I don’t know, there’s some constriction on behavior, but it’s really just about a delicacy of emotion that people are more delicate towards each other, more sensitive to each other. Things are expressed through words and through phrases rather than heavy-handed action. I really enjoy the acting world that the period film conjures up. It requires you to just be more delicate, I suppose, and reserved, which is always fun to play on film.

Q: Also, I just love you in Game of Thrones. Please tell me Jorah Mormont will live and reunite with his Khaleesi!

Glen: I honestly can’t say. What I can say is that when I read these seven episodes for this next season, I thought they were the strongest of the boys that [the creators] had written. They were so dynamic, so surprising. They’re accelerating towards an end game. They’re in no way treading water and trying to stretch it there. You feel like my god, this story’s traveling so quickly. I think they’re going to be the best episodes yet.

Q: What has being on GoT brought to your career, as far as just the phenomenon around it?

Glen: Well, it’s sort of, you know, it’s a global recognition I suppose. That’s how TV has that power. It’s been the biggest TV series ever and it’s shown in every part of the world. It’s very difficult to go anywhere without being recognized. I don’t begrudge it for one second, because you’re part of a drama, which not only is commercially incredibly popular but is critically sort of been given a thumbs up. I’m very proud to be part of it, I’m very proud to be on board. It’s brought nothing but joy, I’m so excited to have survived it as long as I have. It’ll feel very, very strange when it’s all gone because it’s really been, it’s probably the most significant chapter in my working life. It’ll be almost a decade of knowing that was there, and it was always such a pleasure to film.

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