Since reviews started rolling in for Emerald Fennell's new film Saltburn, one of the most common points of comparison has been The Talented Mr Ripley – with many fans and critics pointing out a few similarities between the two films.


But speaking during an exclusive interview with, the writer-director revealed that, although she is a huge fan of Tom Ripley author Patricia Highsmith, the film was not one of her reference points when writing her second feature.

"Do you know what? It actually wasn't really [something I was thinking about]," she said when the question was put to her.

"I mean, obviously Highsmith is one of my absolute favourites, but I think that I was sort of looking more at that British Country House tradition of The Go-Between and that sort of very specific British... sort of Joseph Losey world, where class and power and sex all kind of collide in one specific place."

Saltburn is Fennell's second film after the Oscar-winning Promising Young Woman, and she explained that she settled on the idea for her next film quite soon after the huge success of her debut – spurred on by the pandemic.

"I have to say, the Covid lockdown probably really intensified that feeling," she said. "You know, this is a film kind of about voyeurism, I suppose, and desire and watching.

"And it felt like, you know, lockdown just intensified all of that stuff for all of us. So, yeah, it felt like the right thing."

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The film boasts a star-studded cast that includes Barry Keoghan, Jacob Elordi and Richard E Grant, as well as a brief but memorable role for Promising Young Woman star Carey Mulligan – but it's arguably Rosamund Pike who steals the show.

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Pike plays Lady Catton, the matriarch of the aristocratic family who live at the titular estate, and Fennell explained how the role gave the star plenty of opportunity to show off her "comedic genius".

She said: "She's so amazing. I mean, she's just so brilliant. And from the moment I met her I just thought, 'Oh, nobody is going to be able to touch what she'll be able to do.'

"And I’ve just been such a huge fan of hers… like, I'd seen An Education years ago, and obviously Gone Girl, and then I Care a Lot. And I just felt like she's such a gifted… she's almost such a subtle comic actress that she's so good.

"Like, she's sort of a stealth weapon, you kind of don't necessarily know it."

Rosamund Pike as Lady Catton in Saltburn wearing a purple dress and holding a glass
Rosamund Pike as Lady Catton in Saltburn. WB

She added that, as an actor herself, she enjoyed having conversations with the cast about the script and characters, delving into aspects of their history that aren't necessarily directly included in the film

"And Rosamund is just so detailed," she said. "She's like me, she's obsessed with kind of hyper, hyper, hyper specificity.

"So we got to talk a lot about her character’s life in London in the '90s, what model agencies she was signed to and how resentful she was of certain other models from the same era who allegedly slept with other photographers.

"And we would just go down these wonderful, wonderful tangents. And, you know, so much of it is kind of it is imbued in her performance."

Saltburn is showing in UK cinemas now. Check out more of our Film and Drama coverage, or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to find out what's on.


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