While many viewers were already familiar with the outline of the plot, either from the novel itself or Alfred Hitchcock’s Oscar-winning 1940 adaptation, there were nonetheless a handful of liberties taken with the source material.
Spoilers follow for both versions of Rebecca…
Towards the end of the original story, Mrs de Winter (Lily James) hosts a costume ball, trying to revivify her marriage to Maxim de Winter (Armie Hammer).
De Winter incurs the wrath of Maxim by wearing a dress belonging to his late first wife Rebecca, who died months earlier.
She begins to spiral, and prepares to kill herself at the behest of Mrs Danvers (Kristin Scott Thomas). Before she can jump into the water, however, a trawler washes up on shore with the body of Rebecca.
Maxim then reveals the truth of his wife’s death: that Rebecca was already dead when Maxim sank the boat on purpose, having been shot by her husband after she told him she was carrying her cousin’s baby.
In Hitchcock’s version, the story was altered from du Maurier’s original book to make Rebecca’s death accidental.
Wheatley’s version restores the darker original ending. “It's not a remake of the Hitchcock film. So it was very important,” he told Digital Spy. “Because that's the moral centre of the movie. Without that, the film means a lot less. If she just tripped over a rope and died, it's a bit bizarre.”
He also suggests that the original ending leaves greater room for ambiguity, as to whether Maxim is even telling the truth.
“Do you even believe what de Winter is saying about what happened in the boathouse?” he asked. “I don’t. ‘She begged me to shoot her...’, yeah right. You're the only person left alive that knows what happened in that room.
“For all we know, he just jumped out from behind the sofa and shot her as she came in. We just don't know.”