The director’s follow up to her Oscar Best Picture-nominated and Best Screenplay-winner Promising Young Woman, stars Barry Keoghan as working class Oxford University student Oliver who becomes obsessed with manor born, aristocrat Felix, played by Jacob Elordi.
“It’s hard to say because it creeps up on you sometimes,” Fennell said in answer to a question on the inspiration for the film. “For me, it was probably six or seven years ago… when I saw a boy licking the inside of a bathtub,” she continued, referring to a scene in the film.
“Two things came into my mind… somebody saying I wasn’t in love with him and then the licking inside of the bathtub. I thought… I like this person already because they’re insane with desire and they’re a liar,” she continued.
“I wanted to make something about desire and that very complicated relationship with the things that we really want, can’t have and will never have us back.”
Talking about Oliver’s love-hate relationship with Felix, Fennell revealed she took inspiration from boundary-pushing French filmmaker Catherine Breillat for this dynamic.
“Catherine Breillat said sexual tension isn’t between people, it’s between beauty and ugliness, and beauty thrives on revulsion” she said. “I think there’s always, when you’re kind of gripped by something completely overwhelming and otherworldly desire, there’s this element of revulsion.”
Cochrane, whose recent credits also include Rye Lane and John Wick: Chapter 4, said she immediately fell for the project.
“I read the script on a train on the way home and jumped on a zoom. And I just remember being obsessed. I think we spoke for about two hours. I read it very much feeling like an Oliver.”
Davies talked about creating the shabby chic look of Felix’s country pile.
“It was our intention to ride almost sleazy, almost tacky, but effortlessly stylish,” she said.
“This family have the money and they have the staff to dress those rooms. I think they would just walk out of that room and leave the overflowing ashtrays… the slops of gin and tonic in the dog bowl, all of that sort of stuff. It was about just riding that. that fine line between sleaze and style.
The Amazon MGM Studios film world premiered at Telluride over the summer and opened the London Film Festival this week, ahead of its release in UK and the U.S. on November 17.