The dark romantic drama My Cousin Rachel, written and directed by Roger Michell and adapted from the 1951 novel by Daphne du Maurier, tells the story of a young Englishman named Philip (Sam Claflin) who wants to meet his mysterious and beautiful cousin Rachel (Rachel Weisz) because he believes that she murdered his guardian. Even though he has plotted revenge against her, his feelings quickly become complicated as he finds himself not only falling in love with her, but becoming truly obsessed.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actor Iain Glen talked about why he was drawn to the story of My Cousin Rachel, the complicated character dynamics, and how easy it could be for any man to be drawn into Rachel’s spell. He also talked about being a part of the hugely successful TV series Game of Thrones (he plays “Jorah Mormont”), when and how he realized the show was becoming so popular, getting to team up with Lena Headey on the feature film The Flood, and his desire to always keep up a variety in his work.
Collider: This story is so interesting because it searches for the truth, but never really reveals what that truth is.
IAIN GLEN: It’s a very disconcerting sensation that the film creates. You think you have a hold of it, and then something happens and you get some new piece of information or there’s some new action that makes you go, “Oh, god, no! I couldn’t have gotten that right!” Your relationship to Rachel, played so brilliantly by Rachel Weisz, changes throughout. You become entranced and enticed by this exotic creature that comes in and turns things upside down, and you spend the rest of the film thinking, “I’ve got ahold of it. I know what’s going on. Wait, no, I don’t!” That’s the psychological thriller that’s at the heart of Daphne Du Maurier’s writing.
Did you get that from reading the script? Is that what made you want to be a part of this?
GLEN: It is, yeah, very much so. I could see what the writer was doing, and I enjoyed that. I knew that she was the great mistress of irresolution, where nothing would become concrete and you’d be suspended throughout. But in amongst that, you feel like you understand and that you’ve just been given a clue, which leads you to one conclusion. But then, before you know it, you’re being dragged back into another conclusion. Rachel does that very well because you feel for her, at times. You feel her hurt sometimes, and then you feel her vulnerability, but then you think she’s being manipulative. She plays it out very subtly, throughout, so that you’re kept guessing.
Your character, Nick Kendall, is in an interesting position because he’s Philip’s godfather and the legal guardian of Ambrose’s estate, but he’s also Louise’s father and has to watch how much Philip’s relationship with Rachel is hurting his daughter. What was it like to be in the middle of all of that, and to work with those actors on that dynamic?
GLEN: It was lovely! It was a very happy time, filming it. Doing a period piece in a beautiful part of England in the summer, it doesn’t really get much better than that. It’s great fun to do. Things become most worrying for my character when he begins to understand that Philip wants to give everything away to Rachel out of love. He goes from his initial position of, “She’s an evil witch and she killed my adored cousin, who was looking after me and who had looked after me since I was orphaned, as a child, and I want nothing but to punish her,” to somebody who’s willing to give everything away to her. You have to hold the audience with you on that, and that’s something that Sam manages very well. You have to believe the hatred, and then you have to believe the love, and you’re with Sam, every step of the way with it. It becomes very awkward for my character when he sees that Philip is willing to give away everything that he’s tried to look after, so that his well-being is assured for his life. He’s caught in that terrible position of not offering advice that’s just going to be rejected, and then, before you know it, you’ve lost that relationship. You have to try to play it cool and remain neutral.