Perhaps you’re one of the many people who attempted to watch Emerald Fennell’s latest film, Saltburn, over Christmas with your family. To quote Vivian Ward – “big mistake, BIG, HUGE.”
Well, if doing so made you uncomfortable, then you’re not alone. Rosamund Pike, who plays the beautiful but cold (and beyond hilarious) Elspeth Catton in Saltburn, recently sat down with Deadline to reveal all about the making of the controversial 2023 film.
When questioned about watching herself on screen, the Gone Girl star said she was “shocked” and “very uncomfortable” the first time she saw it.
“I couldn’t really watch myself at all. I hated how I found it uncomfortable the way Elspeth was”, Pike revealed in conversation with Deadline’s Antonia Blyth.
“I don’t know quite what it was, I was made to feel quite uncomfortable. I think the camera is so personal, the lens is so close and you really see everything. And our editor was very, very fine and detailed.”
Pike described the making of the film, which was made available to stream on Prime Video on 22 December 2023, as “so erotic and so intimate and uncomfortable”.
She recalled how the film’s cinematographer, Linus Sandgren, would show the cast photos from the day before.
“Some of them you’d think, ‘My god, what is that? That’s somebody’s bottom, or some really intimate part of the body!’ And it would actually only be a shoulder. But it was the way it was looked at, the gaze was so erotic and so intimate and uncomfortable that you kept thinking you were looking at something more shocking sometimes than you actually were.”
Criticism around Saltburn has been fairly positive, and has tended to focus on the standout performances from lead actor Barry Keoghan as well as Pike, who Mark Kermode called “brilliantly cracked”.
Indeed, both Keoghan and Pike have managed to scoop up nominations at the 81st Golden Globe Awards for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress, respectively.
Speaking about inhabiting the role of an eccentric upper-class matriarch, Pike shared that “it was really fun to be able to live inside that skin.”
The Emmy Award-winner also revealed that though she does not consider herself an improviser, Fennell allowed her cast to improvise their way into most scenes. For Pike, this included her brilliant first scene with Carey Mulligan as hapless family friend, Pamela.
“I think with Carey and I, because we knew each other since she was 18 and I was 24... I knew [that] would feed into what you feel with Elspeth and Pamela... and sometimes little bits of that are captured.”
Another improvised moment that was sadly left on the cutting room floor included a bit about Keith Richards reportedly snorting his father’s ashes:
“It was fun with Elspeth because I could just look up anything from 2006/7 and riff on it at dinner... It was the time that Keith Richards was reported to have snorted his father’s ashes… Which was later discovered, I think, to be not true. But Elspeth was like, ‘Oh, of course I knew Keith. Of course.... When we were in Mustique, he had his ashes with him. He offered all of us his ashes.’
″[Elspeth is] usually getting any story and placing herself in the center of it. And it was really fun to just live in that shallow space.”
The results of Keoghan and Pike’s Golden Globe nominations will soon play out in a matter of days, but here’s hoping that Pike receives the recognition she deserves for such a masterful performance!
Saltburn is currently steaming in the UK on Prime Video.