Emma Corrin went stratospheric following their turn as a wide-eyed Diana, Princess of Wales, in The Crown—a part soon to be inherited by Elizabeth Debicki in season 5—but the actor’s next role is a far cry from the naive young royal: that of Constance Chatterley in an electrifying Netflix adaptation of D.H. Lawrence’s most scandalous novel, Lady Chatterley’s Lover.
First published in Europe in the 1920s, the explicit tale of a baronet’s wife who begins a torrid affair with her gamekeeper only found a British publisher in the ’60s—with Penguin Books becoming the subject of a history-making obscenity trial as a result.
This sensuous reimagining will see The Mustang’s Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre occupy the director’s chair, with Life of Pi’s David Magee having written the script. Meanwhile, Jack O’Connell will embody a dashing and surprisingly delicate Mellors; Matthew Duckett the paralyzed, frustrated Sir Clifford Chatterley; and Joely Richardson the devoted Mrs. Bolton, Sir Clifford’s nurse and companion.
It is, however, Emma Corrin’s film, with the rising star imbuing Connie with a fierce intelligence and restless energy that transcends the period setting. “When we talked for the first time, Emma spoke to me about the scene where Connie dances naked in the rain,” De Clermont-Tonnerre tells Vogue of her magnetic lead. “Emma said, ‘It’s such a liberating moment. I want to explore that feeling of ecstatic freedom.’ Emma’s such a free spirit, and I think they wanted to express that through Connie.”
It’s a moment that feels resolutely modern—shocking, even—but the French filmmaker was never in any doubt about the urgent contemporary resonances of her source material. “When I reread the novel, I thought it could have been written today,” she says. “It’s scary that not that much has changed since the 1920s. As women, we’re still fighting for equality. The idea of a woman being free is still scandalous. You only have to look at what happened with Roe v. Wade, and what’s happening now in Iran. This book is about a woman’s journey to empowerment, to controlling her body, owning her sexuality and owning her life. My goal was to emphasize her point of view, and to give the audience a visceral experience of a woman experiencing pleasure. It needed to feel accessible.”
How to bring freshness to a story that has already been adapted countless times? “With a very loose camera,” answers De Clermont-Tonnerre. “And the costumes.” Credit, she says, must go to costume designer Emma Fryer, who tracked down authentic pieces from the era but also found 1920s-inspired items from contemporary brands, including Zimmermann and Vilshenko. “We didn’t want to be trapped by the period, so we stuck to ’20s-style shapes but used modern patterns and lighter fabrics,” continues De Clermont-Tonnerre. “We wanted a bohemian feel, and the idea was that Connie could undress herself more and more easily as the film went on, with pieces that felt like they were a part of her skin. We wanted it to be playful but also not like Marie Antoinette. We wanted a timeless look.”
The result is a vibrant retelling that stands apart from its predecessors—as evidenced by the first trailer released on November 3. It shows Corrin’s Connie and Jack O’Connell’s Mellors having passionate sex by a tree, before flashing back to the former’s marriage to Matthew Duckett’s Sir Clifford Chatterley. We see her apprehension as she arrives at her new home, how alienated she feels in her husband’s glittering circle, and her first meeting with Mellors.
“I don’t think I realized how lonely I’d been,” Connie whispers to Mellors. “Until now.” The two things we know for sure? This sensual drama is guaranteed to bring a new audience to Lawrence’s seminal classic, and to cement Corrin’s reputation as one of the most exciting actors of their generation. Watch the trailer below.
Lady Chatterley’s Lover will be in theaters from November 25, and streaming on Netflix from December 2.
This post was originally published in British Vogue.
Originally Appeared on Glamour