Daphne Du Maurier is one of the UK’s most famous novelists with two of her books, The Birds and Rebecca, being made into famous films by legendary director, Alfred Hitchcock.Rebecca was originally made in 1940 and now, eighty years later, is on screens again having been remade for streaming giant Netflix, with Lily James and Kristin Scott Thomas amongst the stellar cast.
So how did Fiennes Classics become involved in this Hollywood production rather than one of the famous Fiennes acting dynasty? The car that plays a central role is a 1935 Bentley 3.5 litre drophead coupe and we knew it from having looked after the car for several years previously. So, when there was a problem during filming Fiennes’ skilled engineers were the obvious emergency service to call rather than the AA.
Set in the late 1930s, filming locations included Cornwall and Monte Carlo and it was from the latter that a call came putting into motion an unexpected chain of events. One of our team, Mitch Steele explains, “We were called on a Wednesday evening as the car needed its clutch repaired and within eight hours myself and colleague Ade Day were on a private jet to Nice out of Oxford airport and there by 11am the following day ready to start work on the car.”
Ade added, “Once we arrived we got taken to the film studio where the car was being stored only to be surprised by what we saw. The car that we were familiar with was black but in front of us was a gold Bentley. We wondered if it was the wrong one but then found out that it had been wrapped in gold for filming!”
With the clutch having failed, it was a race against time to not hold up filming and, on a car from this era it’s a big job to do, potentially longer than the 24 hours the production company thought it may take. However, Ade and Mitch worked around the clock to fix it and get the car back up and running so filming could continue uninterrupted.
Having had that disconcerting experience the production company decided it would be wise to have a Fiennes engineer continuously on site and another colleague, Pete Somerfield, got the short straw this time and went to the Cote D’Azur for several days to keep a watchful eye on the car. Of course, Mitch and Ade had done a great job and neither the clutch nor anything else went wrong so all Pete had to worry about was his tan.
It was quite an eye-opening experience for our team to see the process of film-making, even when the car came back to us in the Cotswolds before being used in Cornwall. Pete explains, “When it came back we checked it all over and the car was really dirty only for them to say, “Don’t touch it, that’s been done by special effects”. It had mud all over it so I had to keep this car dirty which is the total opposite to what we usually do in the workshop.”
An adventure and career highlight for the team, the film is now on Netflix so watch the trailer below and look out for the gold, perfectly running, Bentley.