Ottessa Moshfegh’s Eileen is already emerging as one of the buzziest titles out of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, where it premiered Saturday. The literary adaptation of Moshfegh’s 2015 novel is directed by William Oldroyd, best known for 2016’s Lady Macbeth.
Eileen stars Thomasin McKenzie in the title role as a troubled young woman working in a prison, and Anne Hathaway as her new obsession, a mysterious stranger named Rebecca. Early reviews are already raving about both actors’ performances and Moshfegh’s script, prompting demand for more film adaptations of her twisted novels, like the bestseller My Year of Rest and Relaxation.
Asked whether making Eileen left her wanting to adapt more of her books, Moshfegh replied, “I feel so spoiled by this experience. [Co-writer] Luke [Goebel] and I, as partners, have talked about — just, this felt like a fated experience. And all the blood, sweat and tears have evaporated now into this shimmering glow and we’re like, ‘We’ll do it a million times more,’ [because] it’s that good.”
“It was a real privilege to have the book as an incredible resource to be able to pull from,” adds McKenzie. “I felt like I got so many of the answers from the book. I didn’t feel like I needed to be drilling Ottessa for clues into Eileen’s character. I felt quietly supported. There was freedom to take the role and bring it to life with our own unique spin on it.”
“The thing that I loved about all of our characters is we all shared them,” Hathaway says. “I felt very empowered by how much care had gone into the novel. I just turned to Ottessa and said, ‘Can you believe we’re all here because of something your brain made? Look at this! This is incredible!’”
Hathaway added, speaking to the authenticity of Ottessa’s writing, “There were certain little ins, descriptors [in the book]. One line that really stood out to me was, ‘If she seemed insincere, she was.’ There were all of these things, where if it didn’t lend me authority, it gave Rebecca authority to exist.”
Rumors of a film version of My Year of Rest and Relaxation have been swirling since Moshfegh admitted to working on a screenplay in an i-D interview over the summer. Margot Robbie’s production company LuckyChap has acquired rights to the material, and rumors of Yorgos Lanthimos being attached to direct have remained speculative.