Her name is on everyone’s lips, but who is she? Here’s why you need to know TV and film’s latest gem
By Laura Rutkowski, Staff Writer
The brains behind the much talked-about Promising Young Woman is one very talented, multi-hyphenate woman – Emerald Fennell. She directed, produced and wrote the film (and even stars in it briefly), which is gaining her recognition among viewers and critics alike.
It features Carey Mulligan (The Great Gatsby) as Cassandra “Cassie” Thomas, a 30-year-old medical school dropout living with her parents in Ohio. Years ago, her best friend Nina was raped by one of their classmates, Al Monroe. After justice wasn’t done, Nina committed suicide, and now Cassie is on the ultimate revenge mission.
She pretends to be drunk in clubs so that when “nice guys” take her home and try to take advantage, she reveals that she’s been sober the whole time. As well as accusing them, she starts to target the people she feels were responsible for Nina’s rape.
Margot Robbie, whose production company made Promising Young Woman, said: “I feel like Emerald has an incredibly clever approach in luring us, then pulling the rug out from beneath us and smacking us in the face.”
Fun fact: Emerald Fennell directed a short film with the same name of this book –Careful How You Go
The dark flick’s title is a nod to the phrase “promising young man”, which comes up far too often in defence of men at university who have been accused of rape.
According to The Ringer, male actors who are known for playing “good” characters were chosen for Promising Young Woman to drive home the idea that appearances don’t matter, that anyone can be a predator. Think The OC’s Adam Brody, New Girl’s Max Greenfield, Superbad’s Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Veronica Mars’ Chris Lowell, who plays Al.
Before you watch Fennell’s powerful and important film, here’s everything you need to know about this star on the rise.
You’ll recognise her from several TV shows (in front of and behind the camera)
Fennell played Vanessa in Vita & Victoria and nurse Patience “Patsy” Mount in Call The Midwife from series 3 through 6. She told the Radio Times that she “learnt so much” in the latter role and that it is “still one of the most incredible experiences” of her life. “I learnt so much about how sets work, and about almost every facet of film-making, just from getting to be there every day,” she added.
Of her role as Camilla Shand in The Crown, Fennell said her teenage years prepared her for “playing a chain-smoking serial snogger with a pudding-bowl haircut”
She’s also appeared in the films The Danish Girl and Anna Karenina, but her latest role was as Camilla Shand (later Parker-Bowles) in series 3 and 4 of The Crown. As fans will agree, she absolutely nailed her performance, especially during one very powerful lunch scene with Diana Spencer (Emma Corrin).
Fennell’s work also expands to writing. She took over as head writer from Fleabag’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge for the second series of Killing Eve, which gained her an Emmy nomination. She met Waller-Bridge when they were acting in the 2011 film Albert Nobbs, but although the pair were pals, Fennell still had a week-long trial in the writers’ room before becoming head writer. In addition, she worked as a writer on Drifters.
Promising Young Woman is her first feature-length film
In 2018, Fennell directed the three-part short film Careful How You Go, starring Waller-Bridge. Her first full-length film has been nominated for four Golden Globes, six BAFTAs and five Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actress (for Mulligan).
When she found out about Promising Young Woman’s Oscar nominations, she tweeted: “So proud and grateful to every amazing person who worked on this film. Never going to stop crying.”
She’s made history
For the first time ever, two women have been nominated for Best Director at this year’s Academy Awards – Fennell and Nomadland’s Chloé Zhao. Fennell is also the first British female to ever be nominated for the award. There’s only been one female winner of the Best Director Oscar and that was Kathryn Bigelow in 2010 for The Hurt Locker.
She has loads more in the pipeline
The dream team: Carey Mulligan (left) and Fennell (right)
Next up, Fennell has penned a comedy series called Spacebound, where an alien goes on an intergalactic coffee run and finds herself stranded on “the worst planet in the universe”: Earth. She meets some of the planet’s inhabitants and realises she might actually be the normal one. Fennell collaborates with Mulligan and Greenfield again for this one, as well as Richard E Grant, Rainn Wilson, Sam Richardson and Lolly Adefope.
She’s been tapped to write the screenplay for female superhero film Zatanna, about a magician who’s considered one of the most powerful sorcerers in the DC Universe.
On top of all this, Fennell worked with Andrew Lloyd Webber on the script for the musical adaptation of Cinderella, which is yet to debut because of the pandemic, AND she writes the Shiverton Hall children’s book series.
When is Promising Young Woman on Sky Cinema?
It’s available from Friday 16 April in Sky Cinema on demand. Cert 15.
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