Crimson Peak Set Report: What is Going Down in Allerdale Hall?

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Generally, the first order of business when arriving on a movie set is either to get the basics from the unit publicist or to be taken to a production office, so that a producer can run through all the key story details. Not so for Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak

Prior to traveling to Toronto for the Crimson Peak set visit, we were given a rather vague two-sentence synopsis. It stayed that way. Upon arriving at the film’s Pinewood Toronto Studios set, there was no narrative walkthrough, no character breakdowns; no concrete plot details whatsoever. We jumped right into interviews and set tours, and it was up to us to put the mysterious details of Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), Lucille Sharpe (Jessica Chastain), Alan McMichael (Charlie Hunnam) and Edith Cushing’s (Mia Wasikowska) curiously disturbing situation together.

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• Mia Wasikowska is Edith Cushing

Wasikowska wasn’t able to sit down for an interview, but we did get to watch her film a brief scene and heard a bit about her character from her co-cast. 

Edith is a prodigious and slightly willful young woman living in Buffalo, New York. Not only is she butting heads with her father, but as Hiddleston explained, “[She] writes her own novels and won’t be told what the content of those novels should be by prospective publishers.” They think they can tell her what to do, but Edith opts to do what she wants instead, and that’s part of the reason Hiddleston’s character is so drawn to her.

But before Thomas Sharpe even enters the picture, there’s Dr. Alan McMichael. Edith and Alan have been friends all their lives, but his feelings for her have evolved. Hunnam further explained, “He makes a gallant effort, one last stab at it to try to make his case, but by then she’s already got eyes for another guy.” And that other guy, Thomas Sharpe, whisks her off to his mansion in the north of England.

Based on what we saw in the teaser trailer, there are obviously some good times to be had in Allerdale Hall, but eventually things get quite grim. We observe one of those moments during filming. Wasikowska’s character comes barreling out of Allerdale into the snow. The wind picks up and the frost blows all around her, but still she trudges forward, suffering from a terrible cough. Ultimately, she’s got no choice but to turn around and go back inside the mansion.

• Tom Hiddleston is Thomas Sharpe

It can’t be fun locking in a guy like Benedict Cumberbatch only to lose him. When you manage to score someone like Hiddleston as a replacement almost immediately after, it doesn’t seem like much of a loss. Hiddleston recalled, “My agents called and said, ‘Guillermo del Toro is gonna call you in the next hour,’ and he called me, and he told me the story and he said, ‘Don’t say yes or no. I’m gonna rewrite the script this weekend, or tonight or tomorrow, and I’m gonna send you a new draft.’” A day later, Hiddleston got his script. “I got sort of my own draft. He had rewritten the part for me in a way.” Hiddleston didn’t know what del Toro changed precisely, but he did point out, “The character is quite emotionally complex. He has shades of light and dark in him and perhaps that’s something I’ve done before.”

Crimson4Thomas is Lucille’s younger brother. The two were orphaned at a young age and have lived together in Allerdale Hall ever since. Hiddleston further explained, “It’s the late 19th century so it’s obviously a time when a woman’s power is expressed through the capacity of the men closest to her.” He continued, “Her proximity to her brother is one of codependency in that she’s invested in his success in the world and he feels very protective of her as well, but not just because of their isolation, because they’re orphans.”

The Sharpes are destitute. They inherited Allerdale and, as Hiddleston described, it’s “a classic case of old money. They’ve inherited this huge pile of crumbling bricks, which they don’t have the resources to refurbish. It’s essentially sinking into the clay, which is underneath the house, and his dream is to make use of the riches in the soil and earn the revenue to redo the house.”

Thomas is a gifted craftsman and engineer, and his great ambition is to revolutionize clay mining in the north of England in the last decade of the 19th century. Hiddleston added, “If Thomas Sharpe’s dream works, if he gets the investment and the financial capital to put into his scheme, you know, he could be one of the great engineers of the Victorian age.” And, of course, Lucille’s invested in his endeavor herself because if his plan works, it would change her life as well.

At the beginning of the film, the pair heads to the New World, specifically to Buffalo, New York, looking for investors to fund Thomas’ clay mining machine. However, while there, he winds up falling for Edith. “[They] fall head over heels in love, which is really against the wishes of many, many people in the room who have other plans for their family members.”

Thomas himself is even a bit conflicted because he feels so responsible for Lucille. “He feels he needs to look after her, to protect her. She’s a very delicate, vulnerable woman and given their family history, will need a great deal of care and attention.” He added, “On one level he’s pulled home by Lucille. He’s reminded of home, he’s reminded of the pain of the past and the experience of the past, but Edith is this light that’s pulling him away from her that represents new experiences and travel. She’s the future. She’s the light in his life I think.”

“He’s certainly the most morally ambiguous or complex figure in the story because I think he’s genuinely caught in between people and in between conflicting emotions, and is trying to find the best route through a very, very difficult tangle of what people need from him and want from him.” Hiddleston continued, “[It’s] about discovering his backbone and who he is as opposed to who other people define him to be, because in many respects he’s been kept in the dark about the truth. So of course when you realize that you’ve been lied to about certain things, that changes your perspective on what you then do.” 

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Weekend: Jun. 27, 2019, Jun. 30, 2019

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