Saltburn is ‘absolutely’ a queer film, confirms director Emerald Fennell

Jacob Elordi as Felix in the teaser trailer for Emerald Fennell's 'Saltburn'

Emerald Fennell, director of upcoming psychosexual thriller Saltburn has confirmed that the film is “absolutely” queer in nature.

Saltburn stars Euphoria‘s Jacob Elordi as Felix Catton and The Banshees of Inisherin‘s Barry Keoghan as Oliver Quick, two students at Oxford University.

Oliver joins the university without friends, and is quickly drawn to Felix’s enigmatic presence and regal upbringing as one of the children of the aristocratic Catton family.

As the pair become close, Oliver lets Felix in on his own troubled family history. When Oliver declares he doesn’t want to go home to Prescot, Felix invites him to spend the summer on his family’s opulent estate in Saltburn.

As Oliver joins the family for extravagant feasts and chaotic birthday parties, his fixation with Felix, his mother Elsbeth (Rosamund Pike) and sister Venetia (Alison Oliver) grows into something chilling.

Ever since the film and its cast were announced, movie fans on social media have dubbed Saltburn a “queer” thriller, despite no official confirmation of any sexual or emotional connection between Oliver and Felix.

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However, speaking exclusively to PinkNews on the red carpet of the Saltburn premiere at the BFI London Film Festival last night (4 October), director Emerald Fennell confirmed that queerness is at the film’s centre.

“I think absolutely,” Fennell replied when asked whether she agrees Saltburn is a “queer thriller” film.


“Everyone wants everyone” 👀 Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman, The Crown) spilled the tea on Saltburn’s anticipated queer relationships at the #LFF opening night premiere. The thriller stars #Euphoria star #JacobElordi opposite #BarryKeoghan and RosamundPike, and will be released on November 17. #lgbtq #bfi #msm #queer #movietok

♬ original sound – PinkNews 🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍⚧️

“This is a film entirely about desire, and that desire takes every conceivable manifestation, and it’s so important. Yeah, of course, [queerness is] part of the very fabric of the film.”

Fennell, who won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for her 2020 revenge thriller Promising Young Woman, also addressed the film’s approach to masculinity and sexuality, stressing that the Saltburn universe is one where “everyone wants everyone”.

“I think there are some characters in this that are almost so hyper-hetero that they feel comfortable toeing the line, and then there are characters who are absolutely fluid in every conceivable way,” she said.

Emerald Fennell, director of Saltburn, on the red carpet for the film's premiere at London Film Festival.
Saltburn director Emerald Fennell confirms Saltburn is a queer thriller. (Getty)

“I think it’s so interesting. When you write characters, to me, they come out fully formed,” she said. “This is a world where everyone wants everyone.”

In the film’s opening scene, Keoghan’s Oliver declares that he loved, but was not in love with, Elordi’s Felix.

Fennell explained that she wanted the line to open the film as “it was first thing when [she] thought of Saltburn“.

“The thing is, if you see your protagonist telling you… ‘I wasn’t in love with him’, and then we see a thousand shots of the most beautiful man you’ve ever seen… you know you’re in for a ride,” she said.

“You also know that the person you’re dealing with is a liar.”

Saltburn is out in select cinemas on 17 November. It will be released in wider cinemas on 24 November. 

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