Saltburn director reveals why she chose that name for the film

Director Emerald Fennell has revealed how her hit erotic thriller, Saltburn, got its name.

Making headlines for its provocative scenes since its release in November, the film has become a queer cult hit, in part for scenes which include Barry Keoghan’s character “guzzling” semen-filled bathwater, humping a grave and dancing nude to disco track “Murder on the Dancefloor.”

Now, Fennell has revealed the inspiration behind the title: she thought it sounded like a “sex injury.”

Fennell, who also directed Promising Young Woman and appeared in Barbie, as well as playing Camila Parker Bowles (now the queen) in The Crown, revealed that she was initially enticed by the real seaside town in North Yorkshire.

“Somebody asked why it was called Saltburn, and I said: ‘Well, because it’s a real town in England,’” Fennell told Access Hollywood.

“And when I heard the name Saltburn, it sounded like a sex injury, but a really nice one. You know, like a sting, a pleasurable sting. And that’s kind of what the film is really.”

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Barry Keoghan as Oliver in Saltburn
Barry Keoghan starred as Oliver in Saltburn. (Prime Video)

The film has won praise for its LGBTQ+ themes, and, while there’s been discourse over whether Oliver was actually in love with fellow student Felix, or just pursued him for his money, Fennell confirmed that, in her view, it is “absolutely [a] queer thriller”.

Speaking to PinkNews on the red carpet at the premiere at the BFI London Film Festival in October, she said: “This is a film entirely about desire, and that desire takes every conceivable manifestation, and it’s so important. [Queerness is] part of the very fabric of the film.

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

“When you write characters, to me, they come out fully formed. This is a world where everyone wants everyone.”

Elsewhere, Fennell explained that her thought process behind including so much nudity and “fluid” in the film was actually motivated by the pandemic. Although the thriller is set in 2006, it was written shortly after the lockdowns, when restrictions had left so many people isolated and unable to see or touch their loved ones.

“There is a direct line between the fluids that exist in this film and the fact we were not allowed to even breathe the same air for nearly two years,” she told Sky News.