Hitchcock 'Was a Monster': Tippi Hedren and New HBO Film Reveal Hitch's Dark Side

Hitchcock Hedren Abuse

HBO's upcoming original movie The Girl, previewed last week for the Television Critics Association, tells the story of Alfred Hitchcock (Toby Jones) and Tippi Hedren (Sienna Miller) making the films The Birds and Marnie. If you thought this would be a fun story about stepping in bird doodie and making it big in Hollywood, you’re in for a big shock, as Hedren spoke at length about the alleged sexual harassment and abuse she suffered at the hands of the "unusual, genius, and evil" director.

As seen in the trailer for the film, The Girl alleges that not only was Hitchcock a difficult director for whom to work, he was an abusive personality. One scene from The Girl depicts Hitchcock sexually assaulting Hedren in the back of a car. Hedren has given many interviews on her Hitchcock films over the past 50 years; The Girl will expose Hedren's little-known story to HBO audiences this fall.

“People have said, ‘Was he in love with you?’" Hedren said. “No, he wasn't. When you love someone, you treat them well. I think we're dealing with a mind here that is incomprehensible, and I certainly am not capable of discerning what was going through his mind or why. I certainly gave no indication that I would ever be interested in any kind of a relationship with him.”

Hitchcock Hedren Abuse

Jones, who wore a prosthetic chin and age makeup to look more like Hitchcock, agreed that the Hitchcock he portrayed was a monster. “Yes, he had a huge disproportionate amount of power over the people who worked for him and with him,” Jones said. “Yes, he was a monster but he was very human in his foibles. There’s a certain pathos to him that is very human. His weaknesses were very human.”

He perhaps offered more of an objective analysis of Hitchcock than Hedren was willing to speculate. “You’re not writing a biography of Hitchcock’s whole personality, but I think that it’s my job as an actor to sympathize with the character and to try and find that,” Jones continued. “I think he’s in control of everything at that point in his life - moviemaking, every aspect of moviemaking. He’s at the height of his fame after Psycho and then there’s something he can’t control, which is this woman who’s exercising some control over him. I’m not sure that he has the internal resources to cope with that and I think that’s something everyone can relate to, the idea of an emotion that begins to have control over you. Because control over such an important issue, you only need to look at his clothes, his uniform, the way he ordered his life, the way it became very systematic the way he operated, to know that control is crucial to him.”

The film seems to play like an abusive marriage. It begins with Hitchcock discovering Hedren, depicted as almost a seduction of an innocent. Once filming begins he puts threatening pressure on her. For a scene in which birds attack Hedren, Hitchcock could have shot minimal takes. As The Girl shows, the scene went on for days, the underlying assumption being that he could make it stop if Hedren would acquiesce to his advances.

Of course, these are all the negative elements of Hitchcock and Hedren's relationship concentrated into a single film, and in this case a two minute trailer at that. “There were times when it was absolutely delightful and wonderful, the times that we spent while he was my drama coach,” Hedren explained. “I hadn't had any acting experience except in commercials. You get a good technical background for that sort of thing. But to break down a script, to delve into how you become another character, the relationship of different characters in the film was something that I didn't know how to do, and of course, it was perfect to have someone as brilliant a genius as Alfred Hitchcock being my drama coach."

"Hitchcock had a charm about him," she continued. "He was very funny at times. He was incredibly brilliant in his field of suspense. I learned so much from that man about motion pictures; how you make a motion picture, so there are things that weren't able to be in the film to say, ‘Why would she stick around for all of this?’ It wasn't a constant barrage of harassment to me. So that is the fault of any film. It can't possibly have everything in it. But if it had been constantly the way we have had to do it in this film, I would have been long gone.”

Miller joined the TCA presentation by phone from London, and shared her experience recreating Hedren’s harrowing scenes in The Birds. “It was difficult during certain scenes, but not merely as difficult as it was for Tippi,” Miller said. “The bird attack scenes took five long days for her and it was about five hours for me. So while I definitely suffered a little bit, it was nowhere near the real thing.”

Hitchcock HBO Sienna Miller

By the time they went on to make Marnie, Hedren was fulfilling a contract and trying to survive. Marnie was never one of Hitchcock’s most popular or acclaimed films, but having shed light on his obsession with the star, The Girl reveals a lot more. Hedren is cast as the title character, a compulsive thief whose new husband forced her to marry him and tries to cure her.

“After having seen this film, it’s pretty fascinating to look at that because it’s pathologically interesting,” Jones said. “I find it to be one of the most interesting among the movies but I don’t think it’s one of the great movies.”

Perhaps the film is Hitchcock’s fantasy for how he would possess Hedren herself. Looking back, Hedren sees something pathetic in his abuse. “I think he was an extremely sad character,” Hedren said. “As I said in the beginning, we are dealing with a brain here that is unusual, genius, and evil, deviant almost to the point of dangerous because of the effect that he can have on people that are totally unsuspecting.”

Hedren’s might not be the only story of Hitchcock’s abuse. She knew of other leading ladies who didn’t get along with him, but back in the ‘50s and ‘60s, actors didn’t talk publicly about their issues with directors.

“As far as I know, Vera Miles had a terrible time with Hitchcock, and she wanted to get out of the contract,” Hedren said. “He didn't let her. She did Psycho, and I believe, if you look at Psycho, there isn't one close up of Vera, not one. After that, she would never even speak about him to anyone. So I think it is common knowledge that Hitchcock had fantasies or whatever you want to call them about his leading ladies. Peggy Robertson, his assistant for so many years, and I remained friends until she died. She at one point said to me that he would have these kind of feelings for his leading ladies, and she said, ‘But he never got over you.’ I don't know if that's a compliment or whatever it's supposed to be, I don't know, but I really don't care either.”

Today it seems shocking that any director could get away with sexual harassment, and have an untarnished reputation for some 50 years after the incident. The studio system of that era was much more secretive.

“I had not talked about this issue with Alfred Hitchcock to anyone because all those years ago, it was still the studio kind of situation,” Hedren said. “Studios were the power and I was at the end of that, and there was absolutely nothing I could do legally whatsoever. There were no laws about this kind of a situation. If this had happened today, I would be a very rich woman.”

Even though there are sexual harassment laws and a wide open public forum for any actor to share her stories in the media, Hedren hopes sharing her story now will protect the next generation of young actors.

“I hope that young women who do see this film know that they do not have to acquiesce to anything that they do not feel is morally right or that they are dissatisfied with or simply wanting to get out of that situation,” Hedren said. “You can have a strength, and you deserve it. I can look at myself in the mirror, and I can be proud. I feel strong. He ruined my career, but he didn't ruin my life.”

The Girl airs in October on HBO.

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Comments

  • topsyturvy says:

    Hedren for the first time spoke at length about the alleged sexual harassment and abuse she suffered at the hands of the "unusual, genius, and evil" director.

    She actually spoke about it to Donald Spoto for his book "The Dark Side of Genius," which was published in 1983

  • Baco Noir says:

    Dollars to donuts, I bet Hollywood hasn't changed much. Wannabe stars of either gender are still probably being coerced and paid off to keep quiet, or keep quiet on their own accord because they don't want to be blackballed. Unfortunately, Hitchcock's behaviour wasn't (and isn't) unique.

  • Alfred Hitchcock sent a doll that looked like Tippi Hendren to Tippi Hendren's daughter Melanie Griffith

  • J Cacace says:

    YAWN. Meanwhile Ms. Hedren has appeared in countless Documentaries kissing Hitch's ass. NO ONE would know who she was if not for the two films she did with him.

    • V R says:

      J Cacace- YAWN, and your point is...? Everybody knows Hedren was made famous by her work with Hitchcock. A lot of people do NOT know of the harassment Hedren endured at the hands of Hitchcock. As for "kissing Hitch's ass", that she appreciates him as a great director, and despises him for his unwanted advances paints her as hypocritical in your mind how, exactly? Next time, do everyone a favor and think...even for a second...before hitting that post button.

      • J Cacace says:

        @ "VR" Firstly, "The Girl" sucked on just about every level. That being said just who the hell are you to tell anyone what they should or should not post? If you have a problem with what I posted perhaps you will also take the words of Hitch's other collaborators, including Kim Novak and Eva Marie Saint who all but condemn Hedren for her account.

        • V R says:

          @ "J Cacace": Firstly, you never responded to my question: "As for 'kissing Hitch's ass', that she appreciates him as a great director, and despises him for his unwanted advances paints her as hypocritical in your mind how, exactly?" Secondly, if you read my OP, I never told you not to post; I merely chose to provide you with some unsolicited advice. And finally, do you have any evidence of Novak and Saint "all but [condemning]" Hedren for her account? Please post up, if so. Oh, and also please post up if not.

  • Damian says:

    Feeble minds trying to understand a highly complex mind. Hitchcock was completely warped, strange, complicated, and incredibly talented. I fully believe he was possessed by Tippi. She probably aroused his intellect, not you know what. So, he wanted to possess what was Tippi, in a way that was completely warped but non-sexual. But, Americans cannot understand that, to slightly help, look at co-dependance. Tippi enjoys press and what a way to make her famous again, to twist a warped fascination into something sexual, something people will eat up, and forever condemn Hitchcock for. You watch, after this airs enough, Clooney will do the remake of "the birds", and that will be Tipi's demise... Shell be forever forgotten in the end because there are still a lot of people alive from his sets and they are all calling her a lier. This will backfire on her. Just wait and see, I cannot believe HBO would be so irresponsible and compliant in this. In the end, truth will prevail, it always does for true legends like Hitchcock. He was one of the great ones.

    • J Cacace says:

      "Americans cannot understand that ?" Obviously, if you read my original post, I did understand and I am an American who has done a great deal of research on Hitch. And just what superior Country do you hail from ? BTW: "The Girl" was a British production with a British Director and Screenwriter.

      • V R says:

        @ "J Cacace"- you say "Do you'r own research, like I did. The information is easy to find at this point."

        So, let me get this straight:
        1. You state Novak and Saint "all but condemn" Hedren for her account
        2. You have "done a great deal of research on Hitch"
        3. You state "the information is easy to find at this point"

        And yet, when questioned about your statement, your response is "do your own research". With all of your research and easy access to this information, you cannot be bothered to post a *single* piece of evidence to support your statement?

        How very curious...

        I have searched extensively for anything supporting your assertion, and I have come up with nothing, which is why I am asking. If this information is so "easy to find", then surely you can manage to post a *single* piece of evidence to support your assertion.

        For those reading and wondering about the validity of your statement, please, enlighten us. That is, if you truly have any supporting evidence to post.

        • J Cacace says:

          I don't have as much free time on my hands as you (obviously) do. I will tell you this: At one time I was a Producer for several Hitchcock titles for "The Criterion Collection" and did many interviews and a great deal of research.
          Start here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/9586303/Kim-Novak-tells-all.html

          I am now un-following this post because your arrogant know-nothingness is becoming laughable.

          • V R says:

            @ "J Cacace": For a self-described expert on Hitchcock, you seem to resort to ad-hominem attacks all too frequently when you fail to develop rational arguments.

            1. Ad-hominem #1: "I don't have as much free time on my hands as you (obviously) do."

            Judging by your posts, you've had as much free time as I have up to this point.

            2. Ad-hominem #2: "I am now un-following this post because your arrogant know-nothingness is becoming laughable."

            How very mature- the intellectual equivalent of a 5 year old flinging insults, and then stubbornly covering his ears with both hands and yelling "I can't hear you!" I will assume you are, in fact, reading this.

            3. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/9586303/Kim-Novak-tells-all.html

            The closest to "condemnation" I can find in that article is this statement from Novak: “I did not find him to be weird at all. I never saw him make a pass at anybody or act strange to anybody. And wouldn’t you think if he was that way, I would’ve seen it or at least seen him with somebody? I think it’s unfortunate when someone’s no longer around and can’t defend themselves.”

            And surely, in all your research, you've come across this statement, also from Novak:
            "Maybe I just wasn't his type."

            http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19961017/PEOPLE/10010340

            And what of E.M. Saint? I suppose you simply cannot "find the time" for that one?

            J Cacace- if you are, in fact, who you claim you are, then your contribution (or lack thereof) to this discussion and childish, ad-hominem attacks are quite a sad reflection on your Hitchcock research.

    • V R says:

      @ Damian: ...and your "feeble mind" joins the masses, apparently. Tippi is now 82 and runs an animal sanctuary- her Hollywood options would be *extremely* limited even if she were to somehow miraculously gain popularity from this, so your implication that she's doing this to become "famous" again makes no sense. Moreover, Tippi's accusations regarding Hitch are very much sexual in nature, which makes me wonder how it is you presume to know just how asexual Hitch's feelings toward her really were...? You state "there are still a lot of people alive from his sets and they are all calling her a lier"- would you mind posting some links to backup your statement? Finally, your last shred of credibility is destroyed with this statement "You watch, after this airs enough, Clooney will do the remake of "the birds", and that will be Tipi's demise"-- a remake of a Hitchcock film having any significance? Please.

  • Maoist Sympathizer says:

    You guys pay way too much attention to this, which means absolutely nothing. "He beat me, he trying to f*ck me". Who the hell cares? If it was that bad why didn't you get the hell out of there. But then she says "its not like it was all bad..." and that "he was a genius".... Get the hell out of here. She liked him, and she enjoyed having those advances put towards her (if there even really ever were).

    Why don't you guys quit your 'research' and focus on something that actual matters, like politics. And it is funny how today 'research' is an equivalent of going on to Google. It seems today everything has become nothing more than an online dick measuring contest about who has done or knows what.

    • V R says:

      Maoist Sympathizer- sorry, try again.

      1. You say ""He beat me, he trying to f*ck me". Who the hell cares? If it was that bad why didn't you get the hell out of there. But then she says "its not like it was all bad..." and that "he was a genius".... Get the hell out of here."

      Uhh...because that's kind of how sexual harassment in the industry worked back in the day (and still works today, to a lesser extent). Powerful, established director harasses young, pretty, newcomer actress who's trying to "make it". It's just talked about more now, and laws are in place to empower those victims willing to speak up. And, as I said to Cacace, that she appreciates him as a great director, and despises him for his unwanted advances paints her as hypocritical in your mind how, exactly?

      2. You say "She liked him, and she enjoyed having those advances put towards her (if there even really ever were)."

      And you base this assumption on....? You must be the same guy that blames rape on the clothing worn by the rape victim. Classy.

      3. You say "Why don't you guys quit your 'research' and focus on something that actual matters, like politics."

      Common logical fallacy of mutual exclusion. Is it possible to discuss "The Girl" and also discuss politics elsewhere? Yes. Question: do you stop by the comment section of *every* article not related to politics to urge the commenters to "focus on something that actually matters", or just those articles which *you* deem to be "less important"? I hope this question exposes the idiocy of your suggestion.

      4. You say "And it is funny how today 'research' is an equivalent of going on to Google."

      And it is funny how many people immediately discount, without condition, any research done through the internet. Newsflash: we are in the digital age- information that used to be in hardcopy is now online. Information is not immediately garbage because it is available via the internet. Perhaps you are of the generation that has an irrational bias against any information found online, and I'm afraid that's your problem to resolve, not mine. What you need to remember is that "research" is only as good as the sources used, digital or no. Which is why referring to Wikipedia isn't necessarily "bad" until one has vetted, or at least looked at, the sources referenced in any particular article.

      Now stop wasting your time, and go discuss politics! ;)

    • Talis says:

      I hate when people believe that because someone is a "genius" and didn't sexually harass every single woman they worked, they're innocent. How the hell does anyone know what someone does behind closed doors or when no one is looking?!
      I was sexually harassed on the job several times in my past and it sucks! Some men, not all, act like a woman has to just quit and find another job. It's not always that easy. There's rent/mortgage to pay, children to feed and bills to pay. I remember reporting it once and all the people in the office gave me the cold shoulder!
      Tippi was a single mother and was under contract to a very powerful, well known man. Who would have believed her or stood by her side and backed her up? I'm glad Tippi told the story. We have to stop glorifying "genius". You can be a genius and be totally f***** up!

  • Preservationist says:

    It occurs to me there are vastly more important things to get one's panties all in a knot over, eh what?
    Hitch t'aint 'round to defend himself now is he? No, he isn't. Whatever the case, he made one helluva film. Fuck this petty shit about how horny he was for his leading ladies.

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