Behind the Camera No 5
Hopkins takes on a Hitchcock Tribute
A look behind the scenes at a chapter in the life of Alfred Hitchcock and the making of Psycho from its conception to its cinematic release.
Hitchcock Official Trailer #1 (2012) – Anthony Hopkins Movie HD, Movieclips Trailers, ww.youtube.com
It seemed only right to cast multi-Oscar Winning British Sir Anthony Hopkins and the equally talented Dame Helen Mirren as Sir Alfred Hitchcock and his wife Dame Alma Reville. The Hitchcock (2012) biopic film on the famed director and his screen writer and editor wife. Alfred Hitchcock – as he says here who preferred to be known as Hitch rather than Cock (with Hopkins sporting wee wry grin) – of course is the famed director of films such as Marnie (1964), North by Northwest (1959) and Vertigo (1958). I first heard of Alfred Hitchcock through reading about his famous cameos in a passage for a mock English Interpretation exam at school – a bit like the books mentioned in my Clive James review – and was intrigued enough to watch one of his movies after this. Just for that Hitchcock personal cameo, asking my dad to point him out. I’ve only seen Psycho (1960) once, the movie this biopic tells us about in detail, and was keen to learn more about The Master of Suspense and that main support of his life, his wife Alma.
The film starts with a wee tribute to his Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955-62) TV Series, with a filmed story line where a brother kills a brother. The film then pans onto Hopkins as the English Hitchcock as he drinks his tea from a cup and saucer as he talks about the murder, in a macabre and juicy fashion. We then move on to 1959, with all eyes on Hitchcock at the premiere of North by North West with little attention on Alma. All the press questions and camera are fixed on him, and we note (as does wife Alma) he has a wee eye for the blondes in the crowd. At home, he talks about his reviews, as she dresses to meet Whitfield Cook, a friend who is keen to show her a screenplay. Hitchcock doesn’t seem to notice her supportive comments, and at 60 is more concerned with the Press saying he should quit for this reason.
Looking for a new project, he discovers the book Psycho and finds the potential in this for a new movie. He orders all the copies of the Robert Bloch book – based on some real life murders – to be bought up so people can find out the ending on-screen. Hitchcock pictures the book in his head and ponders over the casting, with Alma giving advice he decides on – her choice – Anthony Perkins. He also agrees on her suggestion to kill off Leigh’s character earlier rather than later in the film. We meet Perkins (James D’Arcy), who is seen as a nervous man who admits to a strong relationship with his mother making him in Hitchcock’s eyes perfect casting.
After Paramount refuse to put up the money for the movie, Hitchcock mortgages the family home with the company agreeing they will distribute it to the theatres. He meets the censors led by Geoffrey Shurlock – Kurtwood Smith from Star Trek VI : The Undiscovered Country (1991) – who are concerned about the violence and nudity. Hitchcock gives answers to both concerns, saying they will stay within the code. With a nice wee appearance from The Karate Kid (1984) himself, Ralph Macchio as the screenwriter, Joseph Stefano. He considers the leading lady, discounting Deborah Kerr as too Scottish and some other then big names. Alma gives the perfect solution.. so in his leading lady, we meet Janet Leigh.
And after a close up of that arse again from Lost in Translation (2003), we meet her. She’s Janet Leigh who in her own words is not exactly boyish and played by the not exactly boyish Scarlett Johansson. This leads to a delightfully funny scene which I’ll return to later. Hitchcock’s preoccupation with his leading lady irks Alma, as we find out Hitchcock appears to have a bit of a thing for all his leading blonde ladies. So back on set the cast and crew, confirm their confidentiality verbally en masse on set with Hitchcock, confirming what happens on set will stay on set. Hitchcock determined to keep this under wraps. Meanwhile Alma is spending increasing time with Whit(field Cook) (Danny Huston), who wants her read then to help rewrite his screenplay at his beach house. And she’s obviously frustrated with being known primarily as Mrs Hitchcock.
Hitchcock phones home, Alma answers fresh from a conversation with Whit. Alma believing it’s Whit. This and her reaction and some wee clues on her comings and goings with him – Hitchcock noting some sand and her reddened neck as he asks her about this – concerns Hitchcock. Whit takes Alma to Santa Barbara, and she returns late at night and makes Hitchcock – who got a lift home from Leigh – even more suspicious on the secret nature of his wife’s relationship with the writer. After the pressure of his fears about his marriage, the intensity of the filming and the stress on seeing the movie from the censors and distributors, Hitchcock collapses physically and literally under the strain… and to find out what happens in the reminder of the film, you know what to do.
This is a wonderful biopic and it’s not just on Hitchcock but also of his wife Reville and their relationship. It’s also a “Making of the Movie” chapter of his life giving it a more interesting angle, depth and a more rounded background story. As we look at how the film Psycho was developed and then released into worldwide acclaim. It was also interesting how Hitchcock was advised in his interpretation of the film, by the murderer the book was based on. The murderer appearing as a symbol for Hitchcock’s dark, macabre and vivid imagination and this murderer hauntingly appearing throughout the movie.
We see the making of particular scenes, including the iconic shower scene and less important scenes. But both are equally transfixing and enjoyable. These behind the camera scenes are always a lovely touch giving a time, date and context to the film, reminding me of the Ed Wood (1994) movie. And made me wonder if years from if we’ll see an actor playing Andy Serkis in front of a green screen playing Gollum. Or a Vin Diesel actor simply pottering about saying “I am Groot” trying for the right effect in a making of the Guardians of the Galaxy movie. But I’m off on a tangent (again)…
Hopkins transformation into Hitchcock is fantastic with Hopkins copying his voice meticulously without a hint of his Welsh roots. Physically he is also transformed into the director, with the director’s almost trade mark silhouette also making an appearance in the film. Hopkins is hardly recognisable, as this an effective and wonderful transformation. I’ve added an original trailer of Psycho just so you can see and hear this in comparison to Hopkins’ portrayal. Hopkins also has some fun comic moments as in his looking for a project he turns down screenplays for Casino Royale and the Diary of Anne Frank. With the latter only of interest to him if he can add a body in the attic story line. It is hard to see anyone else in this role despite the possible casting choices of Paul Giamatti – a fair replacement – or Johnny Depp (WTF?).
The supporting ladies are also a joy. Helen Mirren is wonderful. In that scene meeting Johansson’s Leigh, exactly mirrors how we’d feel ladies should our husband meet Johansson. That’s if he was a director with a penchant for blondes (or otherwise). Reville’s lines are delivered here, as any woman would feel in this situation where her husband obviously has an interest in another. As are Hitchcock’s flirty comments, with Leigh giving more innocent less flirty remarks in return. Mirren is also wonderful in a scene much later as she tells Hitchcock exactly how much and in what ways she supports him. You can feel her frustration, which must strike a chord with showbiz couples, despite the fact this movie has been reported to have a fictionalised view of their marriage. And this leads to more joint scenes with the married couple as the finish the movie together, as a team. However the content of this scene, unfortunately appears to be lost on those who titled this film. As The Hitchcocks would have been a far better title.
Interestingly Helen Mirren reportedly turned down a personal request by Hitchcock to appear in one of his movies, and Hopkins was introduced to Hitchcock in a restaurant. Which if added to the ending of this movie would have been a fun – though admittedly crazy way – of ending the movie. But it was nice to have a wee flying visit from a star from his next movie… and I’m going leave it there as the Mistress of Suspense…
Psycho (1960) Theatrical Trailer – Alfred Hitchcock Movie, Movieclips Trailer Vault, http://www.youtube.com
The Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon
I am submitting this review on Hitchcock (2012) for Maddie Likes Her Classic Movies Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon. Other movies with this cast include Kurtwood Smith in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991), Helen Mirren appears in The Fate of the Furious (2017) and Anthony Hopkins appears in Thor, Bram Stoker’s Dracula and International Velvet. Scarlett Johansson appears in Captain America’s Civil War and Lost in Translation.