Anthony Hopkins & Helen Mirren Interview For ‘Hitchcock’
Lurking behind Alfred Hitchcock, cinema’s “master of suspense” – the extraordinary film icon known for orchestrating some of the most intense experiences of menace and intrigue audiences have ever seen, was a hidden side: his creatively explosive romance with his steadfast wife and filmmaking collaborator, Alma Reville. Sacha Gervasi’s ‘Hitchcock’ lays bare their captivating and complex love story. It does so through the sly, shadowy lens of their most daring filmmaking adventure: the making of the 1960 thriller, ‘Psycho,’ which would become the director’s most controversial and legendary film. When the tumultuous, against-the-odds production was over, nothing about movies would ever be the same – but few realised that it took two to pull it off.
Based on the book ‘Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho’ by Stephen Rebello, ‘Hitchock’ stars Anthony Hopkins as Alfred Hitchock, Helen Mirren as Alma Reville, Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh, James D’Arcy as Anthony Perkins, Jessica Biel as Vera Miles, Michael Stuhlbarg as Lew Wasserman, Toni Collette as Hitchcock’s secretary Peggy, Michael Wincott as Ed Gein, Kurtwood Smith as Geoffrey Shurlock, Richard Portnow as Barney Balaban, and Danny Huston as Whitfield Cook. ‘Hitchock’ is out in cinemas on November 23rd in the US and Febuary 8th, 2013 in the UK. My other interviews for the film can be found through the following links: Scarlett Johansson, Jessica Biel, Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren.
After playing Alfred Hitchcock in this film and all the research that entailed, did the making of this film make you an even bigger fan of him? Speaking to you previously you said how much of a fan you were growing up.
Anthony Hopkins: Well, quite markedly so, very so much indeed. Since I’ve played him I now know more about him, and I’d like to play him again (laughs). Having done the research and having read so much about him and knowing the background of his life, I found it very satisfying and interesting to play him. Watching his films again since I’ve finished making this one, my favourite films are ‘Vertigo,’ ‘Psycho’ and ‘Rear Window.’ Those are my three favourites. I’d always loved those films.
How about you Helen, after learning more about this man and in particular his marriage and partnership with Alma?
Helen Mirren: Yes. It made me like Hitchcock a lot more. I think, like a lot of people, I thought that the character that he sort of “played” – he was sort of playing himself but in a way he was playing a caricature of himself – was the real Hitchcock. And it was a wonderful process to discover the vulnerable, funny man behind the mask, if you like. And then obviously to discover this wonderful partnership, marriage, relationship that he had. I always think the sign of a good man is the kind of wife he has (laughs), and he had a great wife, so he had to be a great man (laughs).
And playing Alma, even though she’s a known figure, she’s not exactly a “public figure”. This film really spotlights how integral they both were in each others lives?
Helen Mirren: Yeah. She wasn’t public, she’s not a public figure. She was very happy to be behind this mask of Alfred Hitchcock, because I think she felt like…. not the puppet master, she wasn’t a puppet master, but she was someone who helped that personality, that logo if you like. They were both complicit in the creation of that personage. And she had an amazingly fulfilling, wonderfully successful life as the active partner of an enormously talented and creative man. In doing so I would say overall they had a great marriage. I think Alma gave him a real anchor.
I can imagine playing this iconic man was at first quite daunting and challenging, but those feelings, did that help bring the best out of your performance?
Anthony Hopkins: Yes, it was a pretty daunting experience because he’s so well known and such a loved figure. It was a daunting and challenging experience, but I’m so glad I took it on, and I’m glad I took it on with a new director, Sacha Gervasi, a director who had never directed actors before. My agent said, “How do you feel about that?” I said, “I think it’s great.” Sacha is so enthusiastic and passionate, I thought, “What can I lose?” Like Hitchcock, you’ve got to take risks. A risk that Hitchcock took was mortgaging his house and his livelihood, it could have been a disaster for him but he did it. I think when you take away the safety net out of your life, life becomes more challenging and scary, but you can do better things. And I think that’s what Hitchcock did. When you have no security it drives you to do more.
I heard that you first read the script for this film eight years ago. What was it about Sacha Gervasi and this project that made you want to do it.
Anthony Hopkins: Yes. The script had been around for eight years, Alan Barnette and Tom Thayer, the two producers, they brought it to my agent and me eight years ago. There were one or two other directors who were going to do it, but then it came back last year with Sacha Gervasi, and the reason I did it was because of Sacha, because of his passion to do it. And also Tom Pollock at the studio, he was such a passionate believer in it. The fact that Sacha gave me the freedom to be part of the production – I was there for many of the film test, I was there for James D’Arcy’s and Michael Wincott’s. So I was there and I witnessed those auditions. And I was able to interview the make-up guy, Howard Berger. So I felt very much part of the production, even though I’m not a producer, but I felt very much part of the birth of it all, you know?
How did that interview with Howard Berger go? The prosthetics and make-up is fantastic, and I’m sure that must have been a big help for you to play Hitchcock?
Anthony Hopkins: Definitely. Howard came to the office, we were all interviewing in the office and there were two make-up artists, both of whom were very, very good, then along came Howard. And Howard was so enthusiastic about it. So he took a photo of me in profile as I am, I was this weight, my normal weight, I wouldn’t put on weight, so I did that, “Good evening,” pose (laughs). So he took a photograph of that and designed the make-up around my own expression. They had to be careful not to engulf my face with too much prosthetics, so the prosthetic started on my chin and ended on my chest. Then they added the earlobes and contact lenses, because I’ve got blue eyes and Hitchcock had brown eyes. Once I was in that I would sit in the morning, looking in the mirror, and they’d start putting it together, then I’d sit looking and thinking, “That’s it, there’s Hitchcock.” I could begin to feel like him, so when I went to go on set in the full suit it became second nature to play him, you become Alfred Hitchock (laughs). I don’t know about acting, I don’t know what it’s about, but I enjoy doing it anyway (laughs).
In researching both Alma and Hitchcock, was there something in particular that took you by surprise?
Helen Mirren: I’d say most notably it was in the book their daughter Patricia Hitchock wrote, ‘Alma Hitchcock: The Woman Behind the Man,’ the weird thing was how absolutely ordinary their home life was. It said that Hitchcock would come home at 6 o’clock, he’s never stay late, he’d finish filming. Alma would have cooked dinner, they’d sit down and have dinner together, he’s crack a few jokes, they’d all laugh. After he’d help with her homework. It was a normal, ordinary, suburban life – which you may not expect from Hitchcock. I think it was full of humour, and I know he had a very extreme, quite black sense of humour, so I’m sure there was a lot of funny stories. But she describes a very normal family life. The fact that he could come back from his work, he loved home, he loved his lovely house, his pets, he loved the garden, he loved that he had a meal waiting for him when he came back – he loved home. He didn’t want to go off to nightclubs or swan around Hollywood being the big director, he had no interest in that at all. He just wanted to be home with Alma, Patricia, his dogs and to plan the next move (laughs).
How was it working with this great ensemble cast?
Helen Mirren: Anthony came on board the project first, I came on after Tony. And then as we got closer to filming the rest of the cast started falling into place. And I was blown away when Sacha Gervasi started telling me….first of all Scarlett Johansson, to work with Scarlett and to have her in our movie, I was so thrilled with that. And as the cast started coming together my jaw was dropping further and further (laughs), I was constantly like, “Oh my God, that’s fantastic. We’ve got that cast? It’s amazing.” Jessica Biel is so wonderful as Vera Miles. Then James D’Arcy is the most brilliant Anthony Hopkins, sorry I mean Anthony Perkins – we done that a lot on set (laughs). That’ll be the day when someone plays Anthony Hopkins (laughs). Imagine playing Anthony Hopkins playing Alfred Hitchock (laughs), now that would be a role!
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