A colleague of mine described "The Girl" as a sort of horror movie and I was wondering if you saw it as such. While not unsympathetic, the portrayal of Hitchcock is as a type of monster.
Yeah, I think that it felt to me sometimes a psychological thriller more than horror, but weirdly it seems to key into certain... At one point the costume woman talks about me being like a toad: "Don’t you love him? I think of him as a prince trapped in a toad’s body." There is a fairytale element and a little bit of a "Beauty and the Beast" going on. When you get a film about a man and a woman exclusively there’s a quasi-love story going on as well. It’s questionable whether Hitchcock falls in love with Tippi. Similarly, there’s an element of Tippi being bewitched by Hitchcock. There’s a sort of twisted love story somewhere -- they can’t quite get to the bottom of what their relationship is.
How do you see his relationship with his wife Alma [played by Imelda Staunton] in the film? She does seem to be the closest thing to a collaborator that he has, and she is portrayed as the one who first brings his attention to Hedren.
From what I understand, that’s what the other Hitchcock film may cover. ["The Girl"] doesn’t feel very concerned with planning the nuts and bolts of their relationship, but I do think it’s true from the biography that they had a mutual respect between them on a professional level. She was an editor, so it wasn’t someone who was just at home, passively accepting what he did. He used her critical eye and he sought her approval, somewhat.
The big question mark that the film plays with is to what extent everything is designed to make the film better and to what extent she herself puts up with it to make the film better... It goes wrong. That experiment goes wrong somehow. But I think the way that Imelda plays it -- she has a very independent mind, her character has made a lot of compromises and is holding onto those compromises and trying to make sense of them as the film goes on.
That idea's an interesting one -- that everyone's enabling this predatory relationship in hopes of making the film better. Have you seen an echo of that in any films that you've worked on yourself -- tensions that are put up with in order to have the film be finished?
Everything becomes about that bit of space that is in front of the camera, this charged space and, really, whatever it takes to get what we need in front of that camera. I think as time and money get restricted, the pressure on that often means that there’s a certain pragmatism that creeps in, of just, "Well, whatever it takes." I’ve certainly been around that more than once. One might say that it happens on most jobs, that there comes a point in the film where feelings are secondary to getting the thing in the can.
You mention the other Hitchcock film that's premiering soon, and you also had “Infamous,” in which you were in a similar situation -- starring in one of two films about Truman Capote that came out around the same time. Obviously the films are shot separately and performances stand alone, but what's it like knowing that inevitably comparisons are going to take place?
The first time, with Capote, it was just mysterious. I’d never played the lead in a movie before. That was the most important thing, and I didn’t really think about that. I know Anthony Hopkins, I’ve worked with him -- he’s an absolutely fantastic actor, and one would prefer not to be compared with Anthony Hopkins. At the same time, it’s a fantastic opportunity for both films -- they deal with different areas of the same person’s life. It will be fun for people to compare the films. You know, I’m not as great an actor as Anthony Hopkins -- he’s had a huge, illustrious career, and he’s earned the epithet "great." I’m a long way off having achieved what he’s achieved. For me to be compared with him is an honor.
Do you have a favorite Hitchcock film, or one that speaks to you in particular?
It’s a really hard question to answer because I do know his films quite well and it’s very hard to select one. I’ve recently been watching them with my kids and it’s amazing how many of them capture their imagination -- it’s a huge testament to his genius. It’s a boring answer to say “Psycho,” but it’s a truly chilling film. I really loved that. But I think “Shadow of a Doubt” is a really good film about childhood and adventure... It’s a scary film about irresponsibility and, as a parent, it’s a good film.