Interview and Review: HITCHCOCK, from FOX Searchlight Films and Director Sacha Gervasi, is a Film Lover’s Dream

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HITCHCOCK, the screen adaption surrounding the making of PSYCHO, the most gripping and successful film from the master of suspense, recently held its Los Angeles premiere at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

From FOX SEARCHLIGHT PICTURES, DUNE Entertainment and INGENIOUS Media HITCHCOCK was directed by Sacha Gervasi and produced by Ivan Reitman, Tom Pollack, Joe Medjuck and Tom Thayer.

HITCHCOCK stars Sir Anthony Hopkins as Alfred Hitchcock and Helen Mirren as his wife,  Alma Reville, along with Toni Collette as Hitchcock’s longtime assistant, Peggy Robertson, Jessica Biel as Vera Miles and Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh and was based on the book, Alfred Hitchcock and The Making of PYSCHO by Steven Rebello.

Sir Anthony Hopkins gives an OSCAR worthy performance, and one would not expect less, as the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock along with all his eccentricities. As HITCHCOCK begins Alfred is coming down from the success of NORTH BY NORTHWEST, starring Cary Grant and Eve Marie Saint, and with one picture left with Paramount Studios contract, he was desperate for a tantalizing, different film, something outside the lines which is when he found the novel PSYCHO.

In typical Hitchcock fashion, the film begins with Anthony Hopkins breaking the fourth wall and inviting the audience into the film through personal introduction. He explains a few bits about the sequence and how, poor Norman Bates came into being.

PSYCHO, of course, has one if not the single most terrifying shower scenes and in 1959, the illusions of a shower were simply too much for the film ratings board and they almost ended the project. as did the Studio, PSYCHO was a deeply personal project for The Hitchcock's as the film reveals.  

Alma, Hitch’s lifetime love, brilliant in her own right, was played by the incomparable Helen Mirren does, in the film,  flirt with the idea of possibly blurring the infidelity lines, just a smidge, as her old writing partner, Whit, played by Danny Huston, shows up and whisks her away as she, of course, has the ear of the man, and he, as they both agree, has a stillborn script.

A private reception was held after the premiere in the Grand Lobby of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences. Many of the films talent, including Helen Mirren, Jessica Biel and Richard Portnow who portrays Paramount Studio Chief, Barney Balaban among the hundreds of invited guests enjoying the delightful buffet and decadent desserts. 

HITCHCOCK is a Hollywood film lover’s dream, a by-gone era once again in full bloom, with juicy, teasing tidbits from the golden age in filmmaking. Delicious! 

Having the opportunity to participate in the below the line Press Day held at the Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills below are excerpts from the interviews with Steven Rebello author of the novel from which the film is adapted and Howard Berger Head of VFX Make-up and head of Hair, Martin Samuel. HITCHCOCK is one of seven films that have advanced in the OSCAR elimination process and is still in contention for the Academy Awards Hair and Make-up Oscar.  

Excerpt from the Interview with Steven Rebello . .

Janet Walker: Tell me a little bit about your process first – Tell me how you came across this idea.

Steven Rebello:  My parents were big movies fans and they schooled me in what they thought were good movies. They were right. So I am eternally grateful to them.  As I was growing up it was Hitchcock’s film that somehow got under my skin. They looked different; they sounded different. People all very beautiful; they did elegant mysterious dangerous things.  I was an only child and very caught up in the mystery. His films they just intrigued me. And when I wrote the book, The Making of Psycho, I wrote it very quickly, very quickly as it had been in my head for so long. It was like I had been preparing for it for a lifetime. The book began to sell and continued to sell and then people started asking about movie rights.

JW: How long from option and screen?

SR: The book was published in 1990. And the first option and it was odd, because it was nothing and then it was four different people in different parts of the world at once wanting the option. Seriously, there were people before, around 2003, so it was a long time.   I went with the people I felt most comfortable with a pair of producers named Tom Thayer and Alan Barnette. I felt most comfortable with them because they said, ‘What movie do you?’ see as opposed to others who said, ‘here’s is the movie I see.’  

And then I was first hired as a consultant John McLaughlin wrote first drafts of the screenplay in which he tough job, it’s a non-fiction book, to come up with a conception of will begin and end it as if it were a Hitchcock television show.  And we’ll have Ed Gein, the man who loosely influenced the character of Norman Bates, in the original novel PSYCHO, as a counter point or a dark side of HITCHOCK really interesting ideas.

I was hired as a consultant on the project and then hired as a screenwriter and my thing, although I didn’t get final credit for it, my concerns about the movie were always be a love story. I wanted it to be a relationship story in which we would always examine the making of PSYCHO through the prism of the relationship of the HITCHCOCKS. How did it affect their relationship and how did their relationship affect the film?  

JW: Did your aspects narrow at all from what your original idea of what the book was?

SR: That’s a great question. Yes. It was my intention and in certain things that I wrote, it’s difficult to talk about this and I didn’t get credit and I don’t want to demean in anyway John McLaughlin’s contribution to the screenplay, but my story of the making of PYSCHO was Janet, Tony what they were going through; what their lives were. There were a number of scenes of their off-screen lives and they were bringing those aspects to the scenes and they were coming to the set in a good mood or a troubled mood. And how Hitchcock used that. So yes. I guess it did narrow.

JW: And if you had one memorable moment from the entire process what would that be?

SR:  Sitting at the first reading of the screenplay. Most all of the cast and the crew were sitting there and hearing Helen Mirren tear into Anthony Hopkins as Alma, I felt they were gone, I was no longer seeing Helen Mirren and Anthony Hopkins I was feeling the spirit of the HITCHCOCKS. It felt like the HITCHCOCKS that people had told me about that I had seen were finally in the room. They had arrived. It was thrilling. It made my hair stand up.

Excerpt from the Interview with Martin Samuel and Howard Berger. . .

Janet Walker: Congratulations. It’s amazing and amazing work. So tell me a little bit about the special effects aspect of HITCHCOCK.

Howard Berger: Well. I handled make-up on Tony and Martin handled the hair. And then Julia Hewitt was our Make-up Department Head and she handled all the make-up on everyone else.

Martin Samuel: I handled the hair.

HB:  For Tony especially, It was a big make-up,  but yet it was a make-up that had to fit within the context of the film, and work for tony, and work for Sacha, and us and but the key word was really creating a portrait, it’s not a likeness make-up, it’s not a caricature, but it’s a portrait. But that really means that it is transforming Tony and having just enough Hitchcock on Tony Hopkins so that you don’t lose Tony but yet there is something familiar about it that makes you believe as an audience member that you are watching Alfred Hitchcock.  And that happened through a series of tests. Martin and myself had a six week period where we were able to test six different variations of the make-up on Tony and we would go to the dailies with everyone, the producers and Sacha, and have a look . . .

MS:  . . and fine tune it.

HB: Yes. And that’s really what it was. It was trying to find . .  Is this the right nose?  Is this the right earlobe, the right teeth,

MS:  . . .shade of hair.

HB: . . . just everything. But the process would be in the morning Tony would come in and he would sit in our chair, and myself and Peter Montanga, who was my key on the show and co-applied the make-up with me every day. The first piece was a “horseshoe” encompasses chin, sides of face and neck, and blended underneath his cheekbones and behind his ears. Then we had earlobes, and a whole nose tip piece and content lenses, and the once I was done with all my work.

MS: Tony had a full head of white hair so we shaved some of his head to give him the Hitchcock look colored the rest in and leaving the white side of his own hair out and added a small hair piece on top to give that sort of balding wispy effect on the crown.  And we did that every day, for thirty-five days, after Howard would finish the process.

HB: but it was a quick process.

JW: How long?

MS:  He keeps saying it was a quick process. It was quick for that type of make-up. Somebody else could take three hours, he got it down to an hour and  . .  .

HB: We got it down to an hour and forty-five minutes.  Because Tony is in almost every scene. He’s 75 years old, not that that means anything to Tony Hopkins. He’s ready to rock. Up at 5:00am boxing, and comes to the set and puts in a full day. But we needed to make sure we could do the make-up in a timely manner. We were basically shooting a television schedule. 35 days, a lot of scenes, meaty scenes and we couldn’t afford to have these monstrous make-up times and also keep reasonable hours and stay on schedule.

JW:  If you had a memorable moment from HITCHCOCK, each of you, what would it be?

HB: What would that moment be?

MS:  A memorable moment? I just think that scene which is toward the end, when they pull back, which is the opening scene in the movie, when all the crowds are standing around the theater in the rain, for the premiere of NORTH BY NORTHWEST when they pull back  . .

HB: At the beginning of the film . .

 

MS: . . . when they shot it, it was a memorable scene. It was a night shoot and it was incredible. We had hundreds of extras and hundreds of people and Helen and Tony. That was an awesome sort of reproduction to do because we had so much footage of the news reel of it. It was great and an amazing sort of feat to reproduce that.

 

HB: That’s good. I think one of the most memorable things was actually not something we were shooting but I would do a count day, a countdown of how many more days we had, and it was the last day and I finished the make-up and I went, “Well Tony this is the last time I’m going to do this make-up on you.” And he was like “I know isn’t that sad?” And I said, “I know I’m very sad.” And that was very memorable and then Martin shaved his head. (Laughter)

HITCHCOCK is thrilling, thoroughly enjoyable and the back lot and behind the scenes Hollywood stories are fascinating! Helen Mirren and Anthony Hopkins shine as the Hitchcock’s.  If you love Hollywood you’ll love HITCHCOCK! See it!

HITCHCOCK is in theaters everywhere. Check your local listings.

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