In 1961 Alfred Hitchcock, then at the height of his fame as cinema’s Master of Suspense, spotted New York fashion model Tippi Hedren in a TV advert and decided to cast her in his follow-up to Psycho, The Birds.
According to TV biopic The Girl starring Toby Jones as Hitchcock and Sienna Miller as Hedren (shown on BBC2 over Christmas), the working relationship between director and star developed into a perverse psychodrama as Hitchcock’s sexual obsession with his latest screen blonde became ever more exploitative and sadistic.
Hitchcock fans have vigorously disputed the film’s version of events (scripted by Gwyneth Hughes and sanctioned by the now-82-year-old Hedren herself), but on screen it makes for gripping viewing.
As Hedren undergoes a series of grisly ordeals – including having live birds thrown at her for five days to film one sequence – Miller is a revelation in the role and alongside her Jones delivers a typically fine performance. Despite a major prosthetic makeover, he doesn’t look particularly like Hitchcock but he does deliver an eerily accurate impression of the director’s distinctive voice and gestures.
As for the accuracy of the film itself, that will remain fiercely contested, but Hitchcock lovers can at least look forward to the far more flattering portrayal of the legend in the forthcoming film Hitchcock, which stars Anthony Hopkins as the director and Helen Mirren as his wife, Alma.
Released on DVD by Acorn Media UK on Monday 7th January.
Hitchcock goes on general release from Friday 8th February.