Hollywood – As the films of Alfred Hitchcock continue to stand the test of time, Tinseltown is paying homage this year in no less than three upcoming releases: two films about the iconic director, and a TV prequel to his arguably most famous work.
As illustrated by the recent Sight & Sound critics' poll – in which Hitchcock's 1958 masterpiece Vertigo dethroned Citizen Kane as the number one film of all time – the Master of Suspense appears to be back in vogue. Fans of the British filmmaker – whose other classics include Rear Window, North by Northwest, The 39 Steps, Notorious and many others – can look forward to the upcoming feature film Hitchcock, starring Anthony Hopkins in the title role, as well as the HBO movie The Girl and the A&E series Bates Motel.
Not to be confused with the critically drubbed 1987 pilot of the same name, Bates Motel is a prequel to 1960's Psycho, one of the most famous horror movies ever made. The Wrap reported on Monday that Vera Farmiga has just signed on to play Norma Louise Bates, the notoriously bitter mother of future motel owner Norman Bates. Farmiga received an Oscar nomination in 2010 for her role in Jason Reitman's Up in the Air.
A&E has described this new incarnation of Mrs. Bates as a “smart, multidimensional character who is always capable of surprising us”, as well as “complicated, passionate and compelling”.
The series, which the network has picked up for a ten-episode first season, reportedly chronicles Norman Bates' childhood and how his mother influenced his later behaviour. Bates Motel will air in 2013, according to AFP.
The legacy of Psycho is also the raison d'être for the all-star biopic Hitchcock, based on the 1998 non-fiction book Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho by Stephen Rebello. The movie, which was shot from April to June of this year, also stars Dame Helen Mirren as Hitchcock's wife (and unofficial collaborator), Alma Reville, as well as Scarlett Johansson, Jessica Biel and James D'Arcy as Psycho cast members Janet Leigh, Vera Miles and Anthony Perkins.
Hitchcock reportedly focuses on the relationship between the director and his wife during the shooting of Psycho in late 1959 and early 1960. The real-life Reville, who passed away in 1982, worked with Hitchcock as an assistant director, screenwriter and editor early in his career; after they married in 1926, she remained his behind-the-scenes work partner and sounding board for nearly half a century.
British writer and filmmaker Alexander Gervasi, best known for the metal documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil, directed the film, due for release next year. Other cast members include Toni Collette, Ralph Macchio and Michael Stuhlbarg.
A publicity photo of Hopkins made up as Hitchcock was released on April 18.
The Girl, which is scheduled to air on HBO on October 20, paints a much more disturbing portrait of the director. This TV movie – adapted from biographer Donald Spoto's book Spellbound by Beauty – is an account of the disastrous working relationship between Tippi Hedren (who starred in The Birds and Marnie) and an insecure, pathetic and very controlling Hitchcock.
Directed by Julian Jarrold, and starring Sienna Miller as Hedren and Toby Jones as Hitchcock, The Girl reportedly depicts the ongoing emotional and physical abuse, as well as sexual harassment, that Hedren claims to have suffered while working with the artistically brilliant but personally flawed director. According to The Wrap, there's a scene in which Hitchcock forces Hedren to kiss him in the back seat of a car, and another in which he literally throws live birds at her during the filming of the attic scene in The Birds. When Hedren refuses to “make yourself available to me sexually”, as the director inevitably demands, he subsequently blacklists her and ends her career.
The real-life Hedren, now 82, spoke openly about Hitchcock's behaviour at a panel discussion about The Girl on August 1.
“I think he was an extremely sad character,” she said about the filmmaker, according to The Wrap. “We are dealing with a brain here that was an unusual genius, and evil, and deviant, almost to the point of dangerous... I think it's a very different world for women in film today than it was for women then.”
Still, she added: “He ruined my career, but he didn't ruin my life.”
Born in London in 1899, Alfred Hitchcock directed his first full-length feature in 1925. His career spanned more than fifty movies, in England and in Hollywood. He died in April 1980.