This week moviegoers across the country will finally get their chase to get a sense of the making of one of the greatest horror thrillers of all-time with the wide release of “Hitchcock.” The film is a fascinating look into director Alfred Hitchcock’s (Anthony Hopkins) life on and off the set in the time period with such important figures as his wife, Alma Reville (Helen Mirren) and Janet Leigh (Scarlett Johansson).
The film, of course, is “Psycho,” the 1960 classic that almost wasn’t made due to Hitchcock’s differences with Paramount studios and their argument that the director was becoming dated amid the changing times.
Now playing in select theaters, the film keys in on several moments that helped to define the director, including the iconic shower scene where Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), disguised as his mother, stabs to death Marion Crane (Leigh) amid composer Bernard Hermann’s blood-curdling, staccato string score.
Leigh, who died in 2004 at age 77, told me in 2000 interview for the 40th anniversary of the film that it took seven days to shoot the scene, which Hitchcock and Reville (as we learn in “Hitchcock”) whittled down into 45 seconds to make it the most frightening shower sequence ever put on film.
“When I saw it condensed and edited in a way that only Hitchcock could do it, it was so frightening to me that it made me realize that it’s an extremely vulnerable position we’re in, while in a shower,” Leigh recalled for me.
Naturally, after the experience of filming and seeing the film itself, Leigh said she resorted solely to taking baths.
“I never even thought about it that way before. I just couldn’t get back in a shower after that. I just thought it was stupid to put yourself in that position,” Leigh said.
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Leigh told me that, while the filming the shower scene was difficult, it didn’t compare to what she had to do to look “dead.”
“I fell in a very uncomfortable position,” Leigh said. “My head was crinkled against the tub and water was running down my hair onto my face which tickled and I couldn’t obviously react to it. I had to have that look — and not blink or swallow. I couldn’t do anything until Hitch snapped his fingers after the camera panned far enough away.”
Directed by Sacha Gervasi (“Anvil: The Story of Anvil”), “Hitchcock” also stars James D’Arcy as Perkins, Jessica Biel as Vera Miles, Michael Stuhlbarg as Hitchcock’s agent Lew Wasserman and Toni Collette as Hitchcock’s assistant Peggy Robertson.
The film based on Stephen Rebello’s book “Alfred Hitchcock and the making of ‘Psycho,'” also stars Michael Wincott as Ed Gein, the infamous serial killer who inspired the original “Psycho” novel that was the basis of the movie version.
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