|Actress Tippi Hedren speaks during the HBO presentation at the Cable portion of the Television Critics Association Summer press tour in Beverly Hills, California August 1, 2012. REUTERS/Fred Prouser
It's sobering to consider that some of Alfred Hitchcock's creepiest scenes were taking place off-camera
Only certain leading ladies in Hitchcock's classic films knew the truth. And it's Tippi Hedren's experiences during the making of The Birds (1963) and Marnie (1964) that form the narrative for The Girl, a new HBO film that debuts Saturday, Oct. 20 on HBO Canada. The Girl stars Toby Jones as Hitchcock and Sienna Miller as Hedren, and tells the story of the legendary director's obsessive relationship with Hedren as he attempted to sculpt her into the perfect "Hitchcock blond" of his imagination.
Hedren's rejection of Hitchcock's misguided advances only added to his scary combination of adoration and contempt, putting both their careers and personal lives at risk.
"People have said, 'Was he in love with you?' No, he wasn't. When you love someone, you treat them well," says Hedren, now 82.
"It was something I had never experienced before. I don't know what to call it."
Hedren was an unknown fashion model who was given her big break after Hitchcock's wife saw her in a TV commercial. Hitchcock groomed and coached Hedren, enabling her meteoric rise, but there was an unanticipated cost.
"It wasn't a constant barrage of harassment to me," Hedren recalls. "There were times of delight and joy, all kinds of different things.
"So that is the fault of any film - it can't possibly have everything in it. If it had been constantly the way we've had to do it in this film, I would have been long gone.
"I had not talked about this issue with Alfred Hitchcock to anyone. Because all those years ago, studios were the power. There was absolutely nothing I could do legally. There were no laws about this kind of situation. If this had happened today, I would be a very rich woman."
The Girl, based on the book Spellbound by Beauty by Donald Spoto, has earned Hedren's great approval. She said her blood ran cold when she first heard Jones' voice as Hitchcock.
Hedren was not the only Hitchcock leading lady who was subjected to his bizarre behaviour, but apparently she got it the worst.
"I think it is common knowledge that Hitchcock had fantasies or whatever you want to call them about his leading ladies," Hedren says. "But Peggy Robertson, his assistant for so many years, and I remained friends until she died.
"At one point she said to me that he would have these kinds of feelings for his leading ladies, and she said, 'But he never got over you.' I don't know if that's a compliment or whatever it's supposed to be, but I really don't care, either.
"He ruined my career, but he didn't ruin my life."