You would be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t know the name Alfred Hitchcock. There are a few classic directors whose legacies have lived on long after their passing, but few can match the renown of "The Master of Suspense" himself. After all, can John Ford or Billy Wilder be recognized by their silhouettes alone? Hitch’s films read like a list of the thriller genre’s greatest hits. Though his prolific output provides ample room for discussion, many consider his best film to be 1960’s Psycho. Whether you find yourself in agreement with this appraisal, it’s no surprise that the first big screen biopic of Hitch centers around the production of the seminal horror movie.
And yet while we all know the name Hitchcock, recognize his famous profile, and are at least acquainted with a number of his films, there is so much of the man’s life that falls far outside the domain of common knowledge. Sacha Gervasi’s biopic Hitchcock aims to help inject some of those tidbits of this great artist’s personal life and trials into the public consciousness. That being said, the biopic doesn’t exactly spoon-feed the audience with exposition so there can be a sense of being thrown into the deep end for those who don’t count themselves among the Hitchcock literati. So here are a few things you’ll probably want to know before you see the movie. At the very least, it will help you better distinguish between what is fact and what might be dramatic embellishment.
Norman Bates is Based on Ed Gein
When contemporary audiences view Psycho, they may be quick to note the tameness of the violence. This is of course a function of the fact that it was produced in 1960, but it is also ironic considering the story basis for the film. Psycho was based on Robert Bloch’s novel of the same name. Though a fictionalized novel, it was largely influenced by the deeds of real-life psychopath Ed Gein.
In the late 50s, Ed Gein killed two women in his Wisconsin town and dug up a number of other corpses to fashion morbid trophies from their body parts. These trophies adorned his home when police later raided it. Gein was said to have dug up middle-aged women who reminded him of his deceased mother, with whom he had been exceedingly close. Within minutes of Hitchcock’s opening, you’ll understand why this information is valuable. Interesting side note, Gein also served as the blueprint for Leatherface and Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs.
Hitch’s Troubled Relationship with His Leading Ladies
Alfred Hitchcock, during the course of his career, had the great privilege to work with some of the most beautiful women in Hollywood history. Grace Kelly, Doris Day, Eva Marie Saint, and of course Psycho’s Janet Leigh. Though he may have preferred blondes, there has been much made of the fact that when it came to his relationship with his leading ladies, Hitch was no gentleman. He had a strange obsession with the glamour of starlets and was known to be rather rough and even cruel to them on set; conjectured to be an expression of his frustration at not being able to sleep with them.
One example of this involves Tippi Hedren, the star of Hitch’s The Birds as well as Marnie. Hedren has gone on record about the abuse she suffered at the hands of her director, noting that it seemed like he loved her except that most people don’t treat the people they love so badly. During the filming of The Birds, she was told repeatedly that her now iconic scene in the attic would involve only fake birds. It wasn’t until the day they were to shoot that scene that a crewmember let slip that the birds would be real. Hedren was beset by real birds, some of which were attached to her, for an entire week. While Hitch didn’t devise anything this malevolent for Janet Leigh, he did leave the prop corpse of Norman’s mother in her dressing room to get the right scream from her. This tendency toward obsession is important to understand going in, so that certain scenes in Hitchcock don’t feel awkwardly out of place.
The Studio Conflict
While Alfred Hitchcock was one of the most celebrated directors in the world by the time he started making movies in America, he was no stranger to having to battle studios and studio executives to accomplish his various visions. In 1940, David O. Selznick, the first American producer with whom he worked, re-edited Hitch’s Rebecca without his knowledge, and solely accepted the Oscar when the film won for Best Picture. This would be the only Academy Award Hitch would win until his lifetime achievement award in 1968. This rocky relationship with the studio system would persist well into his golden era.
Psycho became one of Hitch’s most acclaimed films as well as his most financially successful. But at the time, Paramount balked at Psycho’s content and its dark themes. They also expressed concern that Hitch was going too arty again, wanting to shoot in black-and-white, and were afraid of another financial flop like Vertigo. They didn’t want to produce it, and certainly did not want to finance it. It wasn’t until Hitch agreed to bankroll the movie himself that they agreed to at least distribute it, though they refused to let him shoot on the lot. The movie was instead filmed on the Universal backlot. Universal was only too happy to be back in the Hitchcock game. Since he had last made movies with them, they had been creatively stagnate and were deeply in debt. Keep this in mind when observing the various professional conflicts in the film.
The Importance of Alma
Though he was rumored to be obsessed with his leading ladies, there was no denying Hitch was thoroughly devoted to his wife Alma. She was not merely a loving companion and a source of inspiration, but also Hitch’s most important collaborator. At various points throughout his career, she was his screenwriter, his editor, and she also provided the final say on whether a proposed project was worthy of his time. In fact, if she didn’t like it a script that crossed Hitch’s desk, he didn’t bother moving forward with it. He revered her throughout their whole lives. When he was a young man, first working an entry-level job at a film studio in England, Alma was already established there and, because she held a higher position, Hitch considered it improper to speak to her. Her importance in his life is a central focus of the film.
Hitchcock Was Also a Master Showman
Though he would probably bristle at the comparison, Alfred Hitchcock was sort of the P.T. Barnum of the film world. The attraction he was selling was always himself. Even before he came over to the United States, marking his further meteoric rise, Hitch’s success in England prompted him to hire a team of people whose sole function was to promote Hitchcock; not just his films, but also the Hitchcock name. His marketing and theatrical stunts became the stuff of Hollywood lore. Spying the director’s inevitable cameo became part of the fun of seeing a new Hitchcock film. He also followed Walt Disney’s example and hosted his own television show: Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
For Psycho, he actually forced theater managers to disallow the admission of patrons who arrived late for fear that it would ruin the film’s frightening surprises. It was for this reason he also held no early screenings for the press; a risky gamble to be sure. He also recorded special radio advertisements and even sent manuals to theater owners explaining his gimmicks. Not only are these signature marketing tricks examined in Hitchcock, but Sir Anthony Hopkins, who plays Hitch in the film, actually appears in an ad running in theaters right now instructing audiences to turn off their cell phones. This meta approach would have made Hitch smile — to the extent that Hitch could smile, of course.
[Photo Credit: Fox Searchlight]
Dial M for Makeover: Which Star Looks the Most Like Hitchcock?
'Hitchcock': The Horrors of Making 'Psycho' — TRAILER
Scarlett Johansson: How She Captured 'the Essence' of Janet Leigh in 'Hitchcock'
From Our Partners:
’Twilight: Breaking Dawn 2’ Scores a HUGE Win (Moviefone)
Best (and Worst!) Movie Plot Twists Ever
There's an allure to imperfection. With his latest drama Lawless director John Hillcoat taps directly into the side of human nature that draws us to it. Hillcoat finds it in Prohibition history a time when the regulations of alcohol consumption were subverted by most of the population; He finds it in the rural landscapes of Virginia: dingy raw and mesmerizing. And most importantly he finds it in his main character Jack Bondurant (Shia LaBeouf) the scrappy third brother of a moonshining family who is desperate to prove his worth. Jack forcefully injects himself into the family business only to discover there's an underbelly to the underbelly. Lawless is a beautiful film that's violent as hell striking in a way only unfiltered Americana could be.
Acting as the driver for his two outlaw brothers Forrest (Tom Hardy) and Howard (Jason Clarke) isn't enough for Jack. He's enticed by the power of the gangster figure and entranced by what moonshine money can buy. So like any fledgling entrepreneur Jack takes matters into his own hands. Recruiting crippled family friend/distillery mastermind Cricket (Dane DeHaan) the young whippersnapper sets out to brew his own batch sell it to top dog Floyd Banner and make the family rich. The plan works — but it puts the Bondurant boys in over their heads with a new threat: the corrupt law enforcers of Chicago.
Unlike many stories of crime life Lawless isn't about escalation. The movie drifts back and forth leisurely popping in moments like the beats of a great TV episode. One second the Bondurants could be talking shop with their female shopkeep Maggie Beauford (Jessica Chastain). The next Forrest is beating the bloody pulp out of a cop blackmailing their operation. The plot isn't thick; Hillcoat and screenwriter Nick Cave preferring to bask in the landscapes the quiet moments the haunting terror that comes with a life on the other side of the tracks. A feature film doesn't offer enough time for Lawless to build — it recalls cinema-level TV currently playing on outlets like HBO and AMC that have truly spoiled us — but what the duo accomplish is engrossing.
Accompanying the glowing visuals and Cave's knockout workout on the music side (a toe-tapping mix of spirituals bluegrass and the writer/musician's spine-tingling violin) are muted performances from some of Hollywood's rising stars. Despite LaBeouf's off-screen antics he lights up Lawless and nails the in-deep whippersnapper. His playful relationship with a local religious girl (Mia Wasikowska) solidifies him as a leading man but like everything in the movie you want more. Tom Hardy is one of the few performers who can "uurrr" and "mmmnerm" his way through a scene and come out on top. His greatest sparring partner isn't a hulking thug but Chastain who brings out the heart of the impenetrable beast. The real gem of Lawless is Guy Pearce as the Bondurant trio's biggest threat. Shaved eyebrows pristine city clothes and a temper like a rabid wolverine Pearce's Charlie Rakes is the most frightening villain of 2012. He viciously chews up every moment he's on screen. That's even before he starts drawing blood.
Lawless is the perfect movie for the late August haze — not quite the Oscary prestige picture or the summertime shoot-'em-up. It's drama that has its moonshine and swigs it too. Just don't drink too much.
Rosie O'Donnell reveals in the August issue of her magazine Rosie that she has been depressed for years, according to Entertainment Tonight. She originally resisted taking medication, fearing it was a cowardly way to live, but has now been on antidepressants for two years. The talk show host said she was pushed over the edge by the Columbine shootings and a celebrity benefit she attended, where she found herself sobbing throughout the evening.
Singer Rick Springfield broke his arm during a performance at the MGM Grand hotel-casino in Las Vegas, The Associated Press reports. He treated and released Tuesday at University Medical Center. The singer fell from a 20-foot high beam that is used to lower him on to the stage in the show's last scene. In EFX Alive, Springfield takes the audience on a journey to the worlds of wizard Merlin, showman P.T. Barnum, illusionist Harry Houdini and sci-fi writer H.G. Wells.
A park honoring Theodor Seuss Geisel, a k a Dr.Seuss, will open in Springfield, Mass., on June 1, AP reports. The Seuss Heritage Park and National Memorial will feature 30 bronze statues of Geisel's literary characters including Horton, Thidwick the Moose and Cat in the Hat. Geisel's stepdaughter, Lark Diamod-Kates, designed the sculptures. Geisel died in 1991 at age 87.
To commemorate the comedienne's 90th birthday, the U.S. Postal Service will unveil a stamp honoring Lucille Ball, Reuters reports. The stamp will be the seventh in the Postal Service's Legend of Hollywood Series. Others have included Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Humphrey Bogart, Alfred Hitchcock, James Cagney and Edward G Robinson. Ball, who was best known for her 1950's sitcom I Love Lucy, died in 1989 at the age of 78.
William Dail, the road manager for Insane Clown Posse, has pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct for choking an Eminem fan, AP reports. The fan apparently held up an Eminem T-shirt and chucked some M&M candies at two clowned-faced band members following an Insane Clown Posse concert in Omaha, Neb., in May. The 24-year-old man was taken outside where Dail then choked him until he blacked out. Dail agreed to plead guilty of one count of disorderly conduct and pay a $100 fine.
The West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin said in two magazine articles that his arrest in April was not due to a chronic drug habit but sporadic use, Reuters reports. Sorkin was arrested at a Burbank airport in April after airport employees found marijuana, crack and hallucinogenic mushrooms in his bag. Sorkin told TV Guide that he has broken his sobriety since 1997 by occasional drug use. He said he would smoke pot from time to time to relax, and likened it to having a martini at the end of a long day. Sorkin also said he used crack less than five times in the last two years. In a September issue of Talk magazine, Sorkin said he would used drugs after work to celebrate the pressure being off. "There's no way I could be writing high and not have people know it,"he said.
Robert Downey Jr. was back at work on Tuesday. Variety reports that the actor filmed a music video for the song I Want Love, the first single from Elton John's new CD Songs From the West Coast. Ed Limato, Downey's agent, said that the actor had received several important offers in film and TV roles.
A new biography of Natalie Wood claims the actress was raped as a teenager by an unnamed actor, the BBC reports. According to author Suzanne Finstad, Woods was 16 when she was raped by a "powerful, married movie star." Finstad chose not to name the actor so that people would focus on Wood's horror and trauma. She also added that Wood's mother conspired to keep the rape a secret. The book also details the events leading up to the actress' drowning in 1981 during a boat trip with actors Robert Wagner and Christopher Walken. Wagner has said there are many errors in the book and is upset that the inaccuracies have been published.
Director Steven Spielberg has decided to scale down his plans for a riding ring complex at his home in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles, Reuters reports. Neighbors initially objected to the plan, saying the 27,000-square-foot domed monstrosity would clash with the rustic style of the nearby homes. Spielberg reworked the plans and came up with a smaller dome-less version that has met with local approval. The stable will house four or five horses and be surrounded by a 6-foot high gate.
Mick Jagger will release his fourth solo album in November, Virgin Records has announced. According to Reuters, Jagger, 58, has been recording the album with Pete Townshend, Missy Elliott, Lenny Kravitz and Rob Thomas.
Michael Jackson's 30th anniversary all-star concerts at Madison Square Garden in New York sold out in less than five hours, AP reports. Michael Jackson: 30th Anniversary Celebration, The Solo Years will be Jackson's first with his brothers since the 1994 Victory tour in 1984. Other artists scheduled to appear are Whitney Houston, Gladys Knight, Ray Charles, Britney Spears, Ricky Martin and N 'Sync. Marlon Brando, Elizabeth Taylor, William Shatner, Quincy Jones, Kobe Bryant, Willem Dafoe and Macaulay Culkin will also pay tribute to the pop star.