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Toby Jones, Sienna Miller as Alfred Hitchcock, Tippi Hedren.
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BY CHUCK BARNEY
Contra Costa Times
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif.--He was the undisputed Master of Suspense--a cinematic genius, who took delight in visualizing his characters' personal demons in exalted films like "Vertigo," "Rear Window" and "Psycho."
It stands to reason, then, that Alfred Hitchcock had a few of his own.
HBO's haunting new movie "The Girl" delves into Hitchcock's dark side, telling the lurid story of his strange relationship with young actress Tippi Hedren during the making of "The Birds" and "Marnie."
Based on Donald Spoto's tell-all book, "Spellbound by Beauty: Alfred Hitchcock and His Leading Ladies," the film paints the director as a manipulative, self-loathing mentor who tried to sculpt Hedren into the blonde of his dreams, only to turn lecherous, then vindictive, when she rejected his sexual advances.
"I really didn't talk about this issue for a very, very long time," said Hedren, now 82, during a publicity appearance in Beverly Hills. "All those years ago, we were still in a studio kind of situation. Studios were the power. There was absolutely nothing I could do. There were no laws about this situation. If this had happened today, I would be a very rich woman."
Starring British actors Sienna Miller as Hedren and Toby Jones as Hitchcock, "The Girl" is a chilling tale of power, obsession, betrayal and the personal toll of Hollywood stardom.
It takes viewers to the early 1960s. Hitchcock was riding high with the extraordinary success of "Psycho."
Up next was his big screen adaptation of Daphne du Maurier's "The Birds," to be shot in and around California's Bodega Bay.
The director reasoned that, because the feathered creatures would be his film's true stars, he'd rely on a no-name actress for the lead.
Enter Hedren, a model with no acting experience, who would join the roster of mysterious, beautiful blondes who populated Hitchcock films, as well as his fantasies.
According to the film, Hitchcock took a Svengali-like approach with Hedren, supervising her appearance and wardrobe, tutoring her in wine appreciation and filmmaking. Grateful and eager to learn, she basked in the attention--until her mentor turned tormentor.
Ultimately, Hitchcock demanded that she be at his sexual beck and call, and threatened to put her out of work if she didn't comply. (After the release of "Marnie" in 1964, Hedren went several years with no film work.)
WHAT: "The Girl" WHEN: 9 p.m. Saturday WHERE: HBO