Alfred Hitchcock made Tippi Hedren a movie star, but that distinction came at a high cost, according to HBO’s The Girl. The movie, which made its debut tonight, stars Sienna Miller as Hedren and Toby Jones as the portly director.
Based on the book Spellbound by Beauty: Alfred Hitchcock and His Leading Ladies by Donald Spoto, the film details the relationship between Hitchcock and Hedren, who starred in The Birds and Marnie. Angry that she spurned his sexual advances, he began harassing and even punishing her. Particularly harrowing is the sequence that portrays the filming of the final attack sequence in The Birds, Hitchcock opted not to tell his star that live birds would be used rather than the mechanical ones they’d been using up to that point. Crew members literally hurled live birds at Hedren for five days of filming in a cramped space; she was left seriously injured and ordered by a doctor to a week’s break from work to recover. During the filming of Marnie, he refused to give her any helpful direction, and “tormented” her during a rape scene.
Why did she stick around for this treatment, you might ask? She had signed a multi-year, exclusive contract with Hitchcock. She eventually fought her way out of the agreement, but Hedren says he made her life “miserable” and set out to ruin her career. That didn’t happen, obviously – she’s steadily worked in TV and film for the last 40+ years. However, the director’s behavior did seriously frighten Hedren, especially as she was a single mother raising her daughter, Melanie Griffith.
And how did that now-famous daughter react to The Girl? After a private screening, Griffith reportedly declared, “Now I need to go back to therapy.”
Lest the movie come across as sour grapes, Hedren says working with Hitchcock wasn’t all bad. And, she says, part of the point is to let young women know they don’t have to put up with abusive or unwanted behavior. She commented:
“I hope that young women who do see this film know that they do not have to acquiesce to anything that they do not feel is morally right or that they are dissatisfied with,” she said. “I can look at myself in the mirror, and I can be proud. I feel strong. And I lived through it beautifully.”