By Jen Vineyard | The Playlist November 21, 2012 at 1:59PM
4) Those who worked with and knew Hitchcock say they're satisfied with the portrayal.
Marshall Schlom, who is now 84, worked as the script supervisor on "Psycho" as his second film, and when he visited the set of "Hitchcock," he got misty-eyed. "He said, 'You guys have given me my memories back,' " Gervasi recalled. Time and again, those who worked with the master of suspense have given their thumbs up to "Hitchcock," that the film got it right. "Schlom said he had to admit he was apprehensive, but we got the spirit of the man," Gervasi said. And it's not just Schlom -- Gervasi also got positive feedback at screenings from the assistant director of "Topaz" and the key grip of "Family Plot." "The people who knew he was complex and crazy and recognized this human being that we've had in this film, and say we captured the mischief, the warmth, and insanity of the man they worked with every day, that's been really satisfying," Gervasi said. "That's the most moving thing, hearing that from the people who were there."
This is in sharp contrast to the recent portrayal of Hitchcock in "The Girl," which was a lot darker, and relied on Tippi Hedren's sexual harassment at the hands of the director during the making of "The Birds" and "Marnie." "For us, the important thing we wanted to show was not just the darkness," Gervasi said. "We didn't want to be judgmental of him. Often he's been deified, he's been vilified, and in answering the question, 'Was he good? Was he bad?' perhaps he was both. That doesn't settle well for people because it's unresolved. He was complicated, and that's what we're trying to say. We're trying to explore who he might have been."
Anthony Hopkins tried to avoid the video monitors when he was on set, because he didn't want to see himself acting as Hitchcock. Of course, because he sat in the makeup chair for an hour to get the chin prosthetics and makeup in place, he knew what he looked like, but he didn't want to watch himself on screen. "I think it was because he was so frightened that if he found himself wanting, he would not be able to do the next scene," Helen Mirren said. "So he would never review it, never check it. He would have been devastated and unable to continue."
Despite his efforts, Hopkins did see himself on the video playback once. "I saw just one look, and I couldn't see anymore," he said, "because I wasn't sure that I'd got it right. My insecurity was so deep that I just wanted to go and run away to Tierra del Fuego, or somewhere like that." Mirren said that Hopkins' work is "so tiny and subtle and minimalist," despite the makeup and fat suit, that she was "completely unaware of the fact that he was wearing anything. He became my husband Hitch."
Gervasi credits Hopkins with many of the film's subtle moments, such as when Hitch gives just the teensiest amount of physical affection to Alma in two scenes, one of which he touches the side of her face and another when he touches her shoulder. "It was his idea to stage Alma's sitting on the bed, when they're not looking at each other," the director said. "And with incredible restraint, he barely touches her, because he has the frustration of not being able to quite express himself. He says, 'You deserve better,' and he gently touches her shoulder, and that was it. It was the most brilliant of instincts."
Gervasi said it was also Hopkins' idea to insert the slightest amount of Cockney accent in Hitch's poolside speech to Alma about wanting to make "Psycho" so he could feel the freedom of making films like he did when he was younger. "The accent he put on for his 'Hitchcock Presents' shows when he became known as 'the great Alfred Hitchcock' I think was for the benefit of American audiences, so they must have thought he sounded like this high-born aristocrat, which he wasn't," Hopkins said. "And I'm sure in his domestic life, he spoke just like he would have done 30 years before, 40 years before, when he lived as a young man in London."
"The tiniest bit of Cockney comes through," Gervasi noted, "because he's really this working class guy. Those little brilliant touches are what make it so rich. I think it's one of the best performances he's given in fucking years."
“Hitchcock” opens in limited release on Friday, November 23rd.