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EXCLUSIVE: 'Hitchcock' Set Visit with Gervasi, Hopkins, Mirren: "we explore the darker recesses of his mind"

Photo of Amy Dawes By Amy Dawes | Thompson on Hollywood October 23, 2012 at 12:14PM

When it opens Nov. 23, Fox Searchlight’s “Hitchcock,” starring Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren, will join a ‘frenzy,’ if you will, of new attention focused on the British master of suspense, including the HBO/BBC co-production “The Girl” and a year-long London celebration by the British Film Institute of Hitchcock’s entire oeuvre going back to the silent film era.
Alma Reville, Patricia and Alfred  Hitchcock
Alma Reville, Patricia and Alfred Hitchcock

Quite a bit of the movie is devoted to the making of “Psycho” – which posed a challenge since the visual rights to the iconic Psycho House and Bates Motel are owned by Universal Studios – where they are part of the studio tour – and the Fox production was not granted use of them.  “Those exteriors aren’t part our storytelling, but we’re inside those locations,” said Barnette, explaining that the shower scene was done on a set, and the haunted mansion he refers to as “the Gein house” was found in Santa Clarita.

On the last day of filming, May 31, the filmmakers invited press to a location in downtown Los Angeles where the 1960 opening of “Psycho” was being staged – complete with marquee and original movie posters - at the vintage Palace Theater on Broadway.  Lines of folks in fedoras and pillbox hats and other natty fashions of the era queued up in the ticket line and gawked as a vintage Rolls Royce pulled up.  Out got Hopkins as the well-dressed film impresario, his convex body shape and jowly profile unmistakable, his arm slung protectively around Mirren. 

Mirren and Hopkins in 'Hitchcock'
Fox Searchlight Mirren and Hopkins in 'Hitchcock'

The refurbished 1911 vaudeville theater he entered was standing in for the DeMille Theater in Manhattan, one of two movie houses where “Psycho” actually premiered in an opening Hitch had to finance on his own dime.  Hopkins, who keeps admirably fit, wore a 60-pound stomach pad.  The night before, the producers said, he’d filmed one of his key scenes, in which (out of sequence) he watches the reaction of the audience while the movie unspools and realizes, to his enormous relief, that his late-in-life gamble has succeeded.  “He brings such vulnerability and loneliness and humanity to this,” says Thayer of Hopkins’ performance.

Industry watchers will be intrigued to see that Hitch’s agent, the late Lew Wasserman, who was a notorious avoider of publicity, has a significant role in the film.  “He was there to support his client whether he believed in the project or not,” said Michael Stuhlbarg (“A Serious Man,” “Lincoln”) who portrays the uber-agent whose MCA eventually took over Universal.

The production also has a coup in its casting of James D’Arcy as Tony Perkins, since his resemblance and uncanny impression of the gangly actor who played Norman Bates are so persuasive, that Hopkins, he said, “burst out laughing” during his audition and said, “Why are we looking at anyone else?”

“Nowadays,” said D’Arcy, “we expect the nice guy to turn out to be a psychotic lunatic at the end.  But in 1960, nobody did – and that’s what made it so shocking.”

James D'Arcy as Anthony Perkins in 'Hitchcock'
Fox Searchlight James D'Arcy as Anthony Perkins in 'Hitchcock'

This article is related to: Hitchcock, Hitchcock, Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Fox Searchlight, Fox Searchlight

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.