It might feel creepy to call a movie about the making of Psycho a “love story,” but that’s how Fox Searchlight and director Sacha Gervasi are pushing Hitchcock, which stars Anthony Hopkins as the iconic director and bevy of beauties as his leading ladies. Scarlett Johansson plays Janet Leigh, whose character Marion Crane has a date with the shower; Jessica Biel portrays Vera Miles, the level-headed heroine; and Helen Mirren is Hitch’s wife, Alma, his behind-the-scenes creative partner in every way. But the title of the film is not My Weekend With Janet or Hitchcock in Love. It’s simply Hitchcock, and for good reason. “Hitchcock’s so enigmatic in one sense,” says Gervasi, whose only previous feature was the 2008 documentary Anvil. “Someone who portrays zero emotion. We didn’t really know emotionally that much about Hitchcock, and suddenly you have this whole world that opens up when Anthony Hopkins plays the role. It’s extraordinary. And he really enjoyed tiptoeing up to people who had just arrived on the set and going, ‘Good evening.’ Making people jump. I think he really found the role quite delicious.”
Check out an exclusive first look at the new Hitchcock poster below:
The “love story” that might surprise — and hopefully enchant audiences — is Hitchcock’s relationship with his wife of 53 years. Of course, the director was notorious for obsessing over his much younger leading ladies, molding them to a certain degree. But according to the film, which is based on Stephen Rebello’s 1990 book, Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, Alma was his rock. “I think Alma accepts Hitch for exactly who he is and knows his idiosyncrasies and his crazy predilections,” says Gervasi. “She allows him to have his obsessions and I think our movie is about a point where they sort of escalate. Their marriage is absolutely touched off by his increasing obsessions with these women, but they were ultimately fantasy relationships. Hitch lived in this world of fantasy; to him it was more real than real life. And I think Alma was able to kind of, in this film at least, smash it down a little bit.”
Revisiting the classic genre-defining thriller was a total pinch-me experience for Gervasi, especially when he got to shoot the film-within-the-film scenes that are such a part of movie history. “The original script supervisor from Psycho named Marshall Schlom walked on to the set and he saw Anthony Hopkins as Alfred Hitchcock directing the scene, and he got incredibly emotional,” says Gervasi. “He’s getting on in years and said, ‘Thank you for giving me my memories back.’ To see that was the ultimate satisfaction. I think that was when all of us, Tony included, started to think, ‘My God, this is something potentially very special.'”
A trailer for Hitchcock is expected to debut online tomorrow. The film will have its gala premiere at the first night of the AFI Fest on Nov. 1, before opening in select theaters on Nov. 23.