Imagine If The Oscars Actually Mattered

I’m stretching plausibility here, but really: What would such a world look like? Maybe whoever won best director would be “retired” from filmmaking—the way they don’t let anyone in the NHL wear Wayne Gretsky’s number anymore. That way we get rid of the James Camerons and hold on to the Alfred Hitchcocks.

The host is always under a lot of pressure to be manic but still warm, edgy yet politically correct, hilarious with a hint of gravitas. Which means that traditionally, they fail in miserable fashion. Why not give the original host a half-hour grace period before the audience at home is allowed to vote them out via text message? Then you can bring on some unknown replacement comedian: either it’s his big break, or you vote him/her off the show as well.

There’s so much else that can be done to give this award ceremony a sense of meaning. Door prizes, for instance. Also, under each seat should be a basket of tomatoes with which to pelt losing nominees so that they end up having to pay for the formalwear they borrowed. Finally, I envision a big countdown clock on stage. When four hours are up, a swarm of aggravated wasps is released into the theatre. That would be worth staying up for.

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Toby Jones Becomes Alfred Hitchcock In Time Lapse Video

I had just assumed actor Toby Jones was just pudgy and disgusting. But no! It was a fat suit and four hours worth of makeup to morph Jones into Alfred Hitchcock for HBO’s The Girl.

Unfortunately this video from the UK Guardian’s web site does not embed. But anyone who wants to know all about the wonders of the Hollywood makeup chair would do well to watch this time-lapse video that shows Jones getting skin layers of skin, a prosethetic nose and his nasty little tufts of Hitchcockian hair. 

I don’t know if HBO films are eligible for Oscars, and even if they are, you know the Academy Award for best makeup is going to go to some shit like Halle Berry in Cloud Atlas for playing a white woman

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Behind ‘Hitchcock’ and Beyond with Director Sacha Gervasi

“I enjoy[ed] playing [Alfred Hitchcock] with this untried director, Sacha Gervasi. He was one of the reasons I wanted to do it; he’d never work[ed] with actors before, and I think that’s all the more [motivation]. He had such confidence in himself. His enthusiasm was palpable.” Praise-laden words courtesy of Anthony Hopkins (via satellite during a press conference last week), the legendary actor’s assessment of the filmmaker speaks volumes.

And he’s not the only one pleased with the experience of making Hitchcock. Indeed, Gervasi is said to have fostered a fun atmosphere for all on set, at least according to actress Toni Collette, who plays Peggy Robertson, trusty assistant to Hopkins’ Hitchcock. “It felt light and free and focused,” said she of the environment.

Known for producing and directing the award-winning documentary Anvil: The Story of Anvil and for writing scripts for The Big Tease and The Terminal, this Fox Searchlight flick, which opens today in limited release and nationwide next month, is Gervasi’s narrative directorial debut.

A love story about one of the most influential filmmakers of the last century, Hitchcock conveys to viewers the bond, sometimes tenuous and sometimes tender, between Hitch and his wife, Alma Reville. Instrumental to both the happiness of the man and the success of the movie Psycho, Reville, portrayed by Helen Mirren, at long last receives the recognition she so sorely deserves.

Gervasi spent some time with us last week discussing this, along with Hopkins’ hijinks, the challenges that accompanied making this movie, and how permanently playing percussion for the band Bush wasn’t ever really in the cards.

So, there’s already a bit of Oscar buzz…
Who the hell knows? My mother’s behind it all.

[Laughs] So, why did this story need to be told?
[Hitchcock is] an iconic filmmaker. He’s a brilliant genius, one of the greatest directors of all time. What people don’t know is how important his wife was. Not just as his marriage partner, but also as someone who worked with him. She worked on the script, on casting, consult[ed] during production and was very involved in the editing process. I felt it was an interesting, unexpected, unusual story. A strange kind of love story. You picture Alfred Hitchcock and don’t imagine him listening to anyone. Well, he listened to one person and it happened to be his wife.

What did it take for you to get on board?
I’m fascinated with stories about creative marriages and creative partnerships. I had to convince them to give me the job, which was a big deal, because there were far more qualified directors in line for the job. But, you know, Tom Pollock and Ivan Reitman, producers of this film, really loved [my documentary film] Anvil, so I was given the job, against the[ir] better judgment. [Laughs] And then I met Tony Hopkins. I was very nervous, because he had to say yes. The first thing he said to me was, "I’ve seen Anvil three times." So, he was on board immediately. Then, once Tony was in, we had to persuade Helen [Mirren], and eventually the movie got made. So, it was very fortuitous, the whole thing.

Any funny stories from on set?
Oh my god. Tony loved to shock people, just like Hitchcock did. He would get in his Hitchcock outfit and ask, "Is someone new coming to the set?" Then, [when] someone new would appear, he would take great delight in tapping them on the shoulder and going, "Good evening." He would make people jump, like, five feet in the air. It was pretty funny.

In the film, were there any ad-libbed or improvised parts?
I think there were a few. For example, the [scene where] Tony is directing Janet Leigh and he goes into this sort of frenzy and then the film burns, you see a wide shot of Hitchcock walking behind the screen in profile. That was an accident. Tony was actually going to get coffee. I’d already called cut, but we were [still] filming and Tony was walking across the set. It ended up in the movie. So, that’s a perfect example of something that was not intended.

Did any of the performances surprise you?
All of them. You never know what’s going to happen until the camera’s running. Tony Hopkins and Helen Mirren didn’t “audition.” None of the actors, frankly. So, you’re always surprised.

What did you find to be the biggest challenge?
We didn’t have much money and we didn’t have much time. We shot it in 35 days for a relatively low budget. The biggest challenge was getting everything we needed to get within the day that we had to get it.

Sounds like a parallel to Psycho.
Yeah, it was roughly the same schedule. It was shot in the same time. It was very interesting.

Did your wife fix your movie for you, too? [Laughs]
Yeah, she told me to do [Hitchcock] in the first place!

I thought you didn’t need convincing!
When I first read [the script], I wasn’t sure. Then she told me the Alfred and Alma story, because she was fascinated with it. So, she was a huge reason why I actually did it, because she thought it was a great story.

Indeed! So, how did you prepare?
I drank a lot of coffee. [Laughs] I did a ton of research. We had Stephen Rebello’s book, numerous biographies, numerous accounts. Even Janet Leigh wrote a book about her experience making Psycho. We read everything to try and acquaint ourselves. So, a lot of it was research, a lot of it was working with my team and trying to create those sets and trying to create the feeling.

Two scenes stand out to me especially: when Alma gives Alfred a talking to and when he’s privately conducting the score to the shower scene outside the theater…
That was a tiny line in the script, but it was really Tony. He’s a classical musician, so it’s really all Hopkins.

What was the most fun scene to shoot?
I would say that was one of the most fun. Going between the audience and him was tremendous fun.

What was the most difficult scene to shoot?
Probably the opening of North by Northwest. We had rain and umbrellas and crane shots and hundreds of extras. As we were shooting, there would be homeless people screaming out, What are you doing? We had street people of downtown L.A. ruining our takes, so it was complicated in that environment to try to make it work.

What was the impetus to bring Gein into Alfred’s present?
We wanted to find a fictional way to get inside Hitch’s mind. I thought it was funny that the most notorious serial killer of all time would be [Hitchcock’s] only friend and his shrink [in the film]. So, there’s a certain irony to it, which I hope the audience embraces. It’s fun, it’s dark, it’s “Hitchcockian.”

With all of this said, what are your thoughts on Hitchcock?
There’s been a lot of debate about Hitchcock [the man]. I think what we’re saying [in this film] is that he wasn’t good or bad. He was both. He’s such a fascinating, rich character. The reason we’re interested is because [his] films are so extraordinary. I hope [Hitchcock] provokes curiosity in Hitchcock. It was great having young people come to the screenings, now going and looking at Hitchcock movies. That’s a great byproduct of what we’ve done that we weren’t really anticipating. Plus, the relationship story. Giving Alma her due. If nothing else, the film is about that. Acknowledging the unacknowledged partner. Singing the song of someone who wasn’t seeking the limelight, but yet who made such a vital and valuable contribution.

You’re from the U.K., you shot in L.A. and now you’re in New York. Stance on NYC?
I love New York. I mean, I used to live here. So, for me, it’s like coming home.

Lastly, you once played drums in the band Bush. What would you be doing today if you weren’t working in film? Might you have been a rock star?
I’d probably be in rehab. [Laughs] I have no idea. I still speak with Gavin [Rossdale]. We’re really good friends. I’ve known him since I was five, so the idea of being his drummer…it was fun for a moment, but I think I had other things in mind. That being said, I loved being in that band. But, I don’t know. It wasn’t really my destiny.

‘Hitchcock’’s Toni Collette on Acting, Accents & Australia

When it comes to accomplished actresses, Toni Collette is as versatile and disarming (in a good way) as they come. From The Sixth Sense and About a Boy, to In Her Shoes and Little Miss Sunshine, the Aussie star can’t be faulted for not exploring enough genres or assuming enough varying roles. Take her show United States of Tara alone and you’ve got several characters right there! Indeed, the 40-year-old mother of two has thus far assembled quite an impressive oeuvre, and she’s just getting started.

In Hitchcock—the comedy-drama about Alfred Hitchcock’s relationship with his indispensable wife Alma Reville, as portrayed during the making of his seminal movie Psycho—she acts alongside the likes of legendary actors Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren; the role of Hitchcock played by Hopkins (in full makeup and fat suit) with Mirren as his better half. Collette takes on the role of Peggy Robertson, longtime assistant to the “Master of Suspense,” a discerning and discreet right-hand-woman to the oft-challenging horror honcho of Hollywood. Both entertaining and informative, the 98-minute flick opens in limited release this Friday and nationwide come December.

Last weekend, we were lucky enough to steal some time with Collette to chat about her stance on Hitchcock and Hitchcock, what it was like to reunite with Hopkins, and her hatred for structured dialect learning.

What was it like working with Anthony Hopkins again? You acted together so long ago on The Efficiency Expert.
When I was 17. My first movie! 

What was it like to have that reunion?
It was lovely. We had a very short rehearsal with Sacha [Gervasi, the director] before we started shooting. We arrived and I sat in [Hopkins’] car with him and we reminisced about that [earlier] movie. I was a baby! 

I’m really lucky to have another chance to work with him. He’s a legendary actor, but also a complete sweetheart. I think when I was 17 I was too nervous to really get to know him. On this job I feel like I have. He’s just a wonderful person and such an incredible actor.

Was he goofy at all on set?
Oh yeah. He’s always joking. Tony’s very easy to work with. In no way like Hitchcock, except that he’s good at what he does. 

Any funny stories?
Nothing specific. The set just had an air of fun, a fun vibe. Suddenly, it feels like this big movie. It’s about to come out and people are talking about it in a context that’s kind of beyond me. But, in making it, it was so easy. It felt light and free and focused, but I think Sacha created a very pleasurable set. And, I think that’s smart, because it allows people to feel relaxed and hopefully do good work.

You have a great range of facial expressions and personalities within your work. But in this film you needed to be more restrained and not express everything going on inside. How was that for you? 
That’s very much Peggy. She takes everything in her stride. The fact that you recognize that there’s something underneath is a good thing, because that’s what I wanted it to feel like. She’s almost like the silent partner. He’s making all these seemingly crazy decisions and he’s incredibly moody and she just takes it, moves through it, doesn’t take it on. But you can hopefully see that she’s got her own opinion underneath the obvious. 

Definitely. You’re also accustomed to taking on various voices and accents for your roles. Did you ever, or do you now, have a coach for this?
When I first came to America I worked with a woman for an hour and found it completely distracting; I never worked with anyone again. On About a Boy, I worked with a British dialect coach and I recently worked in London again where the producers wanted me to work with a dialect coach. It was the second day after arriving, I was completely jetlagged. I was basically lying down talking to this poor woman and I just thought, Oh my god. If I have to think about the things that I’m being told to think about, it’s just a complete distraction. I’m more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants, I-hope-I-get-it-right kind of person. 

On that “free spirit” note, did you prepare at all to become Peggy?
A lot of it was imagined, because there was very little information about her. Not as much as the more famous elements in the movie, in Hitchcock’s life. I watched a couple of interviews with her, read as much as possible, looked at a few photos. She was a very stylish lady, very well put together, so I found it great fun wearing Julie [Weiss]’s costumes. I feel like I had the best costumes in the movie, actually. [Laughs]

So, how did the process play out?
Piece-by-piece. Everything starts with a script. That kind of determines where you leap off from. I loved the script. I found it interesting that this woman, like Alma, Hitchcock’s wife, is incredibly strong and capable and very much an individual. But, she also dedicated her life to somebody else’s work, which I found to be a strange combination. I just loved that she didn’t take any shit from him. That’s what made their relationship so successful and [enduring]. The fact that she’s just real with this guy who’s very intimidating to other people [is great].

Is it more difficult playing the part of a person who existed in the real world, versus a fictitious character?
I think so. There’s a certain amount of responsibility. Having said that, Peggy wasn’t famous like the other characters represented in the movie, so there wasn’t as much pressure. Phew!

What’s your overall take on the film?
It’s a confident film in terms of the filmmaking. In a way it kind of represents Hitchcock himself. His acerbic wit [is] sewn throughout the piece. I love the story. I’m sure this is a common reaction: you think, Oh, it’s a movie about movies. And, in a sense, it is. [But], it’s so much more than that. It’s about his relationship with his incredibly talented, strong, capable wife. And, also, the rest of the women. His relationship with women in general is kind of strange and interesting and funny. 

Absolutely. Unlike a lot of actors working in the film and TV industry, you live neither in New York nor in L.A. You live in Australia. What’s that like?
I’m from Australia, so it feels normal to me. It’s a blessing and a curse that it’s so far away. When I go home, I feel like I’m on another planet. It’s very relaxing and familiar and easy. When I travel, it feel[s] like a work-oriented venture. I have two small kids now, so things have kind of changed. But, we are a bit of a traveling circus. We don’t spend much time at home, but we make the most of it. It’s fun. It’s a great life. It’s a really interesting way to be. I don’t want to do it forever. It’s exhausting. But, I’m really lucky to be working on the quality films I’m working on, especially this year. 

Can you tell me more?
Every single [film] has been a great experience, both personally and professionally. I’m not lying, every single film I’ve done this year has been fantastic. Really satisfying. But, I am looking forward to going home and lying down for a minute. 

What all have you conquered this year?
I did Hitchcock. Then I did a film called The Way, Way Back, which was written by the guys who wrote The Descendants. I got to work with Steve Carell on that. It was set on the beach in Massachusetts, so I would literally walk out the front door and ride my bike to the end of the street to go to work. It was lovely. I have a little part in a Nicole Holofcener film. Again, great story, great actors, a very Holofcener vibe, which I dug. I recently completed a film called A Long Way Down, which is another adaptation of a Nick Hornby novel. I love, love, love the story. Initially I was nervous to play my character; I thought I’d been miscast. I thought she was very different from me and I didn’t know how to make her real, but I loved playing that character. The story’s really beautiful. So, yeah, it’s been bloody brilliant. 

Anthony Hopkins + Pillows + Turkey Necks = ‘Hitchcock’

How do you turn Anthony Hopkins into Alfred Hitchcock? Stuff a couple of pillows up his shirt and slap on a few prosthetic chins, apparently, and then let the master do his worst. Yes, in addition to HBO’s The Girl, there’s a big-screen biopic of the great director, this time focusing not on his creepy feelings toward Tippi Hendren but on his fascination with murder and the making of Psycho. (Don’t worry. I’m sure Hopkins makes plenty of awkward advances toward Scarlett Johansson’s Janet Leigh.)

With a star-studded cast including Helen Mirren (who needs no extra make-up, as she’s been in her sixties for, oh, TWENTY YEARS NOW?), Toni Collette, Jessica Biel (sure, throw her in there, too!), Danny Huston, and James D’arcy ("star-studded" is a relative term, folks), Hitchcock proves to be the most exciting biopic since that other Truman Capote movie came out with Sandra Bullock as Harper Lee and Gwyneth Paltrow as Peggy Lee. Check out the trailer below:

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Andrew Goldman Fails To Get It, Again, In ‘NYT Mag’ Interview With Tippi Hedren

Andrew Goldman, for those of who who don’t read The New York Times Magazine, is the same interviewer who asked Whitney Cummings about jokes she slept her way to the top, whether Chelsea Handler’s ex-boyfriend is the reason she got Chelsea Lately, and snarky comments by Norm Macdonald that she’s just a pretty girl who swears a lot. So we should not be surprised that he brought the same boorishness masked as intrepid journalism to an interview with Tippi Hedren about the new HBO film The Girl, which details how The Birds director Alfred Hitchcock sexually harassed her and stunted her career.

Goldman start first described the harassment Hedren suffered under Hitchcock — unwanted physical advances, blackmail for sex — and asks her to explain why he behaved this way. 

He was a misogynist. That man was physically so unattractive. I think to have a mind that thought of himself as an attractive, romantic man and then to wake up in the morning and look at that face and that body was tough. I think he had a whole lot of problems.

Now. This would have been a good point to ask more about the misogyny. Or the problems Hitchcock had. Or probe more deeply into sexual harassment of actresses in Hollywood.

But no. Instead Goldman remarks, "The film made me ponder the expression “Revenge is a dish best served cold.” Is there any satisfaction in exacting revenge on a man who has been dead 32 years? " (Emphasis mine) Of course the only reason a woman go public with a story about one of the most famous filmmakers in the world ruined her career is "revenge." It’s just spitefulness!

Hedren’s response is kinder than mine would have been, both to Hitchcock and to her interviewer:

Well, I don’t know that I’ve gotten any revenge on him. Maybe this movie is a bit. But I’m not the first one this happened to. Other actresses never made any overt statements about it. What he did with his life is astounding. There is no one in this world that did films like he did. Nobody.

The interview continues and Tippi Hedren talks about a conversation she had with Hitchcock’s wife and attending his funeral. She gets testy with him at the end over, of all things, a comment about the jungle cats she had living at her home which attacked her daughter Melanie Griffith. (Don’t ask.) The whole Q&A felt tense.

To be clear, I don’t think Tippi Hedren is too precious that she can’t answer questions about Alfred Hitchcock’s abuse. She’s a grown woman and she’s speaking out publicly about it. But I do think any woman who comes forward about abuse — and Hedren has clearly suffered greatly by it, not the least of which in her career — deserves to be treated with more respect than the suggestion she’s seeking "revenge" by sharing her story. She’s not the one who did something wrong here; Hitchcock did. That’s sexism. 

Of course, Andrew Goldman won’t be the first person to cover this in a sexist way; the peanut gallery will be filled with hisses and boos that Tippi Hedren shouldn’t tarnish the reputation of a dead man. I’ve seen plenty of anonymous blog comments that basically say that. I just don’t know why The New York Times Magazine would stoop to the level of anonymous blog commentors. 

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HBO Releases Teaser For ‘The Girl,’ Alfred Hitchcock Sexual Harassment Flick

HBO released a teaser this weekend for its forthcoming film The Girl, which finally takes iconic filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock to task for his sexual harassment of Tippi Hedren, his star of The Birds. Perplexingly, though, the teaser doesn’t even remotely hint at Hitchcock’s abuse.

Hedren, who is played by Sienna Miller in the film, described to the Television Critics Association press tour earlier this month the power imbalance with her former acting coach. As blogger Alyssa Rosenberg at Think Progress described, Hedren told the audience that she signed onto a seven-year contract with Hitchcock and initially benefited from his tutelage. She starred in his films The Birds and Marnie — but Hitchcock abruptly extinguished her film career when she refused his sexual advances. Given an ultimatum by the director to become his mistress or lose her career, Hedren chose her dignity.

The choice, while courageous, seriously impeded her professional life. Sexual harassment law did not exist; one wonders if Hitchcock’s bosses would even have defended the actress from the lecherous advances she sought to escape. As Hedren told, "Studios were the power. And I was at the end of that, and there was absolutely nothing I could do legally whatsoever. There were no laws about this kind of a situation. If this had happened today, I would be a very rich woman.” Instead she is only speaking about the harassment she endured years after Hitchcock’s death.

The Girl airs in October on HBO:

Watch an Amazing Single Shot Edit of Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Rear Window’

You thought the only way you were going to revisit Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window was by watching Disturbia and tsking at the dropoff between Jimmy Stewart and Shia LeBeouf, didn’t you? Well, here’s a nice treat: Aided by a nifty helping of ingenuity, artist Jeff Desom built a 3D digital model of the apartment courtyard where Stewart watches all of his neighbors and their daily business. Stitching a number of images together, he composited a single shot that shows everything going on as it would play out in real time, as though you were in the movie yourself watching everything go down. This actually isn’t the full thing, but a "making of" featurette for a video installation that takes about 20 minutes. But it’s still pretty awesome to watch, assuming you’re a fan of technical trickery and old movies. Watch it after the click, via /Film by way of Vulture.

"I dissected all of Hitchcock’s Rear Window and stitched it back together in After Effects," Desom explains on his website. "I stabilized all the shots with camera movement in them. Since everything was filmed from pretty much the same angle I was able to match them into a single panoramic view of the entire backyard without any greater distortions. The order of events stays true to the movie’s plot." Riveting stuff. The website also lists a number of technical requirement for running the installation, so maybe you can bug Desom about letting you in on the fun should you want to throw the best party of all-time. 

Morning Links: Best Coast Gets an Urban Outfitters Line, Scar-Jo Cast as ‘Psycho’ Janet Leigh

● Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino revealed on Twitter yesterday that she is following in the trendy footsteps of Kim Gordon before her and launching a clothing line for Urban Outfitters this May. "i’m stoked to dress y’all this spring," she wrote, adding that, "boys- you will look cute in a crop top, too!" [Stereogum]

Liquor stores need not worry: producers from Snooki’s Jersey Shore spin-off tipped off Jersey City’s baby boutiques weeks ago. [TMZ]

● Unusually thorough, Viggo Mortensen does not let a childhood hero go forgotten in this interview. Not even one. [BostonGlobe]

● Kanye West’s Giuseppe Zanotti ivory-beaded sandals, as debuted on the runways at Paris Fashion Week, can be yours for a mere $5,800. [Us]

● Scarlett Johnasson has scored the role of Psycho character Janet Leigh in Sacha Gervasi’s behind-the-scenes drama, Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho. Anthony Hopkins will play Hitchcock, Helen Mirren will play Hitchcock’s wife, Alma Reville. [Variety]

● Demi Moore has traded her fancy Cirque Lodge rehab for "vacation" at an undisclosed location. "She’s in no rush to get back to L.A.," explains someone close to her. Can you blame her? [E!]

● Harvey Weinstein wants Katy Perry to make her big screen debut as the wife of mobile-phone salesman turned Britian’s Got Talent winner, Paul Potts, but only if his first choice, Adele, won’t take the role. Ouch. [Page Six]