Director Sacha Gervasi discusses Hitchcock
“I beg permission to mention by name only four people who have given me the most affection, appreciation, encouragement and constant collaboration. The first of the four is a film editor, the second is a scriptwriter, the third is the mother of my daughter Pat, and the fourth is as fine a cook as ever performed miracles in a domestic kitchen. And their names are Alma Reville.”
A famous film critic once said that Hitchcock had four hands and two of them were his wife Alma’s. Notorious for his affections for his leading ladies he was both encouragable and charming. When first making introductions round the set for example he would say, “You can call me Hitch – hold the cock.”
Directed by Sacha Gervasi, Hitchcock is really a portrayal of their captivating and complex love story told during the filming of the spine-tingling 1960 thriller Psycho, which would become the director’s most legendary controversial film. The movie spins with a tumultuous, against all odds production with complexities that never could have been achieved without both husband and wife teaming up.
The film reveals both their obsessions and fears but also their long lasting love and respect for one another. Alma served as an assistant editor and also took small roles as an actress. She married Hitchcock in 1926 when she was then his assistant director. He directed more than 50 films with Psycho being made for $800,000 and shot in black and white in 30 days. He financed it himself when the studio refused after reading his shocking script. It was Alma who helped get the murder shower scene past the Paramount Production Code officials, suggesting the editing of the scene be done so quickly so that the audience couldn’t be sure of what they were really seeing. I had the chance to talk with Director Sacha Gervasi about the making of the film Hitchcock and more.
What surprised you most when researching this film about Alma and Hitch?
I always felt the core of Hitchcock had to be their lovely unexpected love story. I was surprised at this relationship of husband and wife . They had this dynamic complex, contradictory, beautiful, painful relationship. I was really interested in how these two very strong-minded people lived with each other and created together and that brought a whole new perspective to the story of how psycho was made. Without Alma at his side, Hitchcock would not have been as brilliant or would not have pulled off Psycho. We have all been shaken by Hitchcock movies. I saw my first one when I was 13 and it shook me to my foundation.
How has your impression of him changed?
When we join her in his story, Alma is feeling a little underappreciated by her husband. His obsessive compulsive desire to complete this film at all odds leads him to be a bit selfish. They mortgage their house. But in the course of it he realizes what a magnificent jewel he has for a woman and partner who he must acknowledge and reply on, even if in his own very restrained and unsentimental way. He thinks, wow this person has stuck by me through all my rubbish and how blind I’ve been. The story might involve a very famous filmmaker and a very famous film, but he is very real and human.
So what did you learn from watching Hitchcock movies?
The thing I love about Hitchcock is the way he approached life, death, sex, mothers and murders all with a kind of drollness. So that was the spirit with which we approached the material. We had an opportunity to shine a light on the idea of partnership, on how hard it is to be married, and on how hard it is to express yourself. But I think you don’t always have to be serious to be profound and sometimes comedy and lightness, can really touch upon deeper things.
It seems you have an even greater respect for him after directing this movie?
You are struck by his genius. He made 10 -12 amazing films and that is very rare for a director. He made such a range of films. I love Vertigo, it’s so unintentionally the man himself. It was a commercial and critical disaster. You have this immense genius in this man but Psycho was roundly dismissed by critics. Other critics called it a masterpiece. With the passage of time the true depth of his genius is revealed because the work is so rich and brilliant and ranges over so many genres of film. He’s been deified and vilified, perhaps that’s an oversimplification.
So what we find out in your movie is the various sides of the man and the director and the husband?
Yes, there are some very dark scenes in this movie. We wanted to show tenderness in Hitchcock’s films but also a movie that demonstrates and deepens the aspect of his character and his side of life with Alma. It was really completely unexpected, even when I studied him in film I did not know about her and I am so glad I brought it to life.
Hitchcock, directed by Sacha Gervasi and starring Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren and Scarlett Johansson is now in theaters nationwide.