ⓘ The Girl (2012 TV film)

                                     

ⓘ The Girl (2012 TV film)

The Girl is a 2012 British television film directed by Julian Jarrold, written by Gwyneth Hughes and produced by the BBC and HBO Films. The film stars Sienna Miller as Tippi Hedren and Toby Jones as Alfred Hitchcock. It is based on Donald Spotos 2009 book, Spellbound by Beauty: Alfred Hitchcock and His Leading Ladies, which discusses the English film director Hitchcock and the women who played leading roles in his films. The Girl s title was inspired by Hitchcocks alleged nickname for Hedren.

The film depicts Hitchcocks alleged obsession with Hedren, the American model and actress he brought from relative obscurity to star in his 1963 film The Birds. Hitchcock becomes infatuated with his leading lady; when she rebuffs his advances, he subjects her to a series of traumatic experiences during the filming of The Birds. Hitchcocks obsession with Hedren continues when she stars in his next production, Marnie. Hedren grows increasingly uncomfortable with his attentions, and decides that she needs to escape the situation. However, she cannot work elsewhere because of her exclusive contract with Hitchcock; this effectively ends her Hollywood career.

The Girl made its television debut in the United States on 20 October 2012 on HBO and aired in the United Kingdom on BBC Two on 26 December. Jones and Miller were nominated for awards at the 2013 Golden Globe Awards and the British Academy Television Awards for their roles in the film, which received mixed reviews from critics. The Daily Mirror s Jane Simon praised Millers portrayal of Hedren. Although she endorsed the film, Hedren said its length kept it from showing some of the positive aspects of her relationship with Hitchcock. Others who knew and worked with Hitchcock criticised the film because of its portrayal of him as a sexual predator. Kim Novak who starred in one of Hitchcocks films and Nora Brown widow of one of Hitchcocks close friends disputed the films version of events.

                                     

1. Plot summary

The film is a partially fictionalised account of the relationship between Alfred Hitchcock and Tippi Hedren. In 1961, Hitchcock notices Hedren in a television commercial for a diet drink. He wants to turn her into the next Grace Kelly, with whom he had worked extensively during the 1950s. Hedren passes her screen test and is groomed for the starring role in Hitchcocks latest film, The Birds ; the director instructs her about her dress and appearance.

Captivated by Hedrens Nordic looks, Hitchcock becomes infatuated with her. While filming The Birds, he makes physical advances to her in the back of a limousine but she rebuffs him and escapes through the back door. In retaliation for her rejection, Hitchcock exposes Hedren to terrifying encounters with birds. A mechanical bird breaks the apparently shatterproof glass of a telephone booth during filming, scratching Hedrens face with splintering glass. After arriving on set to shoot a scene where Hedrens character Melanie Daniels is trapped in an attic with aggressive birds, she discovers that Hitchcock has ordered the mechanical birds to be replaced with live ones. He demands the scene be repeated until he is satisfied that Hedrens reaction looks authentic. This takes a protracted several days of filming, leaving Hedren traumatised.

With The Birds a box-office success, Hitchcock and Hedren begin work on Marnie. However, Hedren finds the films content including a marital-rape scene and Hitchcocks obsession with her mentally and emotionally exhausting. The director is frustrated by what he sees as Hedrens coldness towards him. During a conversation with writer Evan Hunter, Hitchcock admits that he has erectile dysfunction and his only sexual partner his wife screenwriter Alma Reville. He later declares his love for Hedren; she walks away, leaving him frustrated and further rejected.

Hitchcock refuses Hedrens request for time off to attend the Photoplay Awards in New York City where she is nominated for the Most Promising Actress award, and tells her he will require her to make herself sexually available to him on demand if her career is to continue. Hedren quits working for Hitchcock after completing Marnie, but he refuses to release her from her contract; this prevents her from working for another production company, effectively ending her Hollywood career. Two notes before the titles inform the viewer that Hitchcock and Hedren never worked together again, and The Birds and Marnie are considered his last classic films.

                                     

2. Cast

  • Conrad Kemp as Evan Hunter
  • Penelope Wilton as Peggy Robertson
  • Sienna Miller as Tippi Hedren
  • Candice DArcy as Josephine Milton
  • Imelda Staunton as Alma Reville
  • Carl Beukes as Jim Brown
  • Toby Jones as Alfred Hitchcock
                                     

3.1. Production Background and development

The Girl is based on Donald Spotos 2009 book, Spellbound by Beauty: Alfred Hitchcock and His Leading Ladies, which examines the relationships between Alfred Hitchcock and the female stars of his films. Spoto wrote that Hitchcock attempted to turn Tippi Hedren star of The Birds and Marnie into his perfect woman, choosing the clothes and lipstick he thought she should wear. Hedren told Spoto that Hitchcock fantasised about running off with her.

Details of a film examining Hitchcocks obsession with Hedren were reported in December 2011. The Girl, written by Gwyneth Hughes, would star Toby Jones as Hitchcock and Sienna Miller as Hedren. In a post-production BBC press release about the film in November 2012, Hughes described her enthusiasm when she was approached about the project while on holiday: voice as Alfred Hitchcock, my body just froze". Hedrens daughter, Melanie Griffith, attended a screening; when the film ended, the audience was silent until Griffith said "Well, now I have to go back into therapy again!" Hedren attended a London screening in October. The Girl made its US television debut on HBO and HBO Canada on 20 October 2012. It had its UK premiere on 26 December, as part of BBC Twos Christmas programming. The film was released on DVD in the UK on 7 January 2013.



                                     

4. Controversy

Hedren gave Spoto an account of the director as a sexual predator for his 1983 book, The Dark Side of a Genius 1983. Spoto wrote that Hitchcock made "an overt sexual proposition that she could neither ignore nor answer casually." Hedren alleged in Spotos 2009 book, Spellbound by Beauty: Alfred Hitchcock and His Leading Ladies, that Hitchcock actually asked her to "make myself sexually available and accessible to him – however and whenever and wherever he wanted." Spoto was the first person Hedren told her story to. She said: "It was embarrassing and insulting - there were a lot of reasons why I didn’t want to tell the story. I didn’t want it to be taken advantage of, twisted, turned and made into an even uglier situation than it was. It wasn’t until years later that I told Donald the story. He is absolutely true and honest in this book." She previously said, in 1973, while Hitchcock was still alive, that a major life-style difference caused a split in their relationship. "He was too possessive and too demanding. I cannot be possessed by anyone. But, then, thats my own hangup."

Hedrens account contrasted with the many interviews she gave about her time with Hitchcock, her presence at the AFI Life Achievement Award ceremony honoring him in 1979, and her presence at his funeral. When asked about it, Hedren answered, "He ruined my career, but he didn’t ruin my life. That time of my life was over. I still admire the man for who he was."

Shortly before the film was due to air on British television in December 2012, Hedren gave an interview to the Daily Mail in which she repeated her claims about Hitchcock: "He made it very clear what was expected of me, but I was equally clear that I wasnt interested. Nobody is denying that Hitchcock was a brilliant moviemaker and I enjoyed working with him before I realised he was starting to take an almost obsessive interest in me." Other actresses have spoken about the close attention Hitchcock paid to details of the leading ladies characters and appearances in his films, but they said that no harassment was involved. Eva Marie Saint, who starred in 1959s North by Northwest, told The Daily Telegraph "Hitchcock was a gentleman, he was funny, he was so attentive to me, with the character, and he cared about everything my character Eve Kendall wore. He had an eye for the specifics of the character."

Kim Novak, who worked on Hitchcocks 1957 Vertigo, disputed the films view of the director, but also stated "I won’t dispute Tippi if that’s what she saw." Novak told The Daily Telegraph, "I feel bad about all the stuff people are saying about him now, that he was a weird character. I did not find him to be weird at all. I never saw him make a pass at anybody or act strange to anybody." Louise Latham, who played Hedrens mother in Marnie, dismissed claims of Hitchcocks predatory nature in Broadcast magazine: "I find some of the allegations hard to believe. I wasnt aware of her being hassled on the set."

Nora Brown said that her husband would not have endorsed The Girl s interpretation of events and the films portrayal of Hitchcock would have saddened him. Gwyneth Hughes interviewed James Brown as part of her background research for the film, but he died before the film was completed. In October 2012, Nora Brown told The Daily Telegraph that she had written to Hughes expressing her anger. Hughes has said that James H. Brown backed up Hedrens claims of sexual harassment. Tony Lee Moral, author of two books about the making of the Hitchcock films in which Hedren starred, echoed Browns comments. Writing for Broadcast in December 2012, Moral who interviewed Jim Brown at length for his 2013 book, The Making of Hitchcocks The Birds recalled a remark Brown made about Hitchcock. "Some of the things that are expressed about are highly over exaggerated. I think Hitch became upset because he thought Tippi wasnt fulfilling the star quality that he thought she had or was looking for."

In an interview with FT Magazine s Rosie Millard, Hedren discussed Hitchcocks attitude towards her after she decided not to work for him again: "He did ruin my career. He kept me under contract, paid me to do nothing for close on two years." Hitchcock sold her contract to Universal Studios, which dismissed her when she refused to work on one of its television shows. However, her acting career continued and she appeared in a number of film and television productions. Hedren said that while she was still under contract to Hitchcock, he turned down several film roles on her behalf, and was particularly disappointed when she heard from French director François Truffaut that he had wanted her for his film Fahrenheit 451. Truffauts daughter Laura disputed this, telling Tony Lee Moral her mother had expressed surprise at the mention of Hedrens possible involvement in the project. Laura Truffaut was also sceptical of the story. "It is extremely unlikely in my view that my father seriously entertained this project without sharing it with my mother as he was not secretive about the other actors who were considered for casting."

                                     

5.1. Reception Criticism and reaction

The films portrayal of Hitchcock as a sexual predator was criticised. Some audience members at a British Film Institute private screening expressed their concerns that writer Gwyneth Hughes and director Julian Jarrold unfairly represented Hitchcock. On the day of its UK television premiere, David Millward of The Daily Telegraph quoted Eva Marie Saint, Doris Day and Kim Novak who worked with Hitchcock; all refuted Hedrens account of him. Writing for savehitchcock.com a website established in response to the medias portrayal of Hitchcock, John Russell Taylor – author of the 1978 biography Hitch – said the film is "totally absurd".

In an interview with Londons Evening Standard in January 2013, Anthony Hopkins who played the eponymous role in the 2012 Alfred Hitchcock biopic Hitchcock questioned The Girl s portrayal of the director and the need for a film about that period of Hitchcocks career: "I talked to Tippi Hedren one day. and she never mentioned that. Whatever his obsession was, she didnt want to dwell on it. I dont think its necessary to put all that into a movie." Speaking to The Independent later that month, Hitchcock director Sacha Gervasi said, "e wanted to shoot it, but something in him didnt want to shoot it, and everybody could hear how nervous he was". Nancy deWolf Smith of The Wall Street Journal wrote that the film should not be viewed in terms of truths or untruths, but instead as "an exquisitely lurid morality play in the Hitchcock style", calling The Girl "an original masterpiece that pays tribute to Hitchcocks talent and vision".

                                     

5.2. Reception Ratings

According to viewing figures collected by Nielsen Media Research, The Girl US television premiere at 9:00 pm on Saturday, 20 October 2012 was watched by an average audience of 722.000. The first UK screening at the same time, on 26 December attracted an audience of 1.8 million, according to The Guardian.



                                     

5.3. Reception Accolades

Jones was nominated for a Best Actor Award at the 2013 Golden Globe Awards for his role as Hitchcock, and Millers portrayal of Hedren earned her a nomination for Best Actress. Miller and Jones also received equivalent nominations at the 2013 British Academy Television Awards. The film received four nominations at the 2013 British Academy Television Craft Awards.