Alfred Hitchcock Abused Tippi Hedren, According To Biopic 'The Girl' Starring Sienna Miller
Julian Jerrold's BBC film The Girl, a cross-section of Alfred Hitchcock and actress Tippi Hedren's tense relationship on the set of The Birds, is being criticized for defaming the celebrated Rear Window director. Starring Sienna Miller and Toby Jones, The Girl suggests that Hitchcock was obsessively infatuated with Hedren, who did not reciprocate his feelings, and that he subsequently terrorized her on set out of spite — a claim that fans fervently deny. But its screenwriter, the talented Gwyneth Hughes, is defending her script. “I carried out extensive research in preparation for writing my script and had the huge privilege of interviewing Jim Brown before he died. I'm confident that our film represents very truthfully the intimate memories and heartfelt insights he shared about Alfred Hitchcock's painful relationship with Tippi Hedren," Hughes explained, referring to the assistant director on The Birds and Hitchcock's right-hand man. “Jim was an invaluable first hand witness to the great director and spoke very frankly. I came away with the clear understanding that this is a deeply sad story of unrequited love.”
The controversial drama recounts the experience of Hedren on set, and takes many cues from the book The Dark Side Of Genius: The Life Of Alfred Hitchcock by Donald Spoto, which posits that the director was sexually frustrated and self-loathing. “I think initially it was a very friendly, director-actress, professional, and quite wonderful relationship that gradually spiraled into something much more sinister as he became more and more obsessed with her, and that’s the story, the demise of that relationship is what the story really focuses on,” said Miller, who plays Hedren in the biopic. “I don’t think it’s any revelation to hear that Hitchcock had a slightly darker side. You only have to watch his films to see that his relationship towards women is slightly misogynistic."
According to the film, the married Hitchcock became obsessed with Hedren and casted her as the lead in his 1963 hit. But, after Hedren refused his advances, the spurned Hitchcock submitted the actress to sadistic antics — at one point trading the previously mechanized birds for real ones in a scene where Hedren was swarmed and pecked at, though she was not warned of the switch beforehand and was subsequently physically injured, forcing production to be suspended for a week while she recovered. “Hitch said we had to keep filming," Hedren recalled during an interview. “The doctor said, ‘What are you trying to do, kill her?’" After wrapping up The Birds, the director then refused to allow Hedren out of her contract, which required her to make another film with him, Marnie. “There wasn’t time to show the wonderful people I met, the wonderful discussions Hitch and I had, the great gift he gave me being not only my director but my drama coach," Hedren said of the film, assuring that she also had good memories of her relationship with Hitchcock prior to its nasty turn. “He ruined my career, but he didn’t ruin my life," said Hedren, now 82, the proud mother of actress Melanie Griffith.
But there are also many who decry the movie for tarnishing the director's reputation. Among them is Tony Lee, author of The Making of Hitchcock's The Birds: "Sexual harrassment is wrong. Yet so is blackening the name of a man not able to defend himself." Nora Brown, wife of the late Jim Brown, agreed, adding that her husband would not have been happy with the result. “He had nothing but admiration and respect for Hitch, understood his clever Cockney sense of humor and thought the man a genius.” Responding to Brown's criticism, executive producer Leanne Klein said: “We regret that Nora Brown is unhappy about the film, but she has not actually seen it, having declined our offers of a pre-release viewing," she said, maintaining that the film was based on extensive research and first-hand experience. “Both Tippi Hedren and Donald Spoto have seen the finished film and believe it accurately represents Hedren's experience of working with Hitchcock."
Watch Sienna Miller discuss The Girl in an interview below: