Ice Blonde in Bondage: Sienna Miller to Star in BBC Movie About Hitchcock's Sexual Obsession With Tippi Hedren

Ice Blonde in Bondage: Sienna Miller to Star in BBC Movie About Hitchcock's Sexual Obsession With Tippi Hedren
Alfred Hitchcock with Tippi Hedren following the premiere of "The Birds," 1963
(Courtesy Getty Images)

Alfred Hitchock’s romantic obsession with the actress Tippi Hedren and his sexual harassment of her is to become the subject of a ninety minute television film, “The Girl,” that will first air on BBC 2 in the UK next year. Hedren will be played by Sienna Miller and Hitchcock by Toby Jones. Imelda Staunton has been cast as Alma Reville, Hitchcock’s wife and collaborator, and Penelope Wilton as Peggy Robertson, who was his assistant for nearly 30 years.

Hitchcock hired Hedren after seeing her in a soft-drink commercial in 1961 when he was 62 and she was exactly half that. Seeing Hedren as the latest in a long line of Hitchcockian “ice blondes” in the Kim Novak and Grace Kelly mold, he tied her to a seven-year contract and cast her as Melanie Daniels in “The Birds” (1963) and as the kleptomaniacal title character of “Marnie” (1964).

 

“The Girl” will recount how Hitchcock traumatized Hedren with his unwanted attentions. He controlled what she ate and wore away from the cameras, had her followed, and sent her handwriting samples to be analyzed by experts. He forbade her to share cars with male stars and insisted on holding all their conversations in private. His fetishistic control of her image, in which he enlisted the help of the costume designer Edith Head, echoes that of the James Stewart character’s control of Kim Novak’s in “Vertigo” (1958), widely considered Hitchcock’s greatest and most personally revealing film.

Hedren walked away from the contract when Hitchcock allegedly threatened to have her blacklisted in Hollywood if she did not sleep with him at the time of “Marnie.” She did not make another feature until Charles Chaplin’s 1967 “A Countess From Hong Kong.” Hitchcock made four comparatively weak films after “Marnie,” none of them sharing its psychological intensity.

“The Girl” was inspired by Donald Spoto’s 2008 book “Spellbound by Beauty: Alfred Hitchcock and His Leading Ladies.” Hitchcock biographer Spoto will act as consultant on the film, which has been written by Gwyneth Hughes. Cooperating with the project, Hedren has given interviews to Hughes and has also met with Miller.

“At the time, in the early 1960s,” Hughes has said in a statement, "[Hedren] suffered in silence. But now, at the age of 81, her wisdom and insights have helped me to put her real-life ordeal on the screen.”

Hitchcock reportedly had a non-existent sex life with Reville and troubled relationships with her and their daughter, Patricia. He sublimated his anger toward women through his sadistic treatment of the female characters in films like “Psycho” (1960) and “Frenzy” (1972) and in the way he humiliated and indirectly physically abused some actresses on the set. Madeleine Carroll, herself an ice blonde, was bruised and battered by being handcuffed to Robert Donat during the making of “The 39 Steps” (1935). On “The Birds,” Hedren went into clinical shock after spending a week’s filming confined in a small space with her vicious feathered co-stars.

Filming on “The Girl” begins in South Africa this week. It is being directed by Julian Jarrold, whose films include “Becoming Jane” (2007) and “Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1974” (2009). Jarrold’s disturbing “Appropriate Adult” (2011), about the real-life English serial killer Fred West (Dominic West) and his manipulation of his social worker (Emily Watson), makes its America debut on the Sundance Channel at 10pm this Saturday.

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