In the new movie “Hitchcock,” two dissimilar directors — one living, one dead — collide.
In 1960, Alfred Hitchcock wanted to move away from the glossy color movies Hollywood had been making. But no one wanted to finance “Psycho,” so he decided to put up the money himself.
Many years later, London-born filmmaker Sacha Gervasi also used his own money to make the documentary “Anvil! The Story of Anvil,” which received great acclaim (and a best documentary award from the San Francisco Film Critics Circle).
A year or two later, Gervasi found himself last on a list of 27 directors being interviewed for “Hitchcock.”
“[Producer] Tom Pollock told me upfront that I wasn’t going to get the job. Why would they give it to me? They had two Academy Award-winning directors up for it,” Gervasi laughs.
But Pollock told Gervasi the producers, who loved “Anvil,” still wanted to hear his ideas.
“So I had nothing to lose, and I went for it,” Gervasi says. “At the end of an hour and a half, he said, ‘You should direct the film.’”
Gervasi’s pitch included casting Anthony Hopkins as Hitchcock, Helen Mirren as Hitch’s long-suffering wife, Alma, and focusing on their complex relationship.
Upon meeting Hopkins, Gervasi says, “I was very nervous … petrified. I walk in, and he spreads his arms and says, ‘I’ve seen “Anvil!” three times!’ The best part was that I put him on the phone with Lips from Anvil, and they had this amazing conversation!”
In dealing with an iconic figure like Hitchcock, Gervasi decided to humanize him by showing his good and bad sides together: “He’s a monster. He’s a genius. He’s genuinely a contradiction. He’s not resolvable.”
His wife, who worked tirelessly behind the scenes on every Hitchcock movie, was equally important as a character. “Hitchcock” reveals that Alma persuaded Hitch to add the shrieking string music to the famed “Psycho” shower scene.
“This incredibly strong, brilliant woman was by his side through all of it. Her decisions were absolutely critical to his genius,” he says.
And so ultimately, the guy who made “Anvil!” has brought his understanding of artists and collaborators to “Hitchcock,” but perhaps more importantly, “I genuinely believe that Hitchcock would have wanted the movie about himself to be fun.”