Who was the real Sir Alfred? 'Hitchcock' director Sacha Gervasi backs auteur against 'sadistic monster' portrayed in 'The Girl'

Gervasi said: 'He was a popular entertainer, not Pol Pot'

The director of a new Hollywood film about Sir Alfred Hitchcock has vigorously defended his acclaimed subject’s reputation, saying he was not the “sadistic monster” portrayed in rival accounts.

Hitchcock, starring Sir Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren, is set to be released in UK cinemas early next month. Its director Sacha Gervasi told The Independent: “He was a brilliant, obsessed director and he would push people. I don’t think he was a sadistic monster. He was a popular entertainer, not Pol Pot.”

His remarks follow the broadcast of The Girl, starring Toby Jones as the British director, on BBC2 over Christmas. That account portrayed Hitchcock as an emotional and physical bully in his dealings with Tippi Hedren, the star of his movies The Birds and Marnie. Hedren recently said working with the director was like being in a “mental prison”.

Gervasi believes The Girl’s account was: “A little bit of an oversimplification. It seems a rare one-note portrayal of a man who was a little more complex than that. A lot of people, who were there, do not recognise this portrayal of him as this monster.”

While the director conceded there were “elements of manipulation” to Hitchcock’s character, he believes different sides to his subject, including an ironic sense of humour and mischief, have been overlooked. “To me it’s become a bit hyperbolic and sensationalist.” Gervasi said he found “this other human aspect to him that has been lost in this specific portrayal as a cold forbidding, aloof genius” adding: “For us it was about exploring different sides of Hitchcock we haven’t necessarily seen.”

A website called savehitchcock.com has been set up to discuss the director’s portrayal in the media. Most recently John Russell Taylor, who wrote Hitch with the director’s cooperation in 1978, criticised The Girl saying it was “totally absurd”.

Hitchcock, who was born in Leytonstone, enjoyed good relations with other leading ladies including Janet Leigh, Doris Day and Kim Novak, who recently spoke out in support of the director. Eva Marie Saint, who starred in North by Northwest, said: “Hitchcock was a gentleman, he was funny, he was so attentive to me.”

The forthcoming Hitchcock film explores the period he directed Psycho, one of cinema’s seminal horror movies, and the director’s struggle to get it made. It also shows the importance of his wife Alma to his career. It used a range of source materials, including Stephen Rebello’s 1990 book Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho.

“I knew Alma’s name but I did not know how important a part of the picture she was over the duration of his career,” Gervasi said. “She was very important to him; an integral part of his creative and professional and personal life.”

Gervasi called Hitchcock “one of the greatest film-makers of all time. There’s no doubt he’s brilliant” and backed the BFI’s call for his films to be on the curriculum alongside Shakespeare.

Last year, the BFI screened all 58 of his surviving films, including restored prints of his silent movies. In August, Vertigo replaced Citizen Kane as the greatest film of all time in Sight and Sound magazine’s once a decade poll.

“He has 10 or 12 masterworks,” Gervasi said. “He invented new techniques in visual storytelling. Anyone can be inspired and learn from that level of artistry and genius he displayed.”

Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May

film

Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’

North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama

TV

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before