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
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
musicReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Arts and Entertainment
‘Dawn of Planet of the Apes’ also looks set for success in the Chinese market

film
News
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight

tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
A waxwork of Jane Austen has been unveiled at The Jane Austen Centre in Bath

books
Arts and Entertainment
Britney Spears has been caught singing without Auto-Tune

music
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

    Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

    How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

    A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
    The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    The evolution of Andy Serkis

    First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

    Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
    Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

    Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

    Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
    Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

    Blackest is the new black

    Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
    Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

    Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

    From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
    Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
    Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

    Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

    The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
    Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

    Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

    The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

    Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

    Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

    Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

    The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
    The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

    The Open 2014

    Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?