Toby Jones and Sienna Miller star in new BBC Two Hitchcock drama
Sienna Miller on playing Tippi Hedren
This is your first BBC drama – what attracted you to taking on this role?
The script was initially what attracted me to this project. It was brilliantly written by Gwyneth Hughes with fully formed character and a fascinating story. I really didn’t know that much about Hitchcock and I certainly never knew about this aspect of his life, or this aspect of Tippi’s life. It just seemed, within the script, that there was that kind of mounting tension that is so intriguing in his films and it was really apparent on the page. Julian Jarrold is a brilliant director and I have seen a lot of his work and admired it for a long time, so to work with this script and this director was obviously very appealing. And then Toby Jones came on board, which obviously made it a no-brainer!
What research did you do before taking on the role? Did you meet Tippi Hedren herself?
I think it is always a big responsibility when you are playing someone that existed, especially when they are still alive, as Tippi is. I went to Los Angeles, where she lives, and I met her and spent the day with her. She has been really helpful and has been on the end of the phone and we have been emailing. She is very supportive of this story being told and she approves of me doing it, which is an immense relief!
Additionally, I watched the films. There is also a lot of behind-the-scenes footage to watch – her screen test and all sorts of other things are available.
What is the film’s focus?
This film focuses on the relationship between Alfred Hitchcock and Tippi Hedren, who starred in The Birds and Marnie. It was a very interesting relationship… she was a divorced model who was kind of plucked from obscurity and put into these amazing films, and he became obsessed with her. Hitchcock moulded her to be his creation of the perfect Hitchcock blonde. You see the build-up and the demise of that relationship. Tippi had signed a seven year contract, and he held her to it even though they never worked together after Marnie.
Can you tell us a bit more about Tippi Hedren?
Well, she was a model and a divorced single mother. She was 32 at the time of The Birds and is a very strong, independent, feisty woman. She found Hitchcock endearing and hilarious… he could be very charming and funny. In the 60s she was an unknown person suddenly flung into this world of movie stars and glamour. Things were wonderful and she felt very much part of Hitch’s family. Then I think gradually, as his obsession built, the relationship disintegrated.
I think she was very uncomfortable with his advances and his way of being. He would often tell really filthy limericks, which she didn’t particularly appreciate and there were several times when he made attempts to be romantic with her, which she brutally rebuffed. I think it was probably that stoicism and her ability to kind of withstand his attentions that made him more obsessed with her. She dealt with a lot of difficult things, as you will see in the film, but she dealt with them with real grace and elegance.
Finally, how was it working with Toby and the rest of the cast?
The incredible Imelda Staunton plays Alma, Hitchcock’s wife. I think we are so lucky to have Imelda Staunton in that role because she is mind-blowingly brilliant. And Peggy, who was Hitchcock’s secretary, is played by Penelope Wilton, who is another extraordinary British actress.
I think for me what’s been so extraordinary about making this film is having the opportunity to work opposite Toby Jones and see his process. Toby is an expert at playing anyone and anything. He has really morphed into Alfred Hitchcock – who was an intriguing man in his own right. I think what Toby has really managed to capture is the humour and the sadness and the genius of the man. Although Hitchcock is not necessarily sympathetic in the film, I think it’s very fair, it’s balanced. You come out understanding both, which makes it wonderful. Toby is an amazing actor.
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