Roughing It: An Interview with Tippi Hedren

The star of The Birds and Marnie talks about her latest film, Free Samples, and that Hitchcock biopic with Anthony Hopkins.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

 

Hollywood legend Tippi Hedren (The Birds, Marnie) is in a movie that premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. Free Samples stars Jess Weixler as a college dropout who contemplates her life’s problems while serving ice cream samples to strangers out of a food truck. Hedren plays Betty, a former Hollywood star who offers some wisdom in two pivotal scenes. We spoke with Hedren on the phone from New York, after a rough day of travel for the film’s premiere, and talked Hollywood and Hitchcock.

 

CraveOnline: What did you think of these scenes they offered you in Free Samples?

Tippi Hedren: The thing that was important to me is the script. You can have a million dollar, 20 million dollar budget or 60 million dollar budget, and if you don’t have a good script, it doesn’t mean a thing. And this script was good.

 

How important were the scenes you were going to have, to impact the character Jess plays?

Well, the character that you are asked to play is of course important to an actor but this one was absolutely wonderful. I really was thrilled.

 

She talks about passing up the chance to live in an actor’s retirement home. Is that true, do those exist?

Well, there was the big one. There was a retirement home. I don't think it’s in existence anymore. That’s too bad.

 

How different is the indie world of movies today than the Hollywood days when you started in the business?

Oh, horrifically different. I was at the end of the studio system so when I walked into movies, I had a magnificent suite in which I had a living room and a kitchen and a complete makeup room. I had everything just for me. With the independents, you’re kind of roughing it, literally.

 

Is that exciting too though?

No. [Laughs] No, I like being spoiled but times change and you either go along with it or you get out.

 

What was the last movie on which you were really spoiled?

Oh, let’s see. Oh gosh, I did so many that it’s hard to even think of which was the last one.

 

What did you have on the set of Free Samples in terms of makeup and wardrobe?

We were all together in one room. It was a community effort.

 

Have you heard that they’re making a biopic of Alfred Hitchcock during the making of Psycho?

Yes, in fact Tony Hopkins called me the other day and said that he wants me to come to the set. So I’ll be doing that in May.

 

As an advisor?

No, he just asked me to come just to be there.

 

That takes place before your time with Hitchcock, but did he talk about the making of Psycho when you were working with him?

A little bit. Not much. He’d talk about all of his films.

 

Do you think it’s a good idea to make a movie about this time in his career?

I think Hitchcock is a very important personage in the film industry and I think all these films are important about somebody as famous as he.

 

Is there enough of a story behind Marnie and The Birds that they could make a sequel if they want?

Well, the BBC has just done a film about the Hitchcock and Hedren years. Did you know that?

 

No, I didn’t. Is that a documentary?

No, it isn’t. It’s a feature film. Sienna Miller is playing me and Toby Jones is playing Hitchcock.

 

Have you seen the BBC movie?

I’ve seen parts of it. I was in London a month ago and they had several scenes put together. So I was able to see a few.

 

Did Sienna Miller come talk to you about it?

Yes, we did. She came out to Shambhala actually, where I live in Southern California. There was an immediate friendship and it was wonderful. I’m very thrilled to have her playing me.

 

Did Toby Jones get Hitch right?

I don't know. I didn’t see any scenes with Toby.

 

Will it be surreal to see other actors play someone with whom you worked so closely?

Oh, I think it’s going to be very odd. It’s going to be very interesting. It’s going to be very interesting to see somebody playing me.

 

What was it like for you going from a special effects intensive concept like The Birds to a more character driven drama of Marnie?

Oh, it was absolutely fabulous. I was so fortunate in being able to play Marnie who was a very, very complicated character. I took it very seriously and did in depth studying on the psychological effects of a child who has gone through a traumatic experience and it wasn’t tended to because the mother thought the little girl had forgotten, that she was just very happy. Of course all those years ago the psychological aspects of what could happen to a child, how it affects the later years, was never even though about or discussed or anything. Literally, that hasn’t been until quite recently. So it was a great challenge to play that role.

 

Was it fun to revisit The Birds when they did The Birds II: Land’s End?

Oh God, that was nothing. I can’t even discuss that.

 

What do you get to play in Jayne Mansfield’s Car?

I play a very wealthy woman who is dying, but my character is the pivotal role of the whole movie. It’s kind of interesting and I loved working with Billy Bob. It’s a wonderful story and it involves family situations. It’s a wonderful film.

 

Which of your movies do you think is not talked about enough?

I don’t even have an answer to that.

 

Is The Birds talked about the most?

Oh, absolutely. Yeah, The Birds is first and then Marnie. I wish it were the reverse.

 

Does that make sense to you though that The Birds is more striking in people’s minds?

Oh sure, of course. Of course it was such a bizarre thought. It is a horrible concept if you really think about it.

 

Was it very practical on the set, or was it equally weird and strange behind the scenes?

Well, I love all animals so I thought the whole thing was wonderful, working with the birds. I enjoyed it. That last scene where they hurl the birds at me was not very pleasant. That was rather horrific actually.

 

Aside from that, could you pet them and play with them between takes?

Oh yes. Absolutely, in fact there was one that was such a good friend that he came in my dressing room on the set with me. He was charming.

 

I remember watching you on TV in Dream On too. Was that a fun experience?

[Laughs] Oh yes, it was great. I’m very appreciative to John Landis because he gave me the opportunity to do comedy. I’d never done comedy before and it was just wonderful for me to be able to do that. Everybody just thought of me as a serious actress so I owe that to John Landis, giving me that opportunity.