Interviews

INTERVIEW: TIPPI HEDREN

By • May 27th, 2011 •

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“I am lying on the floor, with gulls and birds literally tied to my clothing, having birds thrown towards me by the bird handlers,” recalls a humor-filled Tippi Hedren. “Then Cary Grant walks onto the set. He looks at me on the ground and says ‘You’re the bravest lady I ever met!” Ms. Hedren was talking with a sold-out theatre packed with film fans there to see her and a screening of THE BIRDS, which instantly made her an iconic star. This free screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s boldly experimental and suspense-filled classic, at Huntington, Long Island’s Cinema Arts Centre, was part of TCM’s Road To Hollywood Tour. This was a nation-wide Festival of classic film screenings hosted by two of TCM’s hosts, Robert Osborne and Ben Mankiewicz, (Mr. Mankiewicz was here at the Cinema Arts Centre. My interview with Ben is nearby on FIR.)

Glenn Andreiev (GA): THE BIRDS ends with our heroes (Played By Ms. Hedren, Rod Taylor, Jessica Tandy and Veronica Cartwright?) in a car, slowly and carefully driving from the house and yard that is over-come by birds, who wait to launch another attack. At this point, the film fades out. I once read a shooting script where the action continues, where the birds begin flying after the car. Rod Taylor’s character. Mitch, has to drive on a curving road, slowing their escape, hoping to reach a straight highway where he can out-run the birds. They barely make it to the highway and speed off to safety. Was this ever filmed?

Tippi Hedren: No. Hitchcock didn’t know exactly how to end the film, and quite often he would invite all of us into his office to discuss possible endings. My favorite proposed ending had the car drive from Bodega Bay (where the film takes place) to San Francisco and they see that the Golden Gate Bridge is covered with birds. Than we see the St. Louis Arch covered with birds, than the Statue of Liberty covered with birds. The Arch de Triumph, covered with birds. Red Square in Moscow covered with birds. But, they didn’t end the film that way

GA: There is new biography of your BIRDS co-star Rod Taylor, titled ROD TAYLOR- AN AUSSIE IN HOLLYWOOD by Stephen Vagg, which claims Taylor was a bit of a bad-boy. How was he on the set?

Tippi: Oh, he was great. Absolutely wonderful.

GA: A year after THE BIRDS, you worked with Hitchcock again on MARNIE, which is now being re-discovered by audiences.

Tippi: That is my favorite. Because “Marnie” herself, was such a complicated character. (I mention that MARNIE works so well because nothing is ever explained a hundred percent – the audience is always guessing.) Reading the original book by Winston Graham was amazing. With a film, you can’t completely get into a character’s head, but Marnie was so brilliant in how she planned all her thefts, and her control of finances. She was pretty amazing.

GA: As I mentioned to Ben Mankiewicz earlier, during the 1970’s, movies like THE BIRDS would wind up on whatever few TV channels we had, so it was commonplace, lets say on the school-bus for your friends to say “Oh, did you see THE BIRDS last night?” But with the advance of so many cable channels, and so much newer, heavily marketed programming, films like THE BIRDS were for a while, tucked aside. Now it’s great to see places like TCM, or The Cinema Arts Centre where younger audiences can discover these films.

Ms. Hedren introduced the screening of THE BIRDS, giving the packed Cinema Arts Centre house quite the earful on herself and Mr. Hitchcock. She explained her pre-BIRDS days, living in Los Angeles as a struggling model. Her agent calls, stating that a director at Universal wants to meet her. She goes to Universal, meeting agents, Universal executives and associates about this upcoming big project by an un-named director. They lead her to a door, open the door, and there is Alfred Hitchcock! She goes on to tell a funny story that took place during the film’s production: a nervous assistant entered her trailer, muttering something about the upcoming scene to be shot (where the birds attack her in the bedroom) He’s too timid to make eye-contact with her, but after he exits, he exclaims; “Oh, there won’t be mechanical fake birds in this scene!!! You’re doing the scene with live birds!”

Ms. Hedren then went on to tell the unfortunate story about Hitchcock on the set of MARNIE, requesting she becomes his mistress, and that turning this offer down made Hitchcock sabotage her career. “And he did: he kept me under contract, kept paying me every week for almost two years to do nothing.” She explained. “It’s too bad. I was impressed at how he handled an audience, but he had these demons.” Tippi Hedren still works in films today, and she answered another calling – helping to save wild animals from extinction. She currently lives at a wildlife compound with 58 lions and tigers, and has become quite the veterinarian and wildlife expert. She told the audience about birds: “There are gulls, all types of gulls, but no such thing as ‘sea-gulls’. See, you all just learned something!”

You can learn more about Tippi Hedren’s endeavors to help preserve our wildlife at her website http://www.shambala.org/

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2 Responses »

  1. Great interview Glenn…..I first met Tippi at a gay charity bingo event in West Hollywood. She was wearing very tight peddle pushers and a sweater…she looked just like her daughter Melaine from a distance….what a wonderful woman she is in real life!! Her work with wildlife is legendary in Hollywood ….

  2. Her ‘Hitchcock films’ are classics and she is still beautiful as ever!.

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