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A Minute With: Sienna Miller on Hitchcock's obsessions

NEW YORK (Reuters) - In the words of Alfred Hitchcock, "Blondes make the best victims".
/ Source: Reuters

NEW YORK (Reuters) - In the words of Alfred Hitchcock, "Blondes make the best victims".

But while the great British director's preference for blondes has been documented, new film "The Girl" narrows in on one particular obsession - actress Tippi Hedren, whom he handpicked to star in his 1960s movies "The Birds" and "Marnie".

The film, premiering on Saturday on U.S. cable channel HBO, offers a cinematic tale of Hedren's version of how Hitchcock, played by Toby Jones, launched her career, and, after she refused his sexual advances, eventually killed it.

Sienna Miller spoke to Reuters about portraying Hedren, whether "The Girl" will change Hitchcock's legacy and whether the film world still allows for such abuses of power.

Q: Does Tippi Hedren, now 82, still feel Hitchcock ruined her career?

A: "Well, she absolutely does feel that, because he did. She is at the same time very complimentary about him, and as a director no one is disputing the fact that he was incredible at what he does. And also he taught her how to act and she is very indebted to him for that - to learn from the master. But yes, he was really responsible for damaging her career and of course there is resentment that comes with that."

Q: Tell us about the emotions she was going through while filming "The Birds" and "Marnie" and coping with his advances.

A: "She was trying desperately to keep her head afloat, to do the job, just to walk the moral line, to not react, to not capitulate to his demands, or desires, whilst remaining respectful to this incredible filmmaker that she was working for. But I think she gradually became more and more ostracized from everyone and people on the set were seeing this behavior ... and turning a blind eye, which was completely isolating."

Q: Will this depiction of Hitchcock ruffle any feathers?

A: "If you really watch the film, you leave feeling empathy for both characters - at least that is the way that I feel when I watch it. But he was very threatening towards her.

"With the Hitchcock films, these personality traits are alluded to in the films that he made. I don't think it is any surprise that he was misogynistic, you only had to watch 'Marnie' ... It is a film about a man who definitely has a dark side, hence the incredible film that he made. There is certainly no question that he was a genius, but this is just one woman and her account of her experiences working with him."

Q: What about his legacy - will the film alter it?

A: "I think his films will remain some of the greatest films ever made and he will always be heralded as one of the greatest directors of all time. But often with geniuses, there is a kind of dark side and that is nothing new. I don't think it will have any profound effect on his legacy as a director or a filmmaker."

Q: Hitchcock was famously obsessed with blondes in an era of Grace Kelly and Brigitte Bardot.

A: "There is a quote in the film, I can't remember it exactly, but he said that 'Blondes make the best victims'. I think that is what he liked about them."

Q: They did a good job giving Toby Jones Hitchcock's jowls.

A: "He had four hours in prosthetics, which I think was not too pleasant."

Q: The film shows how actors at that time were beholden to studios and directors. Have we changed so much today?

A: "You hear stories, but nothing that I have ever experienced, no. I think it is a very different world, and in the past, women needed men in order to have any form of career, especially during that era, and now we are not as reliant upon men for everything. You don't need to support the man in order to get somewhere. The studio system is also very different, but I have never come across - although you hear stories of casting couches - but that is nothing I will ever experience, hopefully."

Q: And yet it still happens. What needs to change?

A: "I don't think it's specific to the movie world, it is probably in all walks of life. Obviously, it is a terrible situation for anyone young and hoping to go places. I know that Tippi feels that. She hopes that people who watch this film will have the courage and stand up and say, 'This happened to me' and expose the darker sides of all industries."

(Editing by Jill Serjeant and Dale Hudson)