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Tippi Hedren - quotes

Quotations relating to actress Tippi Hedren...

Hitch was not only my director, he was my drama coach, which was fantastic. I couldn't have had a better teacher. He not only helped me with developing the character of Melanie Daniels, he had me sit in on meetings with Evan Hunter; with Robert Burks, the D.P.; with Bobby Boyle, the set director; with, of course, Edith Head, who I worked very closely with on designing not only the clothes for "The Birds" and "Marnie" but my own private wardrobe. But in every phase of making that motion picture, he was sure that I was educated in it. And it was stunning. It was an amazing education that I received.

Tippi Hedren (2000)


I had been modelling in New York for a long time. It was about 11 years. And my career was sort of waning in that fashion business. I had done a number of commercials, and at one point I had about 12 of them going, and one of them ran on the "Today" show every morning for about a month. And apparently, a producer/director was watching the show and decided to find out who the girl was, where she was, and all of that. So I received a call on Friday, the 13th of October of 1961. It was, "Are you the girl in the Sego commercial?" — it was a diet product. And I said, "Yes." And they said, "Would you come over to Universal Studios?" I did, and I met with an executive there. I asked, who is the director, and he wouldn't tell me. And then he asked if I would leave my photographs and commercial film over the weekend. So I said, "Yes, but I will have to pick them up on Monday."

So Monday I was introduced to a number of other executives. Nobody would tell me who it was — who the producer/director was. They just said, "Would you go over to MCA tomorrow morning and meet with Herman Citron," who was an agent there. I went over and met with Mr. Citron, and I sat down and he said, "I suppose you're a little bit curious as to who this director is." I said, "Yes." He said, "Alfred Hitchcock wants to sign you to a contract if you will agree with the terms."

And I was stunned. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry or run up and down the halls or what to do. And he said, "If you are in agreeance to this, we will go over to Paramount Studios and meet with him." So Herman Citron and I went over to meet with Hitch, and we didn't talk about anything other than — Oh, we talked about food, we talked about travel, we talked about wines. We didn't mention movies at all. Not at all.

I heard that they were doing "The Birds", that Evan Hunter was working on the script and Hitch was working with him on it, and I thought, that's very interesting, this is very exciting and all that, but it never occurred to me that I would be involved in this movie at all. I thought I would do the television shows which he did every week. They talked about doing a screen test, and they chose three different roles for me to play in this screen test — one from "Rebecca", one from "Notorious" and one from "To Catch a Thief". Now, the se are three entirely different women. And Hitch was my drama coach, and I would go over to the Hitchcock home where Alma and Hitch would both go over the scenes with me, which was fantastic. Alma had a great deal to do with a lot of his work. So we eventually did the screen test. It took three days. And Robert Burks was the D.P. on it and Edith Head did all of the designs of the clothes and she did a personal wardrobe for me. It was an extraordinary time.

In order to do the screen test, we needed a leading man and Hitch flew Martin Balsam out from New York to be my leading man. He had just come out of Psycho.

The screen test was put together, and I guess everybody saw it, and Mr. and Mrs. Hitchcock invited me to dinner at Chasens. Lew Wasserman was sitting to my left and Alma and Hitch were to my right, and — he placed — Hitch placed a very, very beautifully wrapped package from Gumps in San Francisco. It was one of his favorite shops. And I opened the box and there was this beautiful pin of three birds in flight, with the seed pearls and gold, and I looked over at Hitch, and he said, "We want you to play Melanie in The Birds."

Well, I started to cry. These big tears welled up, because I didn't expect that. I really didn't expect that. And I looked at Hitch, and he was a little watery, and Alma and even Lew Wasserman, this big movie mogul, he had one little tear coming down here. It was a very exciting evening. It was just incredible. And then the whole — all of the work really began.

We didn't actually do any pre-rehearsals. I didn't meet Rod Taylor till we were — you know, till we were really ready to film.

Tippi Hedren (2000)

I got this call out of the blue from Mr. Hitchcock and was totally amazed. And I came out, and being a brash young brat, I guess I didn't show any kind of respect that I was supposed to, and I think he kind of liked it. And we got on extremely well. And I did the wrong thing — I called him Alfred!

I didn't say all the right things. I remember that. I said, "I hope the birds and things don't kind of totally out shadow the people." Of course, that's the story... they're supposed to. So that was number one. Wrong. But then we really talked about "making movies" and how I loved it, and how I was interested in his work. I brought that up and said the right thing. And we just got on extremely well. That was it. We didn't get into any deep discussions about the movie itself at all. No "What do you think of the character?" — none of that. It was taken for granted that I loved it and wanted to work with him and I was absolutely flattered and astonished that he wouldn't mind working with the kid... then.

Immediately, we became the best of friends — Tippi Hedren and I — and still are the best of friends. And so it was very easy. We'd rehearse together on our own, and it was extremely easy because we had a lovely chemistry without trying for it.

Rod Taylor (2000)
keywords: Alfred Hitchcock, The Birds (1963), Tippi Hedren, casting, and pre-production

Mr. Hitchcock saw Tippi in a commercial where ... someone whistled at her and she looked back and there was something about that moment when she did that that caught his attention. And he loved to put in little subtle jokes. There's a scene where she's whistled at and she does turn a lot like that commercial.

Hilton A. Green (2000)
keywords: Alfred Hitchcock, The Birds (1963), Tippi Hedren, casting, and pre-production

When I met him in '63, when we were doing ''Marnie'', I was the flashback sequence in ''Marnie''. So, we shot on another stage from the stage that Tippi and Sean Connery and everybody was working on, which was the main stage, and he would come over to the stage I was on. And he shot the flashback sequence with a huge lens. It was a German lens that looked like a lightbulb, and what it did was it distorted everything in the foreground, but made everything in the background sharp focus. And so, it was neat because I had Mr. Hitchcock to myself. He had no other distractions except me. So, he really took time to get to know me a little bit. And every year, then, he made sure I did a guest-starring appearance on ''Alfred Hitchcock Presents''.

And 12 years went by, and he was casting ''Family Plot''. I wasn't the first choice. I think Al Pacino was the first choice. And Mr. Hitchcock didn't like to pay actors. And he was very upset that he had to pay Julie Andrews and Paul Newman $750,000 apiece to do ''Torn Curtain'', and he never got over that.

So, when he got to ''Family Plot'', to get even over a $100,000 was, like, amazing. And he didn't want to pay Al Pacino whatever his price was then. And he'd just done ''Serpico'' and ''The Godfather'', and all that, so he was, like, big stuff. And so, then they were going to go to the next on the list. And I certainly wasn't the next on the list. I was about 15th on the list. But he jumped right away. He jumped over everybody. And he called my agent, and he said, you know, "I liked Bruce. I think Bruce would be good for the film."

And so I went, and I saw him. I said, "Why would you want me to play this part?" He said, "Bruce, I-I never know what you're gonna do next. "I know that the frame is perfect. I know the shot works perfectly. All I want is to be entertained. I make entertaining movies."

Bruce Dern (2001)

Film Production

Hedren describing how the initial bird attack was filmed...

Hitch always felt that it was very important for close-ups to be done under controlled lighting. And he wanted almost all of the close-ups to be done at the studio, which was Universal. So they had this elaborate setup. Up in the rafters they had a wire that went from the rafters down to — almost over my head. And then they had a fake seagull, which was on top of the rafters.

Now. Okay. So then we have a prop man, and he has a tube and a plunger. And attached to that was the fake blood. So they put the tube up through my hair, and then Virginia Darcy, my hair dresser, did the French roll and the whole thing and she hairsprayed my hair — it was almost like a wig, I mean, a real solid helmet, except for one little lock of hair that was loose.

They let the bird go down the wire, and Bobby Boone, who was the prop man, had the plunger ready, and he watched the bird coming down, and when it got to the right place, he did the plunger, and the bird went over and the hair goes forward with the blast of air. It was incredible. Absolutely incredible.

Tippi Hedren (2000)
keywords: Alfred Hitchcock, The Birds (1963), production, special effects, and studio filming

Working with the birds was very interesting. I love all animals. I always have. And it was very exciting for me to work with the birds. Ray Berwick, who was the bird trainer, taught flocks of birds. He taught them six at a time. He taught them individually. The ones that were taught individually basically could never be released because they were taught to do very bad things. Like, they'd be taught to dive bomb somebody or peck them or, you know, really go after people.

You know, we didn't really rehearse this. It was just because, using live animals, we wanted to take it right away. So everything was lined up and Ray took the little box of strawberry finches and let them go down the chimney, and we thought they'd be flying around and… Well, they sat on the hearth and a few of them jumped up on the coffee table and on the arms of the chairs, and they weren't doing anything. We're going, "Um, okay. What do we do now?"

So we thought about it and all the different things that we could do. Maybe using a fan would be good. You know, and then they'd fly around. Well, so would our hair, you know? So that wasn't going to work and our clothes would fly and everything.

So we finally decided that we would do the scene without the birds. So all of us are reacting to birds that aren't there. And then the film, once it was edited, was sent over to Disney.

There was one named Buddy — very beautiful raven — who I became friends with. In fact, he was so nice, he couldn't even be in the movie. He was so sweet. And he'd come hopping into my dressing room on the set. And he'd hop up on my dressing table, and… he was just fun. It was just… they're so smart. They're so smart.

There was another one that particularly had a reaction to Rod Taylor. And he want after Rod continuously. It was kind of funny, actually!

Tippi Hedren (2000)
keywords: Ray Berwick, Rod Taylor, The Birds (1963), Walt Disney, and production
Hedren talking about the scene where the birds attack the gas station outside the restaurant...

They had, supposedly, shatter proof glass in there. And the seagull comes and hits the phone booth — they had the seagull on the wire, and it was a fake bird, of course. And the bird comes down, hits the glass, and the glass shattered and got all over my face. It was pretty scary. And we spent the afternoon taking little tiny bits of glass away from my skin.

But after that, Rod Taylor comes and gets me and we go into the restaurant. We don't even see anybody. And then we look around and there they are, all huddled, you know, almost into the kitchen. And silent. And one of the characters, the mother of the two children [played by actress Doreen Lang], looks at me, and she's crazed. And she comes after me, accusing me of being the cause of this. And she becomes hysterical.

And I, who have never slapped anybody in my life — I was told, you know, in the script that she slaps this woman. And I said to the actress, "Let's practice this — you know, do one of those fake things." She said, "No. I want you to hit me." I said, "I can't do that." She said, "No, you must. You must hit me. I want you to, because then the reaction will be right." So I really had to slap her and I could hardly handle it!

Tippi Hedren (2000)
Hedren describing the scene where the birds attack her in the attic of the Brenner house...

When you're doing a movie, you know you're doing a movie. "It's a movie," as Hitchcock would always say. And people so often say, "Were you frightened when you were doing that movie?" Well, you know what's going on.

However, there are times when you're making films that, um, it can become dangerous, it can become exhausting, unexpected. And the scene where I go up into the bedroom upstairs is one of those scenes. They told me — Hitch always told me for the entire filming — that we were going to use mechanical birds for that scene. I said, "Fine. Don't have anything to worry about."

It was on a Monday morning that we were going to start the scene, and Jim Brown, the assistant director, came into my dressing room on the set. And we'd known each other for a long time. And he couldn't look at me. He looked at the floor, he looked at the walls, he looked at the ceiling. I said, "What's the matter with you?" And he said, "We can't use the mechanical birds. They don't work." And out the door he went. And I just blanched white because I had seen the bird trainers with their leather gauntlets up to their shoulders, and scratches that they had from the birds. And I walked out onto the set, and there was never an intention of using mechanical birds.

They had a cage built around the set so the birds wouldn't be up in the rafters for the remainder of the shoot. And there were three boxes, great big cartons, of ravens and seagulls. And prop men, with their leather gauntlets, hurled birds at me for five days. Maybe I put myself in sort of a Zen state because it was so — it was really grisly. 'Cause I literally had to fight them off. And, uh, they didn't attack. Birds... don't do that. It was just, you know, them coming at me that I would have to, you know, get away from.

That Wednesday, Cary Grant came onto the set to see Hitch, and he walked over to me and he said, "I think you're the bravest lady I've ever met." And I said, "Well, I don't know if that's the word for it." But it was pretty horrific.

By Friday they had me on the floor. You know, 'cause I'd just crumpled from sheer exhaustion as the character is being hurt. And Rita Riggs, who was my dresser — who became a wonderful designer — she had put cloth bands around my body with little elastics — two little elastics — sticking out everywhere. Then we put the dress on, and with the holes in the dress, she would pull the elastics through, and then they would tie the foot of the bird to me, and ... I was that way all day, and one of the birds decided to move from my shoulder up on to my — it just jumped, and scratched me very close to my eye, and I said, "That's enough!"

And I got them all off of me. And I just sat in the middle of the stage and cried. I mean, I was just totally exhausted. And everybody left. Sort of left me there! I don't remember the weekend, and, um, I don't remember driving to the studio the following Monday. I got into my dressing room — beautiful dressing room — and laid down on the couch, and my makeup man, Howard Smit, came, uh, to get me, you know, for makeup, and, uh, he couldn't wake me. I was just out. I mean, just out. Just totally exhausted. And I was under doctor's care for a week, which made it very, very difficult, because there were no other scenes to film. It was sort of at the ending of the shoot.

After that scene, you know, I was... I was really a bloody mess. And of course they're — the makeup people — are so good at that. And Howard Smit had put scars all over me. But it was so much fun to do ... Everything is scary, and, you know, it's fun. It's great fun to do it.

Tippi Hedren (2000)

Film Post-Production

One of the most interesting scenes, I think, that we did was in the Tides Restaurant and working with Ethel Griffies, who was in her 80s. And yet she had all of these ornithological words that she had to perform! And it was stunning to hear her do this.

George Tomasini was Hitch's editor on a number of films. And I was able to watch a lot of the editing. Of course, that in itself is just such a fantastic part of the film. I mean, it really is everything. Everything.

George would assemble the piece to what he thought it should be — or close. And then Hitch would come in and do the final editing. And he would edit almost... he would say, "Cut one frame out of here. Cut three frames out of this scene. Cut it at the beginning, three frames." It was technically... he was such a perfectionist.

Probably one of the most indicative scenes about George Tomasini's and Hitch's editing was when the man throws the match down and everybody screams at him. And the way they filmed me watching it was inseparate... almost, like still photographs, the way they edited it, the whole thing. It was incredibly effective.

Tippi Hedren (2000)
keywords: Ethel Griffies, George Tomasini, The Birds (1963), film editing, and post-production