Jump to: navigation, search

Toronto Star (17/Jun/1986) - The movie's most famous mama's boy is back



The movie's most famous mama's boy is back

Anthony Perkins, 54, walks into his Four Seasons Hotel suite and he looks like Norman Bates. The comparison is unavoidable, as Perkins has discovered over the years.

The brows are curled down tight over the dark, nervous eyes, the mouth twitches slightly, and Perkins throws his skeletal frame down into a straight-backed chair, then arranges himself as though he is expecting, at any moment, to spring out of it.

It's no wonder the late Alfred Hitchcock hired him in 1960 for the original Psycho in order to play the gawky, awkward kid who became the movies' most famous mama's boy.

Psycho has become a classic, lying uneasily off to the side on the map of American cinema, the best known and most imitated horror movie ever made — not to mention, ironically enough, the one for which Hitchcock is now most remembered. Therefore, it is not surprising that Perkins has spent many of the past 26 years unsuccessfully trying to duck Norman.

"I have not yet come to terms with Norman," he announces with a flick of a bony hand. His hair is sheared to a bristle; he wears an emerald green shirt and a shiny lime green tie that his wife of 13 years, photographer Berry Berenson, insisted he bring on his promotional tour for Psycho III, the movie in which Perkins not only returns as Norman, but also makes his directorial debut.

It opens in Toronto on June 27.

"Norman is Norman," he says, "and I am me. That's something I've discovered over the last decade — ever since I met my wife. She said to me, 'You know, you can't keep drawing back from people when they come and tell you their Psycho stories, their Norman stories.

"You can't keep that frown on your face and be curt and short with them. They'll go away from the meeting saying, 'Funny, I always knew the guy was exactly like Norman. No wonder they gave him that part in Psycho.' It was brilliant advice — and true, true. So I dropped all that."

Two summers ago Norman Bates was resurrected for Psycho II. He was released from the booby hatch, and returned to the Bates Motel, where, for the most part, he was not a bad guy at all, until the end, when his real mother showed up and he promptly dispatched her with a shovel in the kitchen of the old gothic house on the hill above the motel.

Psycho II, played mostly for deadpan laughs, was made for less than $5 million and grossed $60 million. In Hollywood, that kind of arithmetic adds up to a sequel. Perkins said he would have cheerfully played Norman again, even if Universal hadn't allowed him to direct.

"However," he says, "it's hard enough to get directors to do sequels, but to get a director to do a sequel to a sequel, you're really thinning your ranks to — well, I wouldn't want to describe who you might end up with.

"But you might end up with someone who would kid it, someone who would not have respect and affinity for it, someone who would take it on as an assignment.

"I felt that with me, at least you would get the passion of someone who has lived and died with Norman Bates, and wants to know what happened next."

Did Universal studio executives go along immediately with this kind of reasoning? "I don't remember," he pronounces. "It was all a blur."

Psycho III picks up on the heels of Psycho II.

Norman is more or less running the Bates Motel and behaving himself, although mom does seem to be back in residence at the house and very much in control of her favorite boy.

Things start to go wrong when an emotionally disturbed nun (Diana Scarwid) and a wandering rock singer (Jeff Fahey) show up at the motel. The third movie still has its tongue very much in its cheek (the original Psycho was funny too, although Hitchcock did not realize just how funny until after the movie opened). But the violence and bloodshed in the third instalment is, on occasion, as rough as anything seen in a recent mainstream American movie.

"It wouldn't be Psycho if it wasn't like that," Perkins maintains. "We're not dealing with Mourning Becomes Electra here. It is Psycho. It's got to affront you. You've got to dare to lose the audience's sympathy."

The question at the tail end of Psycho III and at the end of an interview with Anthony Perkins is obvious enough: Will there be more Psychos?

The answer will not, of course, be dictated by Perkins, but by the marketplace after the movie opens. Nonetheless, he reacts with horror — as though Norman has heard the sound of a shower — at the mere mention of the possibility.

"I could not countenance the thought of another Psycho right now — or for that matter, of any other film. I just want to lie on the beach for a day."

Norman Bates at the beach? You're not supposed to think like this, but the mind really does boggle.