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'Hitchcock' screenwriter's fascination with the director dates to childhood
Massachusetts-born author Stephen Rebello was just a kid when he made his first contact with Alfred Hitchcock, encouraged by movie-loving parents who had introduced him to the suspense maestro's films.
“That's an unlikely story, isn't it?” Rebello said during a recent publicity tour stop in Dallas promoting the new biopic “Hitchcock,” which he adapted from his 1990 book, “Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of ‘Psycho'.”
“I was growing up in a very small sort of mill city in Massachusetts,” Rebello said. “We weren't wealthy at all but my parents always instilled in me the sense that I could do anything, and if I wanted to go after something that I should. So I didn't really have a strong concept of ‘no,' and I didn't really have a strong concept that you couldn't pick up the phone and call someone, even as powerful and as world-famous as Alfred Hitchcock.
“So as a little boy I would actually call his office at Universal.”
And so began a correspondence of phone calls and letters between the boy and the director that finally led to their first meeting a few years later.
“A film of his premiered in Boston, and I was too young to drive. An older friend drove us and I got to meet Mr. Hitchcock and reminded him of who I was, and he was delightful and remembered and we got to chat.”
The two would not meet again until 1980, the last year of Hitchcock's life. By then, Rebello had become a clinical therapist and department supervisor at a Harvard-affiliated teaching hospital.
It was during a semester-break vacation in Los Angeles that Rebello had his second meeting with the famed filmmaker.
“Someone said to me, ‘Well what would you like to do while you're here? You're on vacation in Los Angeles, Calif., Hollywood is near, you've always been interested in it.' So I said, ‘Well, I think I'd like to do a grown-up conversation with Alfred Hitchcock.'”
“Someone in the room said, “You got a pen?' And he rattled off (Hitchcock's) phone number. And I mean what's the likelihood? And I said, ‘Well how do you know that?' And he said, ‘I'm personal assistant to Cary Grant, I work for Cary Grant, so I happen to have his number and why don't you call? The worse that will happen is that someone will say no.'
“So I called and they told me that he was, quite the obvious, an older man and having health challenges and I probably wouldn't get the interview. And two days later I'm sitting in his office having the interview. They suggested 10 minutes. He kept waving away his secretary and we had kind of a meeting of the minds, if you can call it that. He was obviously brilliant and charming and full of stories, and he was very kind to me and very supportive and interested in me as a person and how I wanted to proceed with my life and career.
“He was a real devotee of — not of psychiatry and psychotherapy in itself — but he was very curious about people who either were in therapy, like Joseph Stefano, who was the screenwriter of ‘Psycho,' or people who actually practiced it. And I was at the time practicing therapy and was working at the clinic and had a private practice, so he found that interesting, that I had this creative streak and talent as well.
“So the very fact that he gave me time, that he thought that I was worthy of time was so empowering to a kid who really wasn't of that world, so that was a tremendous gift because the interview that we did turned out to be the very last one that he ever gave, so I'm very conscious of how precious that time on earth was to him and certainly to me.”
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This was a real labor of love for everyone involved. It was not just a job for anybody. In fact, the actors would come to the set when they weren't working. They just wanted to be around their fellow actors and felt they were part of something special. To me, that's a real tribute to Mr. Hitchcock and to the material.”