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Mistress of Suspense: Actress hopes to bring wife of Hitchcock out of his shadow with role

BY DENNIS KING Modified: December 13, 2012 at 5:22 pm •  Published: December 14, 2012
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Many contributions

The British actress said she also was touched by Reville's determined willingness to remain in the considerable shadow of her imperious husband. Among Reville's uncredited contributions to “Psycho” were helping persuade the reluctant Hitchcock to use Bernard Herrmann's slashing string score during the infamous shower scene and catching a crucial error in the final shot of that scene in which Janet Leigh's presumed corpse was seen to blink slightly.

“Film scholars are well aware of the contributions Alma made to the creation of some of Hitch's masterworks,” Mirren said. “But I wanted to present on screen someone that the general public would believe had the ability to truly work side-by-side with this incredible filmmaker.”

Additionally, as the wife of a famed director herself (she's been married to Taylor Hackford — of “An Officer and a Gentleman” fame — since 1997), Mirren said she knows firsthand some of the trials of ego that Reville endured.

“I knew there were all these people in Hollywood trying to get to the great and glorious Alfred Hitchcock,” she said. “And I knew what that feels like because that happened to me with my husband when I first came here. I had a freedom with Alma to not attempt any kind of interpretation and to just let her be who she is in the story.”

Lasting images

While Alma Reville again plays a supporting role in this breezy biopic, Mirren said she's pleased with the depiction of the couple's relationship.

“This is a love story,” she said. “I think Alma and Hitch were, in their own funny, unglamorous way, a great kind of Romeo and Juliet partnership. They were amazing partners in life, and I think they could teach us all something about how to make a successful marriage.”

On film, the other half of that marriage partnership is played in a juicy performance by Sir Anthony Hopkins, virtually buried beneath layers of latex padding and makeup. Mirren (who noted this is the first time they've acted together) marveled at the daily transformation “from Tony to Hitch.”

“In a weird way, Tony, in my mind, became Hitch,” Mirren said. “I hated to see him take his face off. At the end of the day he would just rip it off, because he was so sick of it. But I hated that because I'd come to believe him as Hitchcock. So he'd take off the mask, and it was like, ‘Who is that? Why, that's the famous actor Tony Hopkins.'”