‘The Girl’:

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When Al­fred Hitch­cock cast un­known ac­tress Tippi He­dren as the star of his hor­ror film “The Birds,” she couldn’t be­lieve her good for­tune. As work on the film pro­ceeded, how­ever, she dis­cov­ered a dif­fer­ent kind of hor­ror movie play­ing out off cam­era as her pow­er­ful di­rec­tor be­came sex­u­ally ob­sessed with her and be­gan mak­ing wildly in­ap­pro­pri­ate de­mands.

“The Girl” re­counts how He­dren (Si­enna Miller) did ev­ery­thing she could think of to cope with Hitch­cock’s (Toby Jones) er­ratic be­hav­ior, of­ten in full view of the di­rec­tor’s wife, Alma (Imelda Staunton). Ini­tially there were no red flags, re­calls the real-life He­dren, sit­ting in a Bev­erly Hills ho­tel suite dur­ing a re­cent press tour for TV crit­ics.

Hitch­cock be­came more overt in his un­wanted at­ten­tions when pro­duc­tion ap­proached the half­way point on “The Birds,” but He­dren’s op­tions were lim­ited be­cause many con­tem­po­rary union rules pro­tect­ing per­form­ers were not in place back then.

Among the most har­row­ing or­deals He­dren was forced to en­dure on “The Birds” was a five-day shoot film­ing an at­tic scene in which her char­ac­ter, Me­lanie Daniels, is sav­agely at­tacked by large, an­gry birds. The ac­tress had been told that me­chan­i­cal birds would be used for this scene, but when she re­ported for work, she found her­self trapped in a closed-off space with live birds. In one of the most un­set­tling scenes in “The Girl,” He­dren is put through take af­ter gru­el­ing take, the crew watch­ing with mount­ing con­cern for her safety. Hitch­cock, how­ever, looks on im­pas­sively, his face chillingly in­scrutable.


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