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.