20th Century Fox Home Entertainment released Sacha Gervasi’s Hitchcock on Blu-ray and DVD (and iTunes) last week. To that end, I recently chatted with James D’Arcy (In Their Skin) about the weight of portraying none other than Anthony Perkins in the film.
Anthony Hopkins stars as Hitchcock, along with Helen Mirren as his wife during the making of Hitchcock’s seminal movie Psycho. Scarlett Johansson plays Janet Leigh while Jessica Biel portrays Vera Miles. Danny Huston, Toni Collette, Jessica Biel, Michael Stuhlbarg, Michael Wincott, Richard Portnow and Kurtwood Smith also star.
The project is based on the non-fiction book by Stephen Rebello that tracks how Hitchcock, at the height of his game as a director, decided to make a “lowly” horror movie. No studio wanted to touch it initially, so Hitchcock scrounged for financing by himself. The movie, of course, became one of his biggest hits and one of the most influential of all time.
What’s it like playing Anthony Perkins?
I just wanted to be respectful to him. Obviously he has living relatives and I wanted to be respectful of that.
So there’s an additional pressure in conveying a true story?
No, I didn’t feel pressure. I felt a sense of wanting to honor him. And I didn’t feel any pressure regarding Hitchcock’s body of work or any of that because Hitchcock’s body of work is Hitchcock’s body of work. My sole sense of responsibility was centered around honoring this wonderful actor as he played one of the most iconic characters in film.
How was [director] Sacha Gervasi in guiding you there?
He was great, really wonderful. He’s very beguiling because he makes you feel like it’s all about you. He’s very actor friendly. And, of course, as a director, he’s got a thousand things going on all at the same time, none of which he brings to the actors. You feel very safe in his hands. I really enjoyed the process of being directed by Sacha.
I feel like you’re a chameleon who disappears into his roles. Is there a specific method to that process or does it change from project to project?
Well, first of all, thank you. That’s a nice compliment. I like playing a variety of roles and I feel very fortunate that I’ve had a chance to do that in the past few years. I don’t know if I have a process [laughs], this is going to sound really stupid but I just try my best! I don’t really know how to put it, I just try to be honest in terms of whatever the moment demands. With playing Anthony Perkins, there’s a certain amount of research you can do. With the character from Im Their Skin, I’m not sure how much you can research that, actually. In fact, watching other movies in the same genre would make it harder to do something that felt like it was my own. Honestly, it’s a little bit of a crapshoot. You just hope you end up with something worthwhile.
You’ve also got The Philosophers coming up, can you tell us anything about that?
It’s a difficult movie to explain, really. It’s about a group of students, very beautiful ones I might add, and their philosophy teacher – who’s me. And on the very last day of class I suggest to them one final thought experiment, and in the process of that they all learn something about themselves and the nature of making grown-up decisions. There’s a little bit of a twist in there that I better not reveal [laughs]!
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