Navigation Bar - Text Links at Bottom of Page


The Design of Hitchcock
The visual design of HITCHCOCK hinged on merging two very different worlds: that of the closed PSYCHO film set, where the bones of Hitchcock's trademark texture, anxiety and titillation were created, and another world even less seen, Hitchcock's domestic home life with Alma. Gervasi worked with a highly accomplished crew including director of photography Jeff Cronenweth, production designer Judy Becker and costume designer Julie Weiss, to bring both to life.

Gervasi was drawn to two-time Oscar nominee Cronenweth because of his elegantly austere work with David Fincher on such films as SOCIAL NETWORK and THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. "You could learn everything you learn in film school in just one week with Jeff," says Gervasi. "He is that assured and innovative."

Becker, whose films include BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN and THE FIGHTER, was equally key as a collaborator. She and Gervasi talked a lot about how to create a dynamic sense of period as well as a compelling reality for Alfred and Alma.

"Sacha really wanted to show Hitchcock's home world, his domestic life, as well as his Hollywood life, so we had to look for ways to tie these together, which we did mainly through palette," she explains. "For example, we picked a lot of 50s colors, like coral and aqua, but then you might see touches of those in Hitchcock's very traditional English home. It was quite an intensive process."

Since PSYCHO was shot in black and white, and there is no existing color photography from the shoot, Becker researched what colors might have been used to achieve the gray scale tones in the 1960 movie - but also added electrifying pops of the colors that defined mid-Century design.

"Not having a visual record could be seen as a handicap but you could also view it as enormously freeing, which I did," says Becker." Sacha and I decided that we wanted to make our movie set vibrant and colorful, in part to play against the viewer's expectations since PSYCHO is so iconically black and white."

Creating the Hitchcock home - for which an exterior on Alpine Dr. in Beverly Hills and interiors in Pasadena stood in - was more about creating a sense of partnership over time, and Becker filled the rooms with mementos from several decades, accumulated over years of working and being together. "It was important to feel that Alma and Alfred have already been married for 40 years when our film takes place, so the house incorporates a feeling of all the stuff that came before," she says.

Once again, a primary principle was avoiding replication. Instead, Becker set out to craft a believable, dynamic environment that would bring audiences into Hitch and Alma's living spaces. "During PSYCHO, the Hitchcocks actually lived in a ranch house in Bel Air, but Sacha wanted their house to look more like the Tudor they had lived in in England," Becker explains. "We researched their house in Bel Air quite a bit, but we departed from reality when it worked well for the story. There were also many things we were true to, including Hitchcock's love of modern art, which is something that sort of plays against this old English house and brings it to another level."

Becker also included subtle Hitchcock motifs in the house and in Hitchcock's office, including birds, a species with which he was fascinated long before he made THE BIRDS.

For Hitchcock's office, Becker had the advantage of being able to work with the actual environs where he started developing PSYCHO. The PSYCHO sets - including the iconic bathroom, the opening-scene motel room and the parlor where Norman Bates peeks at Marian Crane though a spyhole -- were then re-created on the stages at the Red Studios in Hollywood, which were dressed to depict the Universal lot of 1960, where PSYCHO was shot.

"You get a chance here to see these sets as you never saw them in the movie," notes Becker. "And you get to see them in color for the first time, so that is part of the fun."

The Costumes

Color was also a cornerstone of costume designer Julie Weiss' work. Weiss, a two-time Oscar nominee for FRIDA and TWELVE MONKEYS, was excited by the breadth of the costuming on HITCHCOCK. "To have both the world of Alfred and Alma and the world of Ed Gein -- that's a gold mine," she says. "I had the opportunity to go from plaid shirts to glamorous gowns."

The cast who would wear her costumes also excited her. "I was extremely lucky to be able to work with this cast of originals," she muses. "These are actors who make the camera dance and that camera has to get past whatever costume I put on them, so it can never be armor."

Gervasi adored Weiss' creative energy. "Julie, like all great artists, is obsessive, compulsive and absolutely focused on making her work brilliant," says Gervasi. "She's an extraordinary character who would have been right at home in the 16th century with the great painters of the Renaissance."

Weiss took her inspiration from the archives but added her own touches. "This was a period of time where grooming was extremely important so there's a level of finish to all the characters," she observes. "You start by asking yourself, why does this person get dressed the way they do? The most important thing is that when the actor looks in the mirror, they feel they've become that character. That's what it's all about."

And that's exactly the gift the actors say they received from Weiss. Anthony Hopkins, who has worked with Weiss five times, says of her: "She's like a Stanislavsky Method costume designer. She goes into the depths of the character through endless research and comes up with a philosophy that you never even considered."

Toni Collette was also thrilled with her wardrobe. "I felt totally spoiled because I love the way Peggy got to look in the movie. I don't have a boy's body; I have curves and what Julie designed for me is perfect. She's so great at what she does and she approaches the character in very abstract ways so every fitting with her is an experience."

The Makeup: Making Hopkins Hitchcock

To allow Hopkins to create Hitchcock, Weiss collaborated with Howard Berger's KNB Effects Group (of which he is founder with Gregory Nicotero), which oversaw the makeup. Berger, an Academy Award winner for THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE, created the intricate make-up design that helped Hopkins interpret Hitchcock's persona. Following Hopkins' and Gervasi's lead, he too shied away from imitation.

"From day one, our goal was not to design make-up that would make Tony look exactly like Hitchcock," Berger explains. "Both Tony and Hitch are very well known, so you look at the features that made Hitch who he was and see how you can augment them onto Anthony Hopkins. So many things are different: the shape of the head, the placement of the eyes. Our aim was to come up with the perfect blend so Tony could work the make-up and bring the character to life in his inimitable way."

Berger toiled for weeks to come up with a process that wouldn't be too burdensome for Hopkins, but says the actor was gung-ho. "Tony was up for almost anything, but we were all happy that we settled on a make-up process that ultimately only took 90 minutes to apply," says Berger. Hopkins donned facial prosthetics including a silicone "horseshoe" piece that encompassed the character's neck, chin and cheeks. Pieces for the earlobes and a nose tip were then added, and makeup applied over the whole thing daily. Contact lenses covered Hopkins' bright blue eyes, his teeth were painted to take his natural whiteness away and then a hair piece was put on to emulate Hitch's hairline.

Berger put in intensive work, but he summarizes: "All we are doing with this make-up is giving Tony a tool. It was just the first step in allowing him to bring the character to life. When he walks on to set he becomes Hitchcock. That's an amazing transformation to see." Herrmann To Elfman: The Music

Hitchcock believed sound and image were inseparable -- and to create an aural landscape that would match his films' intensity and sly humor, he turned most often to New York-raised composer Bernard Herrmann. It was Herrmann who shaped the transformed PSYCHO's score into perhaps the most influential film music of all time; and it was also Herrmann who defied Hitchcock's original idea that the film's shower scene be unaccompanied, bringing in the slashing violins that became a trademark of psychological terror for generations.

In HITCHCOCK, Sacha Gervasi wanted to pay tribute to Herrmann, who is played by Paul Schackman, but even more so to give the film its own distinct musical sensibility, one as droll, shadowy and unexpectedly romantic as the story of Hitch and Alma. To do so, he approached Danny Elfman, a four-time Academy Award nominated composer best known for an eclectic and memorable array of films including EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, DICK TRACY and BATMAN.

Gervasi had long been a fan - and was excited to see Elfman delve into what is, within all the cinematic and psychological intrigue, at its core, a romance. "Danny is a real rock musician but he also deeply understands classical composition," says the director. "I think he's one of the best composers of our times. His score for HITCHCOCK enriches the experience of the film as a love story between these two complicated people; and he's done something that's very from the heart and feels very pure."

Elfman was intrigued right away, especially because he cut his teeth on Hitchcock movies and considers Herrmann a major inspiration for his own work. "I've been a Hitchcock fan my whole life," says Elfman, "since childhood - although I remember I wasn't even allowed to see PSYCHO when it came out. That was the only film my parents ever said no to." He goes on: "PSYCHO is probably the greatest film score ever written in my mind, and in some ways it is the inspiration that was responsible for me becoming a film composer. So right away, the idea of HITCHCOCK hit me on several personal levels."

Still, it wasn't until Gervasi invited Elfman to the set that the composer was ready to dive in. "Sacha said 'why don't you come down and check it out?'" recalls Elfman. "So I watched one day of shooting and I was so hooked, I said 'can I come back tomorrow?' Watching Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren was intoxicating for me."

Their heady chemistry became the jumping off point for Elfman, taking him far beyond the more obvious territory of nostalgia or homage to Hitchcock soundtracks. The composer knew going in the last thing he wanted to do was to, in any way, try to parrot the perfection of Herrmann's PSYCHO score. "Sacha and I talked in the beginning a lot about the idea that we were never going to quote Herrmann or sound directly like Herrmann," he explains.

And yet Herrmann haunted the creative process with a more ghostly presence. "I realized at a certain point I was touching on Herrmann here and there, not intentionally, but rather because he is so much a part of my own musical DNA," Elfman explains. "So I was being conscious of Herrmann, but never mimicking him, giving respectful nods here and there to the master."

Elfman continues: "The film has its own unique musical identity - the music is really very much about the internal point of view of Hitchcock and Alma's characters, and that's what makes it interesting to me. The music is never about Hitchcock's films, with the one exception being that we played some of the theme to 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents' for the sheer pleasure of it. It is a dark score, but also playful, and most of all, it is romantic because that is the heart of the picture."

That romantic heart beats not only through the music but also through many of the more subtle touches in the film. One such lovingly applied touch is a play on a famed Hitchcock trademark: the director's cameo in every film. After much prodding from the crew, Gervasi waited until the final day of production - when they were shooting the PSYCHO premiere - to make his brief appearance.

As the movie lets out he is fittingly seen exiting in the crowd with Hitch and Alma.

Next Production Note Section


Home | Theaters | Video | TV

Your Comments and Suggestions are Always Welcome.

2019 23,  All Rights Reserved.


Find:  HELP!