Tippi Hedren reflects on working with Alfred Hitchcock and the 50th Anniversary of “The Birds”

Tippi-Hedren-450x303Tippi Hedren is known best for her roles in the Alfred Hitchcock films, “The Birds” and “Marnie”. This year “The Birds” is celebrating its 50th anniversary, yet the film is as popular as ever and still very relevant. Besides acting, Tippi also works with animal rescue at the Shambala Preserve, which is a 73-acre wildlife habitat which she founded in 1983. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Tippi about working with Hitchcock, his films and her work on the Shambala Preserve.

Mike Gencarelli: With “The Birds” celebrating its 50th anniversary, what is your most memorable experience with this film?
Tippi Hedren: There were so many of them, since it was such an overwhelming experience for me. “The Birds” was my first film. So not only having Alfred Hitchcock discover me in a commercial that I had done, but he took me under his wing – you might say. He put me under contract before I had even met him just based on my commercial and photo work. It was a very exciting time for me.

MG: Can you reflect on the film with about today’s audience and why the film is still relevant?
TH: “The Birds” really seems to have a life of its own. So many people are really enchanted with it. The fact that this film was even able to have been done is amazing. Year after year, the film gets introduced to a younger generation. When you watch it with the audience of today, when you see the telephones 50 years ago they start laughing. It is interesting for me. But on the other hand the film tippi-hedren-660holds up so well. Fortunately Hitchcock always had his leading women dressing in very traditional clothes. I could wear that green suit right now and be perfectly in style, which I actually still have six of them today.

MG: I recently saw the HBO film “The Girl”, which was based on the making of “The Birds”; how accurate was the film to what happened?
TH: Yes the film was totally accurate. In fact, the writer Gwyneth Hughes came out to my Shambala Preserve, where I live and she spent an afternoon with me talking about my years with Hitchcock. So, yeah the film is absolutely accurate. Also at the time that she was writing she would also call me and discuss any issues or concerns.

MG: What are your feelings on seeing Sienna Miller playing yourself in the film?
TH: I thought she was wonderful. Sienna also came out to the preserve and I got to spend an afternoon with her as well. She called me several times during the filming, which was done in South America. There was a close comradery between all of us.

MG: In the final attack scene of the film; how many times did you have to shoot that?
TH: When I opened the door to that room and all those birds came flying at me and I was under attack for a full week from Monday to Friday. It was unbelievable and also very exhausting.

MG: How would you compare Hitchcock’s style to other director’s you’ve worked it?
hitch-tippiTH: The thing that impressed me so much was that he was always so well prepared. He literally worked 9-5pm. At 5 o’clock, we had the martini shots…every day. Most directors will go into very late at night or tremendously long hours, which is actually the norm. With Hitchcock, he always kept to a schedule. That was pretty amazing.

MG: How did the production of “The Birds” and “Marnie” compare?
TH: They are two entirely different films. In “The Birds” you have the added problem of working with live animals, which is always a difficult situation. They do not care about being in a movie. So there is a great deal of difference. I loved doing “Marnie” since it was such a psychological piece and entirely different.

MG: My site partner told me that if I didn’t ask you about working with Sean Connery that he will quit, so tell us about working with him in “Marnie”?
TH: I was very fortunate having Rod Taylor as my leading man in “The Birds”. I was working with all  consummate actors including Jessica Tandy and Suzanne Pleshette. They were all great. So, it was kind of a surprise for me when they told me I was going to play Marnie. I play a compulsive thief that is so frigid that she screams every time a man comes near her. So when I was asked who would be playing Mark Rutland in the film, Hitchcock told me that it would be Sean Connery. I said “Sean Connery? The Sean Connery that just got out of ‘Dr. No’? Sean Connery, who could melt the iciest of blondes? Mr. Hitchcock, do you remember that Marnie is so frigid that she screams everything a man comes near her? How am I supposed to handle that?” He simply told me “It’s called acting my dear”. And that was the end of that [laughs].roar

MG: How was it being the topic of the season and guest starring on the season finale of “Cougar Town”?
TH: It was great fun. It was such a short piece. The whole season was about how can they find Tippi Hedren, so then at the very end is when I appeared. I wish it would have been a little longer but it was still a lot of fun.

MG: Tell us about the inspiration behind the film “Roar”?
TH: Well it goes back to 41 years ago when I started rescuing lions and tigers. I had just done two films in Africa. During those years, environmentalists all over the world were saying that if we didn’t do anything right then, which was 1969-70, to save the animals in the wild then by the year 2000 they would be gone. So my then husband (Noel Marshall) and I decided to do a film about the animals in the wild. We choose the great cat, because people are either enchanted with them, scared to death of them or think they should be admired from afar. We had seen an abandoned house while on a photo Safari in Mozambique. The owner had moved out since it flooded during the rainy season. So when he moved out a tide of lions moved in. It was the largest pride in all of Africa. We couldn’t count me but there was somewhere between 25-30 lions of all sizes that were living in this house. We thought that this was incredible. They were sitting in the windows looking like great portraits. There were going in and out of the doors. They were napping on the verandas. So we decided to use these animals as our stars. We then went back to California and got the script written. When we shambalagave the script to the trainers of these Hollywood animals and they all came back to us laughing that this film could not be made. They told me to get my own animals for the movie. All of the sudden I had little lions and cubs all over my house. It was quite an experience and we learned right then and there that they are definitely not pets.

MG: Tell us about continued your work today with the Shambala Preserve?
TH: The preserve is 73-acres and it is very beautiful. We keep the animals that we rescue for the remainder of their lives. We give them huge areas in which to life, many of which are over an acre. It is so expensive though. I have to raise over a million dollars a year, which is quite difficult. I would appreciate if your readers can visit our website, http://www.shambala.org/ and see what we have to do in order to keep this going each year. I am doing everything I can and any help is appreciated since this place is so beautiful and necessary. I am also working on federal bill which will be introduced this month, which will stop the breeding of lions and tigers to be sold as a pets. So please look that up as well.

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