“Yes, absolutely,” she says, noting that the entire burden of “the impersonation side of it” fell upon her co-star this time. Showy impersonations often lead to acting awards, but even without the “She sounds just like her!” effect, Mirren’s work in “Hitchcock” is generating talk of what would be her fifth Oscar nomination.
“I do wish I looked more like Alma,” she admits, “because Alma was a birdlike person, and the visual imagery of this tiny little woman with this huge, big man — and she’s the only one who’s got influence over him — I just loved that idea.”
Beyond some still photographs, there was little for Mirren to base her performance on physically. Although Alma Reville teamed with Hitchcock near the beginning of his very public career (she was a film editor when they met in the ’20s) and worked closely with him until his death in 1980, she stayed out of the spotlight her husband filled so distinctively. “There’s no film” of her, Mirren complains. “Just one tiny bit on YouTube, of Hitchcock getting his AFI [American Film Institute] award, and there’s Alma sitting next to him. I watched that over and over again, but they only cut to Alma” — she snaps her fingers — “for a nanosecond. It was so frustrating.”
Instead, the actress relied on books — especially one written by Patricia Hitchcock, the couple’s only child. “Here’s the daughter of an incredibly famous film director, and she chooses to write her book about her mother,” Mirren says. “That speaks so much about what she felt her mother’s contribution was.”
Historians agree that Alma was an intimate collaborator. In “Hitchcock,” which focuses solely on the risky production of “Psycho,” we watch as she puts her mark on one of the most famous moments in movie history. Alfred is adamant that the shower scene should have no score accompanying it; only Alma can convince him that it will play better with music. Anyone who’s ever heard “Skreek! Skreek! Skreek!” while pulling back a shower curtain has her (and composer Bernard Herrmann) to blame.
Mrs. Hitch was only occasionally credited officially for her efforts, usually as a contributor to the screenplay. But as Mirren puts it: “She had her finger in so many pies. She could say: ‘No, that costume doesn’t work; it needs broader shoulders. That scene doesn’t work; you should cut it there.’ People say ‘Why didn’t she get a credit?’ Well, it’s hard to credit that. You know: ‘Adviser’? ‘Wife-adviser’?”