The Midnite Ticket team traveled to Detroit’s historic Redford Theatre on Saturday to catch a screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds with star Tippi Hedren live in person. At the screening, Ms Hedren recounted a few stories about working with Hitchcock on The Birds, as well as her second feature with the director, Marnie. Here are three fun anecdotes that she shared with the audience:
On Being Cast in The Birds
Ms. Hedren didn’t know she was going to be in an Alfred Hitchcock movie until late in the casting process. After years doing commercials and modeling in New York, the actress made her way to California which she saw as a better place to raise her daughter Melanie Griffith. She hoped to pick-up her career there. What else could she do because, as she put, “I don’t type.” But it wasn’t as easy as she anticipated... until she got a call from a Universal producer who asked her if she was the woman in the Sego commercial.
Hitchcock had seen a commercial for the diet soda and wanted to cast Ms. Hedren in his next film. She interviewed with many of the filmmakers, though not Hitchcock, without ever knowing who she would work for or what movie she would be in. When the filmmakers were ready to cast her, she was sent to a talent agency where she finally learned that the director who wanted her was Hitchcock.
On Hitchcock’s Gift to Her Daughter, Melanie
While working for Hitchcock, Ms. Hedren was asked to sit for a face mold, which wasn’t an unusual request. The person making the mold was a professional who had Marlon Brando's face, among others, in the room where he worked.
Weeks later, Hitchcock and his wife Alma invited Ms. Hedren and her daughter Melanie Griffith to lunch. There he presented Melanie with a gift: a custom doll in a wooden box. The doll was dressed in the same green dress that Ms. Hedren wore in The Bird's... and the doll's face was Ms. Hedren's face.
The gift was a lovley gesture, but it scared the young Melanie Griffith because the wooden box with the doll in it made it look like her mother was in a coffin.
On the Mechanical Bird Bait-and-Switch
If you've seen The Birds, you know there’s a scene near the end of the film where Ms. Hedren as Melanie Daniels walks into a room full of birds that attack her. Throughout the production she was assured that they would use mechanical birds for the brutal scene.
Finally, on the day filming of the scene was set to start, the assistant director came to see Ms. Hedren. He was awkwardly looking around the room as he talked to her, until she finally asked him what was wrong. The assistant director blurted out "The mechanical birds don’t work. We’re going to use real birds."
Birds flew at and around her for five days until, exhausted, Ms. Hedren had to seek medical care. The doctor told Hitchcock that Ms. Hedren needed to rest, but because she was in almost every scene in the movie, he refused. (Cold, Hitch. Real cold.)
Ms. Hedren later learned that Hitchcock never intended to use fake birds.
Ms. Hedren tours the country with The Birds to raise money for her large big cat sanctuary, the Shambala Preserve. Learn more here.