This film image released by Fox Searchlight shows Anthony Hopkins as Alfred Hitchcock in "Hitchcock." (AP Photo/Fox Searchlight, Suzanne Tenner)
Updated: December 24, 2012 6:50AM
NEW YORK — The year was 1979. The place was L.A.’s Ma Maison restaurant.
Anthony Hopkins remembers that night well, because it was the first time he encountered the famed director Alfred Hitchcock.
“I was with my agent that night, and the funny thing was he not only represented Hitchcock, but also Marilyn Monroe. At the time, Hitchcock had recently been knighted by the Queen of England,” Hopkins says.
“We walked past his table and my agent said, ‘Good evening, Sir Alfred.’ Hitch said, ‘Hello, George, how are you?’ Then he met me and said, ‘I’m charmed.’
“It was the only time I met him — and a moment I’ll never forget,” Hopkins says.
Hopkins is meeting Alfred Hitchcock again in the biopic “Hitchcock,” which just might earn him an Oscar nomination.
The film (opening Friday) is a love story between Hitchcock and his wife, Alma (Helen Mirren), who served as a screenwriter, wife, mother and film editor for him. “Hitchcock” also delves into the making of the legend’s “Psycho.”
Hopkins so neatly morphs into the film legend that it had jaws dropping.
“Working with Hopkins, I wasn’t sure if it was Hopkins playing Hitchcock or Hitchcock playing Hopkins,” says co-star Danny Huston.
Finding his inner Hitchcock wasn’t easy.
“My first scene was in the desert. The camera pans over and I say, ‘Good, evveeeening!’ There was no turning back because I was Hitchcock. I still said, ‘Can I do it a few more times? I did the line seven more times because I wanted to get it right.”
Hopkins says he had his insecurities about the role. “After I did my first scene, I had nightmares I didn’t get it right. I didn’t want to do a Rich Little impersonation. Something is somehow lost when you do that in a film. It becomes inauthentic. I had to produce his inner psyche as well.”
To prepare, Hopkins studied Hitchcock’s TV series and watched his early films. “The accent he put on for his shows was for the benefit of American audience. He wanted to sign like a high-born aristocrat.”
Hopkins says that digging into Hitchcock’s psyche was profound for him.
“What fascinated Hitchcock about life was that it’s unpredictable. He felt he had to be in control because he was terrified of the unknown,” he says. “The unknown made him uneasy, which is why Hitchcock made us feel uneasy all the time.”
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