Press junkets are a strange animal, to say the least. Sometimes they’re a lot of fun, but sometimes they can frankly be a mess. Luckily, late last week I was privy to one of the good ones, a morning in New York City spent in an upscale hotel interview just about everyone involved with the new film ‘Hitchcock’. I gave the film my thumbs up in a recent review (found here), but I freely admit that it’s not perfect, so I was interested in seeing why some of the talent made the choices that they did. The day consisted of several 1 on 1 interviews as well as a live press conference with a number of people, plus a video press conference with Anthony Hopkins. The interviews I conducted were with director Sacha Gervasi, stars James D’Arcy, Michael Stuhlbarg, Toni Collette, and Danny Huston, along with writer John McLaughlin, costume designer Julie Weiss, and production designer Judy Becker. Gervasi, D’Arcy, Stuhlbarg, Collette, and Huston were joined for the press conference by Helen Mirren and Jessica Biel, with Hopkins coming last. I didn’t get the chance to talk personally with Biel or Mirren, but I did wind up having Hopkins talk with me. That’s a funny story, and I’ll get to it momentarily, but for now sit back and enjoy the highlights of my ‘Hitchcock’ press junket coverage! I may wind up posting the entire interviews at a later date, but at the moment I’ve got a collection of the choice remarks from each individual. The time was very short with each one, but I’ll try and give a sense of what we talked about in those brief periods. Here we go.
I started the morning by entering the room of ‘Hitchcock’ director Sacha Gervasi. While we were actually chatting a bit before I turned on my iPad recorder, his phone rang and he asked if he could take it really quickly. I of course obliged him, and lo and behold he answers and goes “hello sir Anthony”. Yes, Anthony Hopkins had called to say good morning and such to him, but the crazy part was that moments into it he said that he was here talking with me and would “Tony” as he called him like to speak with me. That’s how I wound up talking to Hannibal (or more appropriately Alfred Hitchcock at the moment) briefly on the phone. That surreal moment aside, Gervasi and I had a lovely chat, where I touched on my unlikely love of ‘The Terminal’ (which he co-wrote), but on the subject of ‘Hitchcock’, the most interesting thing that I learned was that part of the reasons that he got the job was how big a fan of ‘Anvil! The Story of Anvil’ Hopkins was. He was contacted out of the blue to come in and talk about directing the flick based on his documentary and was thrown into the mix with just about every A-list director. In the meeting he was initially told he wasn’t getting the job before even starting his pitch…the pitch that ultimately got him the gig. Gervasi actually was really warm and funny, and quite possibly could be the newest reader of The Awards Circuit, so I’d say that was a very productive chat!
Sitting on a couch across from up and coming actor James D’Arcy, we touched on both ‘Hitchcock’ as well as his part in ‘Cloud Atlas’, which wound up leading to him praising ‘Looper’ and me recommending ‘The Fountain’ to him. The most interesting thing he told me was that despite playing Anthony Perkins, almost everyone who’s seen the flick approaches him to praise him for his work playing Norman Bates, which I think certainly is a testament to his work in the film. D’Arcy was also deeply grateful for the chance to work on ‘Cloud Atlas’ and managed to convince me to go watch it a second time, so he’s certainly a persuasive guy, and a cool one to chat with at that!
Perhaps one of the most humble men I’ve ever interviewed, Michael Stuhlbarg is in many ways both exactly as you’d expect him to be but also very different as well, which is a testament to his acting ability. Incredibly soft spoken, he talks to you like a friend almost seems embarrassed by any praise that you give him. Something he mentioned that I hadn’t even remembered was that he’s got a part in Woody Allen’s next film, a part that I think is a match made in heaven. As for playing Lew Wasserman, he spoke of the irony of being approached to meet about playing an agent, well…by his agent. We also touched briefly on ‘Lincoln’, but for those of you who remember my conflicted feelings about ‘A Serious Man’, you’ll be amused to know that I did actually own to him about initially disliking it and finding it to be an arty version of ‘Saw’, something he said he’d never heard before. I’ve since grown to like the flick more, and always loved him in it, so it was very nice to get to talk with him.
Playing one of the female roles in ‘Hitchcock’ definitely gives you an interesting perspective on the character, and Toni Collette was all too happy to talk with me and laugh about being able to play one of the few women not brought to tears by Hitchcock. The most interesting thing we talked about was how well developed her character of Peggy is despite not having much screen time at all. You really buy the relationship she has with Hitchcock and his wife, and it’s expressed in their interactions without wasting needless time in the film spelling things out. As the only female member of the cast available for this part of the junket, she was very much the keeper of the flame for the women of ‘Hitchcock’ and I think she did that job with aplomb.
Every other times I conduct an interview, it seems that someone brings up my iPad and it becomes a conversation piece. That happened almost each time during this junket, but no conversation about it was longer than the one I had with noted character actor Danny Huston. He actually uses one himself, for his dialogue in scripts. Despite my issues with his character’s place in the film, we did talk about that a fair bit and he was very forthcoming in saying that Whitfield Cook is a bit of a cad and perhaps jealous of Hitchcock. I may not have loved his subplot, but the few moments that Huston’s character shares with Hopkins as Hitchcock were very amusing, and it’s to his credit that they worked for me in that regard.
For someone who was able to come up with something as bizarre and dark as ‘Black Swan’, scribe John McLaughlin was surprisingly silly and fun. We honestly kept getting off on tangents, mainly centered around guilty pleasure movies, bad romantic comedies, and why ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ is so good. On this film though, McLaughlin was clear on not having wanted to write a very dry and boring biopic, something that I think he definitely succeeded at. He also deflects all ‘Black Swan’ credit to Darren Aronofsky, though I think he’s just being modest…
Considering that I date someone in the fashion industry but still know nothing about clothing, I went into my brief time with costume designer Julie Weiss hopeful that I wouldn’t make a fool of myself with my lack of knowledge on the subject. Luckily, Weiss was chatty and warm, making that very much a moot point. She even had a costume in her bag from a play she’s working on to show me, but she really lit up when talking about getting to dress Anthony Hopkins and seeing him transform into Alfred Hitchcock. Her enthusiasm was really quite nice, and it almost felt like talking to a relative. She was just that warm.
My last talk of the day was with production designer Judy Becker, and we got along famously. Ironically we talked about ‘Garden State’ (which she also worked on) as much as ‘Hitchcock’, but she still had a lot of fascinating things to say about her work on this film. The highlight was her explaining the liberties taken and why it was necessary, such as the fact that Hitchcock’s actual home was far more modest than the one they wound up using, since it’s not very well known how small many of the stars of yesteryear’s homes actually were. I was pretty surprised by that one, and glad to have gotten to speak with her, or else I never would have known that one.
-Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!
Tags: Alfred Hitchcock, Anthony Hopkins, Biopic, book adaptation, Danny Huston, Helen Mirren, hitchcock, James D'Arcy, Jessica Biel, John McLaughlin, Judy Becker, Julie Weiss, Junket, late press, Michael Stuhlbarg, Oscar hopefuls, Sacha Gervasi, Toni Collette