Toby Jones embodies Hitchcock in HBO’s “The Girl”

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Toby Jones must be wondering what he has to do to get a break? In 2005 Capote is released and wins Phillip Seymour Hoffman an Oscar for Best Actor as Truman Capote, a role Jones had portrayed in the film Infamous (2006) which was waiting release, and after the success of the former film was delayed a year. Jones was terrific as Capote, perhaps less tortured and more playful than Hoffman, yet no less brilliant, but because audiences and already seen one story about essentially the same story (and it was) Infamous (2006) found no audience. Now the poor guy is portraying legendary director Alfred Hitchcock for HBO in “The Girl” just a month before the new Fox Searchlight film Hitchcock hits theaters with Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins in the title role. The stories differ in that The Girl focuses on the directors relationship and eventual obsession with actress Tippi Hedren, while Hitchcock will explore the shooting of his iconic film Psycho (1966).

Let me say that I liked Jones as Capote, and Daniel Craig offered a nasty portrayal of Perry, one of the killers in the film, much darker than that of Philip Seymour Hoffman. Now was he Oscar worthy as Capote? Who can say because we saw Hoffman first, and he was truly brilliant. I like to think I know a little something about acting and spotting good performances, and I can safely state that if Jones had appeared as Capote first, things might have gone differently.
As Hitchcock in “The Girl,” Jones is a tragic yet misogynistic figure, forever obsessed with a woman he cannot have, Tippi Hedren. The actor gives a brilliant performance, my only complaint being he does not seem to carry the girth that made Hitchcock so instantly recognizable. It was said the director loved blondes, and took a particular shine to Tippi Hedren, who he cast in The Birds (1963) and groomed to be a major star. Sadly, Hedren lacked any real acting talent, but that did not bother Hitchcock, who despite being married for several years pursued the woman behind the scenes. Rumors state she was one of many to be chased by the randy old fellow. When the attentions became too much for the actress, she asked to be let out of her contract with him, and was told by Hitchcock, “I will ruin your career.” And he did just that. Hedren was hot after Marnie (1964) despite not being a strong actress, but Hitch would not allow any other director to cast her. Chaplin finally cast her years later which infuriated Hitchcock, who raged that another director would dare defy him.

“He would no go anywhere unless he was the center of attention”, Hedren has said, “and his wife once told me, Tippi I am so sorry you have to go through this.”

Hitchcock loved to recite dirty limericks and was said to have volumes of them in his office. Let’s be fair, his films are often very sexual, so can it be any real surprise that the man was so focused on sex?  Alma, his wife, seemed to know of his attractions to other women, and silently put up with them, as women often did in those times. Cecil B. Demille’s wife silently sat while the supposed deeply religious Demille bedded star after star through his career and kept a few mistresses on his payroll!

Jones is marvelous as Hitchcock, and Hedren herself stated she “got chills” the first time she saw the film and heard his voice. It will be interesting to see where Jones goes with the performance but an Emmy nomination seems likely next year, and a SAG nod is not out of the question. Too bad the film is not getting a theatrical release. How cool would it be to have two actors nominated for playing the same character in two different films?

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