“When he told me that he would ruin me, I just told him do what he had to do,” recalls Hedren. “I went out of the door and slammed it so hard that I looked back to see if it was still on its hinges.”
During the shooting of their two movies, Hitchcock would get jealous and resentful when he saw Hedren speaking to male colleagues. At one point, when they were both in the back of a limousine, the director lunged at Hedren and tried to kiss her. In another encounter, during the filming of “Marnie,” Hitchcock asked the actress to touch him and shared romantic fantasies with her. After she rebuffed him, he chilled toward her.
“It was absolutely awful, and as soon as the movie ‘Marnie’ was over, I was out of there,” she says. “That was the end of the Hitchcock relationship. I finished the movie and didn’t have any other contact.”
The 87-year-old actress sees parallels between what happened to her with Hitchcock and the sexual harassment and abuse scandal roiling the movie business. Alleged predators like Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and Louis C.K. use their position to prey on people in the same way that Hitchcock tried to pressure her, Hedren says.
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“This is nothing new,” she notes. “These things have been going on since man and woman were first put on our planet. It’s just very disconcerting to constantly have men believe they can just do whatever they want with women.”
Hitchcock made good on his threats to try to derail Hedren’s career, keeping her under contract while failing to offer her big movie projects. After “Marnie” hit theaters in 1964, it was three years before Hedren was cast in another major film — this time in a supporting role in Charlie Chaplin’s “A Countess From Hong Kong.” None of her future projects would match the success of “The Birds,” nor would any roles be as meaty as her star turn as a traumatized woman in “Marnie.” Hedren, though, ended up devoting more of her time to animal rights, founding an 80-acre wildlife habitat, the Shambala Preserve, in California, to care for endangered big cats.
Hedren says she never saw Hitchcock again but refused to stay silent about his abuse. She told many colleagues privately about what happened and first talked publicly about Hitchcock’s harassment to his biographer, Donald Spoto, for a 1983 book. She revisited her tortured experiences on “Marnie” in her 2016 autobiography, “Tippi: A Memoir.”
“I never feared speaking up, because I knew I was right,” says the actress. “My parents instilled in me a good sense of morals and a knowledge of what’s important in life. Acquiescing to some powerful man’s sexual desires for a job is not going to happen to me.”
Hedren is heartened by the way that people are coming forward to share their own stories of abuse and assault by powerful movie business figures, and she hopes that they give others the courage to unmask sexual predators.
“It’s demeaning, it’s disgusting and it’s a good thing it’s all coming to light, because I think everybody is very put off by it,” she says. “The more that people are aware that this is happening, maybe the more that parents will start teaching their children that this is an inappropriate way to behave. Then it will stop happening.”