Actress Tippi Hedren details sex assault by director Alfred Hitchcock in memoir

Tippi Hedren.
Tippi Hedren.

LOS ANGELES • Actress Tippi Hedren graphically chronicles in a new memoir incidents in which she says she was sexually assaulted and harassed by director Alfred Hitchcock during her star turns in The Birds and Marnie.

She has accused him of sexual harassment on a number of occasions, notably in interviews around the release of HBO's 2012 film, The Girl, which depicts his alleged obsession with her. But Tippi: A Memoir, which went on sale yesterday, is the first time she has written about the "master of suspense" herself.

Her account of him contrasts sharply with his public image as a mild-mannered, self-effacing English gentleman. What emerges is an unflattering portrait of a powerful director who nursed a dark, uncontrollable obsession with his icy blonde leading ladies. He died in 1980 at the age of 80.

Hedren - mother and grandmother of actresses Melanie Griffith and Dakota Johnson - rose from fashion model to movie star and Hitchcock blonde after the director spotted her in a commercial and cast her in the lead role of his 1963 masterpiece, The Birds.

Hedren, 86, alleges that Hitchcock became obsessed with her shortly after signing her to a five-year contract. He became upset if he saw her talking to other men, she writes, according to New York Post and Daily Mail, which obtained access to the memoir.

She says he made unwanted advances during a gruelling six-month shoot in 1962, including during a ride in his limousine. "With no warning, he threw himself on top of me and tried to kiss me," she writes. In another incident, he cornered her on set and asked her to touch him. Whenever he caught her alone, "he'd find some way to express his obsession with me, as if I owed it to him to reciprocate somehow", she writes.

The breaking point, she writes, came in 1964 during the production of Marnie. The movie is about a habitual thief with mental health problems who is raped by her husband on their wedding night. Hedren says she was aware of a widespread belief that the scene of the man forcing himself on his "frigid, unattainable bride" was Hitchcock's personal fantasy about her.

He became increasingly aggressive as she kept her distance, she says. She alleges that he threatened to ruin her career, blocking an attempt to submit her performance for an Oscar, when she insisted on ending her contract, which she did that day.

"I've made it my mission ever since to see to it that while Hitchcock may have ruined my career, I never gave him the power to ruin my life," Hedren writes.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 02, 2016, with the headline 'Sex assault details in memoir'. Print Edition | Subscribe