Helen Mirren, left, as Alma Reville and Anthony Hopkins as Alfred Hitchcock… (Suzanne Tenner / Fox Searchlight )
Sacha Gervasi’s “Hitchcock,” the opening night film of the AFI Fest on Thursday, wasn’t supposed to be showing anywhere this year. Instead, the drama about the making of “Psycho” and the strained marriage between Alfred Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins) and Alma Reville (Helen Mirren) originally was set for release next year. But good luck has smiled on “Hitchcock” at many turns, and now the Fox Searchlight film is set to complicate the Academy Awards race.
Loosely adapted from Stephen Rebello's book “Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho,” the film marks Gervasi’s debut as a feature film director. Best known as a screenwriter (“The Terminal,” “Henry’s Crime”) the British-born Gervasi also directed the acclaimed 2008 documentary “Anvil: The Story of Anvil.”
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For a nonfiction movie about a heavy metal band that never made it, “Anvil” was moderately successful on the festival and art house circuit. But its real success was measured in the number of show business enthusiasts it brought Gervasi, a list including “Hitchcock” producer Tom Pollock and stars Hopkins and Mirren. “I loved ‘Anvil,’” Mirren said.
The documentary didn’t just open doors to help Gervasi make and cast the movie, but also established a narrative structure that the filmmaker employed in making “Hitchcock.”
Comparing the marriage of Hitchcock and Reville, who had writing credits on her husband’s “Sabotage” and “Suspicion,” with the relationship between Anvil guitarist Steve “Lips” Kudlow and drummer Robb Reiner may seem like a ridiculous leap, but Gervasi said it’s not. Just as Kudlow and Reiner supported their collective dreams through thick and thin, Reville and Hitchcock figured out how to have a successful partnership, accepting the other’s faults along the way.
“Even though ‘Hitchcock’ and ‘Anvil’ are obviously very different films, they are ultimately about marriages,” Gervasi said, “where both partners collaborate and create together.”
While audiences and critics have yet to see “Hitchcock,” it’s very likely both constituencies will be impressed not only by the lead performances but also Gervasi’s debut. First-time features rarely look so accomplished.
“I have to admit I was a little scared to see it,” Hopkins said. “But Sacha is a bit of a revelation.”
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