Tippi Hedren, ‘The Birds’ actress, breaks silence

Written by Ritu Menon, CNN

“He had such a dark side,” says Tippi Hedren, the original star of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds.”

On November 2, her new memoir, “Tippi,” will be released. Here she talks about her traumatic relationship with Hitchcock and why she’s not bitter.

Ritu Menon: How do you feel now that “The Birds” is a classic?

Tippi Hedren: It was the low-hanging fruit that I needed to sell. I hadn’t done anything else in my career since “The Birds” came out — when I was 48. But now, I can claim it was originally meant for me. I’m so happy that I finally got my due for what I gave it.

In your memoir, you reveal how Hitchcock set out to “ruin” your career. What do you think he hoped to achieve?

Hedren: It was amazing. (Hitchcock) got a death wish. He really wanted to change the course of my life. I thought it was about the money.

“I thought I was being asked to star in another show like ‘The Birds,'” you wrote in “Tippi.” “But they said they wanted a new franchise that would appeal to younger audiences. Then I got shocked: They were not looking for a drama, but a thriller.”

The book also recounts an incident in which you were almost choked to death on a knife in Hitchcock’s flat. Describe that for us.

Hedren: I was in his home and sitting at the dining table when I felt a hard object pressed in my throat. I looked over and saw him grinning at me. “What do you think of this?” he said. “It’s peanuts,” I replied. The story was about how I was obsessed with “The Birds” and then the scene when I threw open my scarf. He said, “That’s odd,” and suggested that it was a scarf-dropping moment.

The book makes it clear you still consider yourself Hitchcock’s favorite star.

Hedren: Well, yeah. I guess he would consider that an epitaph, because that’s how he saw me. I hope he isn’t proud of it.

What was it like working with Hitchcock, who once described you as one of his own?

Hedren: If there’s one thing that sets him apart from other directors, it’s that he has an incredible sense of smell. He really knew what he was doing. He could predict the future.

Given your experience with him, and in light of the renewed interest in “The Birds,” would you advise anyone not to work with Hitchcock?

Hedren: That would not be the advice I would give to anybody. What happened to me was very unique. It was an indescribable and scary experience. It created a deep hatred of him and I still hold a deep resentment toward him.

“Tippi” is a film about how you overcame the experience and became one of Hollywood’s leading women. To you, did that success owe to your background as a dancer?

Hedren: It didn’t turn out to be that I’m a dancer because of my ballet background. It turned out to be that I am a good actress because of my ballet background. But a dancer can do other things too.

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