The Girl (2012 TV film)

The Girl
Red poster with write writing. Picture of a woman with man in the background. The title The Girl is seen to the right of the image.
Quad poster
Based onSpellbound by Beauty
by Donald Spoto
Written byGwyneth Hughes
Directed byJulian Jarrold
StarringToby Jones
Sienna Miller
Theme music composerPhilip Miller
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
Producer(s)Amanda Jenks
CinematographyJohn Pardue
Editor(s)Andrew Hulme
Running time91 minutes
Production company(s)BBC/HBO
HBO Films
Original networkHBO (U.S.)
BBC Two (UK)
Original release
  • 20 October 2012 (2012-10-20) (United States)
  • 26 December 2012 (2012-12-26) (United Kingdom)

The Girl is a 2012 British television film directed by Julian Jarrold, written by Gwyneth Hughes and produced by the BBC and HBO Films. The film stars Sienna Miller as Tippi Hedren and Toby Jones as Alfred Hitchcock. It is based on Donald Spoto's 2009 book, Spellbound by Beauty: Alfred Hitchcock and His Leading Ladies, which discusses the English film director Hitchcock and the women who played leading roles in his films. The Girl's title was inspired by Hitchcock's alleged nickname for Hedren.

The film depicts Hitchcock's alleged obsession with Hedren, the American model and actress he brought from relative obscurity to star in his 1963 film The Birds. Hitchcock becomes infatuated with his leading lady; when she rebuffs his advances, he subjects her to a series of traumatic experiences during the filming of The Birds. Hitchcock's obsession with Hedren continues when she stars in his next production, Marnie. Hedren grows increasingly uncomfortable with his attentions, and decides that she needs to escape the situation. However, she cannot work elsewhere because of her exclusive contract with Hitchcock; this effectively ends her Hollywood career.

The Girl made its television debut in the United States on 20 October 2012 on HBO and aired in the United Kingdom on BBC Two on 26 December. Jones and Miller were nominated for awards at the 2013 Golden Globe Awards and the British Academy Television Awards for their roles in the film, which received mixed reviews from critics. The Daily Mirror's Jane Simon praised Miller's portrayal of Hedren. Although she endorsed the film, Hedren said its length kept it from showing some of the positive aspects of her relationship with Hitchcock. Others who knew (and worked with) Hitchcock criticised the film because of its portrayal of him as a sexual predator. Kim Novak (who starred in one of Hitchcock's films) and Nora Brown (widow of one of Hitchcock's close friends) disputed the film's version of events.

Plot summary

The film is a partially fictionalised account of the relationship between Alfred Hitchcock and Tippi Hedren. In 1961, Hitchcock notices Hedren in a television commercial for a diet drink. He wants to turn her into the next Grace Kelly, with whom he had worked extensively during the 1950s. Hedren passes her screen test and is groomed for the starring role in Hitchcock's latest film, The Birds; the director instructs her about her dress and appearance.

Captivated by Hedren's Nordic looks, Hitchcock becomes infatuated with her. While filming The Birds, he makes physical advances to her in the back of a limousine but she rebuffs him and escapes through the back door. In retaliation for her rejection, Hitchcock exposes Hedren to terrifying encounters with birds. A mechanical bird breaks the apparently shatterproof glass of a telephone booth during filming, scratching Hedren's face with splintering glass. After arriving on set to shoot a scene where Hedren's character (Melanie Daniels) is trapped in an attic with aggressive birds, she discovers that Hitchcock has ordered the mechanical birds to be replaced with live ones. He demands the scene be repeated until he is satisfied that Hedren's reaction looks authentic. This takes a protracted several days of filming, leaving Hedren traumatised.

With The Birds a box-office success, Hitchcock and Hedren begin work on Marnie. However, Hedren finds the film's content (including a marital-rape scene) and Hitchcock's obsession with her mentally and emotionally exhausting. The director is frustrated by what he sees as Hedren's coldness towards him. During a conversation with writer Evan Hunter, Hitchcock admits that he has erectile dysfunction and his only sexual partner is his wife (screenwriter Alma Reville). He later declares his love for Hedren; she walks away, leaving him frustrated and further rejected.

Hitchcock refuses Hedren's request for time off to attend the Photoplay Awards in New York City (where she is nominated for the Most Promising Actress award), and tells her he will require her to make herself sexually available to him on demand if her career is to continue. Hedren quits working for Hitchcock after completing Marnie, but he refuses to release her from her contract; this prevents her from working for another production company, effectively ending her Hollywood career. Two notes before the titles inform the viewer that Hitchcock and Hedren never worked together again, and The Birds and Marnie are considered his last classic films.