Toby Jones on Playing The Girl's 'Obsessed' Alfred Hitchcock Opposite Sienna Miller's Hedren
In The Girl, airing Saturday at 9/8c, British actor Toby Jones plays the iconic auteur as he develops an unhealthy infatuation with then-unknown actress Tippi Hedren (played by Factory Girl‘s Sienna Miller).
“He becomes obsessed with her beauty and her independence, and he’s obsessed with getting the film right,” Jones tells TVLine. “So you don’t know whether he’s abusing her to get the film right or because he’s become intoxicated by her. Probably both things are true.”
Jones’ career includes roles in films like My Week With Marilyn and The Hunger Games, and he voiced beloved house elf Dobby in the Harry Potter series. Here, he delves into Hitchcock’s unique relationship with his muse (and reveals why Dobby will never utter another word).
TVLINE | How did you come to craft your version of Alfred Hitchcock? Had you been a fan?
I was pretty well versed, compared to other people I’ve had to play. I had seen a lot of footage of him. I’d seen his films… But what I didn’t really know was the stuff that — when you come to play someone, when you’re listening to someone’s voice — the detective work that goes into the voice often leads you into the questions of how did this voice emerge? Why does this person use this voice? And that leads you to how the body moves, and why do they move it? I’d never really addressed myself to those questions because I was more interested in the past and what he did rather than who he was.
TVLINE | From what I understand, the movie follows Hitchcock and Hedren through The Birds and Marnie and chronicles how their relationship changes during that time.
He was probably at the height of his fame — although he was always famous for the rest of his life — he was also at the height of his success, because Psycho had come out and he was following that movie up and he had a big deal with Universal to make The Birds. He had a sense of how great a man he was. And I feel when that happens in a life, you’re also often at your most vulnerable to pride and pomposity.
TVLINE | And when he couldn’t cast Grace Kelly in The Birds, he discovered a then-unknown Tippi Hedren in a commercial.
And of course, Tippi’s an independent minded and independently strong woman, and she was a very inexperienced actress. I think she was actually flattered by the attention that was then poured on her by Hitchcock. But what happened was that, because she didn’t speak the language of an experienced actress like Grace Kelly, she didn’t respond to his humor in the same way. And he began to become obsessed, I think, with her and with the control that he could exercise over her… [She] found him funny and all these things but wasn’t falling in love with him. And I think that somehow he wanted the relationship to go further. Of course, what’s mysterious in the film is: Why does he want the relationship to go further? Because he’s not going to leave his wife.
TVLINE | The fact that she put him off made him want her more.
Standard dating strategy, isn’t it?
TVLINE | Do you have a favorite scene in the movie?
Although I realize if you’re playing a film director, you’re going to be seen to be watching, what I did enjoy was dramatizing the business of watching, to what extent I could convey my thoughts, how my attitude is changing. You have this great opportunity in film that you don’t get in theater. You can sometimes make the camera read your mind. That’s a great challenge and I always enjoy that.
TVLINE | You hadn’t worked with Sienna Miller before.
No. I had met her briefly once before, about four or five years before… I’d seen enough of her work to know she was perfectly cast in this role. Despite being the victim of a lot of unwanted attention, she has this sort of natural vivacity and a natural sense of humor to be able to confound all of that and come back. And in a way that’s perfect for Tippi, as well. Sienna was… testifying for the Leveson inquiry into phone hacking on the day we met for rehearsal. So it was an extraordinary amount of pressure. And when you meet her, she’s got this great natural strength, which I certainly wouldn’t have if I had people interested in my rubbish, sifting through my day-to-day affairs.
TVLINE | It’s interesting you make that point because you’ve worked steadily and had some great roles in amazing productions but – unless I’m wrong – you don’t have people stalking you out on the street.
[Laughs] Well, if they are, they’re really good at it. I’m not sure that I’m that interesting to the press. I’m either working or I’m with my family in London. Any drug abuse, any sexual predatory behavior is well in my past. They’re buried in my past now, of interest to no one. If you were to hack my phone, you’d probably hear me trying to persuade my daughter to do her piano lessons.
TVLINE | Do you ever use the Dobby voice on your family?
I don’t. I always feel like the cruel guy at the party when people come in tears with their children to say, “He played Dobby!” And all of these people who’ve obviously had to voice Dobby themselves for weeks on end as they read the book want to hear the authentic voice and I’ve never, ever had to do it outside the film. Because when I did it in the film, I was also doing a play. When I got the job, my voice was so cracked and wrecked, I was able to reach a sort of falsetto that I’m not able to reach [now]. [Laughs] So I always fall behind the excuse of just going, “Well, I’m sorry, but I can’t ruin my voice. I’m working on something else.” Because otherwise, you’d be literally doing people’s phone answering messages for the rest of your life.