by MK Scott -
SGN Contributing Writer
Sexual harassment in Hollywood is nothing new, according to screen legend Tippi Hedren, who has finally written her memoir titled Tippi. In the book she writes about her harrowing experience working with film director Alfred Hitchcock on 1963's The Birds and 1964's Marnie. By the time they shot Marnie, the now 87-year-old actress details that Hitchcock was controlling and threatened to ruin her career. So when I was given the chance to ask her about that time, especially as the #MeToo movement is gaining some steam, I jumped at the opportunity. I also asked her about her passion for Wildlife Conservation when I chatted by phone with her on Friday, November 3rd.
MK Scott: Hi, Tippi. I have been anxiously waiting to talk to you about your new memoir called Tippi: A Memoir.
Tippi Hedren: Well, thank you.
MK: The timing of the things in the news about sexual harassment in Hollywood and so forth. So I thought, oh, my gosh, this would be a great opportunity. I actually saw The Birds on Halloween, in junior high school. They showed it to our 7th grade English class. In fact, I think we couldn't see the whole thing; we had to separate it by two days.
Tippi: Oh, fabulous.
MK: It was amazing.
In your book you talk about your strange relationship with Alfred Hitchcock on the set of The Birds and Marnie. Tell us more about that story.
Tippi: Well, it's age old. It's nothing new. It was very disappointing to me that he would, you know, play that card. But we were, you know, it was a very & interesting shoot for me. The Birds was my first film. And, you know, not only dealing with acting and with a very, very prominent director, actors who were, you know, very consummate actors. There was a lot going on for me. And then all of the sudden - actually this didn't happen until we did Marnie - where he pulled that card of wanting more than my being an actress. I was so insulted. I really was. I was very insulted by the whole thing. And very vehement. And he said, well, I'll ruin your career. And I said, do what you have to do. And I walked out the door. And I want to tell you I don't think a door has ever been slammed as loudly as I slammed that door. And he did, he kept me under contract and paid me my salary, which was not huge. And I honestly can't remember for exactly how long, but it was long enough to be a detriment, and of course, I was still under control. There were directors who wanted me for other films. Hitchcock had the control. So I don't even know what I lost. I don't even know.
MK: Well, I read that he wanted to control every little inch of your life in regards to how you looked, how you walked, how you talked. And so forth. What was that like?
Tippi: Well, that didn't work so well. [Chuckle] You know, I was, as far as all of those things, those were - that was not a problem for me. It was when somebody tries to control your life is what bothered me.
MK: Now, he compared you to Grace Kelly quite a bit.
Tippi: Well, what a wonderful compliment.
MK: [Chuckle] Well, and also, and this was also kind of interesting to me. Every single, pretty much every single one of his leading ladies, they all looked alike, they were all blonde, and they all had this particular look. Did you find that strange at all?
Tippi: I suppose, but I don't know, maybe that's the MO of a lot of men where they have a type of woman that they are interested in, or find to be very fascinating, or interesting, or whatever. I don't know, I kind of have looks about men that I particularly like. You know, I understand that one.
MK: Now, for instance, actually, yeah, in fact, I also read, when I was doing research, Robert Boyle said that 'Hitch always liked women who behaved like well bred ladies. And that Tippi generated that quality.'
Tippi: Oh, that was lovely. Yeah. [Chuckle]
MK: [Chuckle] And also, one thing that was really, I don't know, I wonder if you have any post-traumatic stress in regards to when he kept on throwing those birds at you?
Tippi: I really don't. It - I knew going into this movie that we would be using live birds. And I am not, I'm not a scaredy-cat. And it's also a movie, so there are preparations that are made to keep the actors safe. However, I must say, when you have birds thrown at you there's not much that anybody else can do but me. And I don't know, I just, I handled it very well, I wasn't afraid. And it all worked.
MK: Now, with sexual harassment in the news, how bad did it really get for you?
Tippi: Bad enough so that I walked out and slammed the door. And that, you know, this is nothing new. It has happened, it began when Adam and Eve were put on this planet. And it has been a situation where women have had to either make a - you know, I find it incredible that parents don't teach their children, not only their girls as to how to handle situations like this before they even get started, and young boys to say; this is not acceptable for you to do to any woman. And they should understand that as well. I mean it isn't just the girls who need to be educated, it is our young men as well. Had my parents not given me the education that they did I don't know how I would've handled all of this. I know I wouldn't have accepted it, but I don't, you know, it made it very easy for me because you just don't ever let it get to a point where it's a problem.
MK: Now, did you hear about other stories of similar situations in the, you know, during the Golden Years of Hollywood?
Tippi: I don't think it was just the Golden Years. I think it's been forever. Oh, yeah. This is nothing new. It's nothing new. It's just that Hollywood is very glamorous, and of course, that becomes, it becomes more interesting, because of the mystique of Hollywood, and the glamour, and, you know, that occupation, that business, is very fascinating. Everybody loves it. Everybody loves to hear about it, and much more so than an average business that may be very successful but isn't glamorous, you know. Hollywood has a bright star over it, you know, and it shines down and everybody wants to see what's going on.
MK: How have you been reacting to all these new allegations just in the last month or so?
Tippi: Well, it doesn't surprise me. It finally just came to the forefront. And when one person comes out and says this is wrong and it should be stopped, and then somebody else joins in, and another person, and another one, and another one, and they're all name actors and it becomes a fascinating topic.
MK: Now, did you have any other encounters with any other Hollywood heavyweights?
Tippi: No, I don't. I never let it get that far. I don't give off those kinds of vibes. I'm very business oriented. I don't know. Possibly I'm a little bit formidable about the acting career and who I am and you really respect that or I leave.
MK: And now in regards to this, there was this other part of your life that was quite fascinating. That you had spent about 11 years working on the film, Roar? Was that a very dangerous situation to be around all those &
Tippi: Oh, it was horribly dangerous. Seven of us were hurt. In fact they were going to name a wing at the Palmdale Hospital after us. Because we had so many people hurt. I was hurt. My husband, Noel [Marshall] was hurt so many times. And, you know, nobody seriously injured, thank God, but you're dealing with an apex predator, top of the food chain, one of the four most dangerous animals in the world. And we chose them to be our movie stars. So we knew what we were getting into. It wasn't a surprise to anyone when these accidents would happen. It was serious, of course. And we tried to do everything we could to understand these animals and recognize the danger signs and, you know, you try to learn to protect yourself, but they are also very fast. And they don't give you a lot of notice about what they're thinking. So, you know, it's not - that I will tell you, is not a pet. And never should be considered a pet. And I think I get that fact through in my book. I hope I did, anyway.
MK: Because of that you created the Roar Foundation, which is, of course, you have the Shambala Preserve.
Tippi: And the only reason I got involved in that was because of the film, because we were going to use Hollywood acting animals and have a nine-month shoot, over and out. However, the trainers of these cats didn't have the numbers of animals that we needed. So it was then suggested that we acquire our own animals to do the movie. And, of course, that opened a whole can of peas for us, because in order to do this we had to put the word out and all of the sudden we were pretty inundated with big cats who had been born, you know, people were breeding them to be sold as a pet. So they sold very well. And can you imagine a little lion cub and how cute and adorable they are. And they were sold in all kinds of different places, not just shops, but the breeders would go to events and have their little lions for sale, or their little tigers, and there were no laws about it. And that, you know, the more I got into this whole issue, the more it bothered me that there weren't laws. So I put a bill together and took it to my Congressman, Buck McKeon, to stop the breeding of exotic felines to be sold as a pet. And I had all the reasons why they shouldn't be sold as a pet. And they were good, solid reasons. And he said, well, this is a - he looked into it and said, 'Tippi, this is a huge business. It's like illegal drugs. It's never going to work.' And I said, 'Well, we're going to try, aren't we?' Then he did get behind me on it, and we went to Washington and I testified to the Senate and the House and the bill passed. Unanimously in the House and Senate. It was in '03, I believe. It was titled the Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act. And it took a while before we saw any changes in anything, but that whole business is practically nonexistent now.
MK: And, also I hear that you take, you also, it's also a good place to take all of those animals from the circuses.
Tippi: Oh, the circus doesn't use them anymore.
Tippi: The circus, they called me about it, because I was so adamant against the circus. I had such a big mouth against a circus that had animals in it that they never called, they didn't even call me to ask if we would take any of them. However, all of the - fortunately that time of our lives is over. People are not allowed to use animals to those extremes. Thank God.
MK: Do you have any interest in being in front of the camera again?
Tippi: You know, I don't know that I do. My life is very busy with the Shambala Preserve. And I don't know. I figure it depends on the offer.
MK: I chatted with Tab Hunter last year. And he had said that he said he absolutely has no desire whatsoever to act again. And he'd rather just be on his horse ranch.
Tippi: Sure. Well, that's called retirement, isn't it?
MK: I just heard today that you're going to be honored at a specific special award soon.
Tippi: Yes, I am. This is for the L.A. Press Club.
MK: The Visionary Award at the National A&P Journalism Awards.
MK: On December 3rd.
Tippi: And it's going to be wonderful. Very excited, very honored.
MK: It is. And finally, my burning question, the question I really want to know, and that is Dakota Johnson is your granddaughter. And your daughter is Melanie Griffith. And you and Melanie both said that when Fifty Shades of Grey came out that you guys were never going to see it.
Tippi: I still haven't seen it.
MK: Not even the sequel? Fifty Shades Darker?
Tippi: Fifty Shades of Grey, or Fifty Shades. No, it's Fifty Shades - Fifty Shades of Grey, and then there's another one, Fifty Shades Darker?
MK: The sequel out last year. Part 3 out soon.
Tippi: I stay away from that. You know, I'm like, I'm like a horse with blinders on.
MK: And also, it says it's a revolutionary film. This was Dakota's breakout film.
Tippi: Yeah, of course.
MK: Hopefully, she'll be in another movie (not related to that series) soon where you could actually see her.
Tippi: I hope so!
MK: Thank you very much and hugs and love to you.
Tippi: Right back at you. Thank you.
Tippi Hedren's memoir is now available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other book retailers.
For more information on the Roar Foundation and the Shambala Preserve, please visit shambala.org.
MK Scott is a Seattle-based arts blogger. Check out his blog at outviewonline.com
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