Actress Tippi Hedren offers several theories for the enduring fascination of "The Birds," Alfred Hitchcock's 1963 shocker.
"It isn't explained why the birds attack," she said. "You see birds everywhere all over the world. What if they decided to mass and attack us? What would we do? Are we going to live indoors? Build tunnels? It's a thoughtful piece, a wonderful piece. It has been able to hold up. Stunning."
Hedren, 83, will be a guest at the Florida Film Festival at 7:30 p.m. Friday for a screening of "The Birds." If you want to go, arrive at 6:30 p.m. for the standby line at the Enzian Theater, 1300 S. Orlando Ave., Maitland.
Hedren's recent credits include "Raising Hope" and "Cougar Town." She remains committed to exotic felines through the Roar Foundation. And she still celebrates her work with Hitchcock, although he thwarted her career after they made "Marnie" in 1964.
"I am able to separate the art, the talent, from the dark man," Hedren said. "I am able to do that. He was brilliant."
He was also an ogre who made her pay for rebuffing his sexual overtures, according to "The Girl," an HBO movie last year. Hedren talked repeatedly with Sienna Miller, who played her, and Gwyneth Hughes, who wrote the script. Hitchcock died in 1980.
Hedren says she was very satisfied with the movie for depicting "the horror of being someone's obsession when you're not interested." The actress says that many women have thanked her for "The Girl."
"People don't talk about how horrendous it is for the woman," Hedren said. "There I was under contract to him. By the end of 'Marnie,' demands were made of me that were impossible and horrendous. I said I had to get out of this contract. He said, 'You can't.' He said he'd ruin my career, and he did. ... It was like he was deliberately trying to possess me."
Still, the actress applauds Hitchcock as director. "I loved working with him, and he was so amazing as a drama coach," she said.
Is she prouder of "The Birds" or "Marnie"?
"They were so different. 'The Birds' is an action-adventure thing. 'Marnie' is a psychological film that was very deep and dark," she said." 'Marnie' wasn't a great success. People didn't understand it."
But "Marnie" has gained admirers through the years for its depiction of Hedren's title character, who suffers from a traumatic childhood experience. "The Birds," however, gripped the public's imagination from its opening. The bird attacks start on a California town after mysterious Melanie Daniels (Hedren) arrives, and the movie has inspired a lot of tributes to Hedren.
"The best one was the woman -- I don't know how she did it -- a wire encircled a hat on top of her head, and from that wire came different lengths of wire with birds," Hedren said. "When she turned her head, they swarmed her. It was brilliant."
Hitchcock also gave a doll to the actress' young daughter, who grew up to be actress Melanie Griffith.
The doll "looked exactly like me. It turned out very badly," Hedren said. "They did one of those death masks, put plaster of Paris on your face. When it hardens, it's an exact replica of your face. He had that done so that this fabulous makeup man could make a doll like me. It really frightened Melanie. They put the green dress on the doll. But they put the doll in a wooden box, a shiny, polished wooden box.
"I thought it was incredibly wonderful, but it frightened Melanie. But we put the doll away. I don't know what happened to it. Somebody out there has it. My then-husband did something with it. Isn't it sad?"
But was the doll in a coffin, as some lore has it?
"No, it wasn't," Hedren said. "It was a gift box that was, unfortunately, made of shiny wood. Melanie was little. To her it was a coffin."