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Kim Novak
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I interviewed Kim Novak in 1996 on the occasion of the re-release of Vertigo (1958)in a newly restored version.  At age 63, she was friendly and bright and though there are a few statements she made that sound like sour grapes in cold print, those remarks were delivered with an objective tone which made them seem more matter-of-face than bitter. 
I’m not going to describe her films in detail since if you’re at this website, you surely have some familiarity with them.  It’s worth noting, though, that when it came to Vertigo, Novak identified deeply with the second incarnation of her character.  First appearing as the collected, blond, and self-destructively neurotic Madeleine, she reappears as Judy, a brunette shop girl.  Novak was so preoccupied with Judy, and a question I asked so imprecise, that when I asked her about a scene with Madeleine she assumed I was talking about Judy (it’s obvious when this happens).
The interview covers other films and people, with one mysterious allusion I can clear up.  She talks about screwing up a love affair with some unnamed man during production on Kiss Me, Stupid (1964).  That man was the director Richard Quine (the two were engaged but never married).  Quine directed Novak in three movies, most notably Bell, Book and Candle, the delightfully conceived, perfectly executed romantic fantasy which Novak discusses below.
A word on the transcription.  It’s common practice for interviewers to do a little house cleaning when they bring quotes to print purely for the sake of coherence.  I did very little of that here, because I found Novak’s false starts, abrupt switches and the like to be interesting in themselves.  She’s a smart woman with a good sense of humors and her verbal stumbles prove it; she was looking for the right words, the right descriptions, rather than repeating boiler plate answers.
Finally, keep in mind that in 1958, Novak starred in both Vertigo and Bell, Book and Candle, and that she was only 25 years old. 

Q.   It’s a great pleasure to meet you, especially with the re-release of the film, which is so great. 
A.  Did you see it recently?
Q.  Yes, I saw it about 10 days ago. 
A.  Isn’t it incredible?
Q.  Yes. I saw it was made at Paramount while you were under contract to Columbia.  Was there any difficulty in getting to another studio to make the film?  How did that come about?
A.  As I say, I was under contract to Columbia.  Harry Cohn called me in one day and said, “I’m loaning you out.  It’s a lousy script but it’s a great director.  You’re going to go over to Paramount.”  I can’t remember what I was shooting just before, but anyway that’s how it came about.
You had no choice in the matter.  I wasn’t shown the script or anything.  It’s their deal.  I had no idea what Harry Cohn was paid for making that deal.  I think it was maybe a trade, because then Jimmy Stewart did a movie for Columbia.  However they worked it out, I know I was still making $750 a week and walking to work.  And I had to walk to Paramount which was further [away].
Q.  What did you think when you did get the script?  Because it’s such a strange…
A.  I identified with it right away.  I’ve never liked commercial movies, really; I’ve always liked strange movies [laughs].  But to me, that’s just the kind of movie I liked seeing, being part of.  Something a little more involved.  I like things where you have to work for it, you know what I mean?  I like the way an audience has to be pulled in.  If I’m going to do something, I would like someone to participate by having to work to try to figure out what’s going on in my mind, what am I thinking.  And of course, that’s what Alfred Hitchcock does.  He brings you, as an audience, into wanting to get into the characters.  His characters are so deep and profound, there are so many layers.  That’s what I really loved about it. 
I loved it because it was expressing exactly what I was living at Columbia Pictures, at the studio.
Q.  Do you mean Cohn , in terms of shaping your image?
A.  Exactly.  Trying to make you over into [pause] what they wanted you to be.  Changing everything.  You keep fighting, trying to hold on to a little part of your identity.  I really identified, of course, most with the “Judy” role, because of that.  That’s what she was all about, wanting him to love her as she was, for herself. 
Q.  It’s so precisely acted, and has to be acted on so many levels.  And the viewer can’t really take in the whole movie until the whole movie is over and can sit down and think about it. 
A.  I don’t think you should be allowed to see it just once.  You’ve got to see it more than once to put it all together. 
Q.  Your performance goes into such detail.  I’m thinking of the scene where you’re in the “Judy” character, but well into the process of being done over.  You and Stewart are walking along by the Veterans Memorial and its pond.  There are lovers on the bank.  You look over to them and see a young couple hugging and kissing and then you look away so disturbed by it.  Do you remember shooting that day and what kind of direction Hitchcock was giving you?  Was he mapping out these little things or were you going with what you felt at that moment?
A.  I can’t really remember on that specific one.  [long pause] I really can’t know for sure on that particular one, about the looking away.  It certainly made sense, but I don’t know if it was he telling me “That’s what you’re going to do” or if it was just set up so it was natural.  So much of it was set up so that it was natural, do you know what I mean?  Because when you’re in that character, and you see two lovers that are accepting each other and loving each other, it’s something so sad for her.  Because she’s in a trap, there’s no way it could ever be like that; innocent love.  It would be just natural for me to look away.  I have a feeling it was the way it just happened. 
He really gave very, very little direction for your interpretation.  He was extremely precise on rhythm and exactly where you moved because of his camera moves.  But he really allowed you a lot of freedom as far as your reactions to whatever he set up for you.  He wanted that fresh and real.  My tendency would be to think that probably it was set up and that’s how I reacted.  But I wouldn’t want to swear to it.  Not that he could come back and contradict me now [laughs].
Q.  So he was involved in the physical side of the performance but the emotional side was yours?
A.  Exactly.  Absolutely.  Which is what I loved so much about doing that.  If I’d have been trapped with that as well…you know, you needed to get the combination of feeling trapped, but allowing your own feelings to react and let that out.  Otherwise, I think it could have been very stagnant, in a sense.  And it was in a lot of ways.  When you first look at the movie, or if you looked at it back then, that’s what they saw it as.  At least in my performance.  Because that’s what was going on on one  level.  But the rest of it was certainly happening.  I’m so glad it’s come out again, because I do think that people have realized that they are seeing all of the different things that I was feeling and going through.  
At the time, I felt so good while I was doing it.  Then it came out and I was like, “Wow, they don’t understand it.”   I just felt I couldn’t communicate on  the level that I like communicating on, which is through layers. I don’t like everything to be just out there, which is what the style was at the time.  Here was a character which was really not written for the times and with an actress who was not in her time.  So it was great.  We somehow came together in this time warp.
Q.  So the immediate reaction at the time was not good?
A.  No, no.  My reaction was, I loved it!
Q.  No, I mean the public’s reaction.
A.  The public reaction, well…it’s hard to know exactly.  Because of my own personal struggle in my youth and everything else, I tend to see the negative and not always see beyond it.  I’ll remember a lousy review for the rest of my life.  But someone can say something nice —“what, does he really mean it?” – I can’t enjoy it as much as I can wallow in the suffering of it all [laughs].
I guess that’s part of Judy again.  It’s like this trap she sets up for herself.  She’s in this trap when she wants the love and can’t get it.  It’s the same trap that I set up for myself a lot of times.  It’s true though.  I don’t think they [public, critics] saw what I was trying to give in those performances, what I was trying to get across. 
Which was my whole life’s experience, which maybe weren’t that many because I was quite young.  But on the other hand, I went through that life growing up. And at the studio of constantly trying to be changed.  Starting with my father and being left handed and swatting me on the hand and trying to get me to be right handed.  Those are things that I was trying to bring into it.  It’s like reaching for something and then being aware that you go with the hand that’s expected of you to reach it with.  But you want to reach with this hand. 
Q.  What other things?
A.  Oh, just changes all the time when you’re growing up.  You mean for myself? [Yes].  Oh, well, for instance, I used to love to chew gum.  I would really nurse it.  I would just work at it like crazy.  My mother would say, “Don’t ever do that in public.  It doesn’t look good, deh, deh, deh.”  So there are all these things you did and all these things you didn’t do that were against my instinct of wanting to.  So there were these conscious decisions in playing Madeleine of being the way I’m supposed to be.  Which of course worked right into his fantasy.  Because it was constantly doing what he wanted.  But the thing that really hooked him was the fact that there was some paradox there.  Who he really was in love with was Judy.  But he would never accept that. A man, especially in the ‘50s – any time, probably – would never accept being that different from his fantasy of what the perfect woman would be like.  It’s an interesting concept that he had there, do you know, of bringing that out. 
Because I think it is a struggle all our lives of trying to be what someone else wants us to be.  And in the end saying, “But do you love who I am?”  They love you if you’ll be the way they want you to be.  This is going on in marriages, in life, in school, every day.  It’s put really in focus in this film, as far as the whole thing of wanting life to be as it is in our fantasy, as we wish it could be.
Q.  Did you ever talk with Hitchcock about this?
A.  I tried to talk to him about it, but he never had time, he was always busy with all of his other things.  He says, “My dear, my dear, I hired you and that’s why I want you to do it.  Just do what you feel, and I’ll tell you if it’s not right.”  I wanted to discuss it, but in retrospect I’m kind of glad because again, that was the sort of freedom.  I’d go to Jimmy Stewart – because of  my insecurity, I’m so insecure all the time – knock on his dressing room door.  “Come on in!”  I’d say, “You know, I really wanted to talk  to Mr. Hitchcock about this.”  He’d say, “Don’t worry.  If he hired you, he likes what you’re bringing to the character; it’s all right.”  Hearing it from him made me feel good, because he is just the most amazing man I’ve ever known.  Here’s a man who has never really changed an ounce of how he feels or how he behaves to go with anything.  But at the same time, he’s totally accepted for who he is.  That is so unusual, that is so unbelievable.  And has lived in Hollywood essentially all his life and is totally untainted by it.  It’s amazing.  It’s a miracle.  He came into my life then as a role model for me.  It was like, you can do it.  You can be here and not have to lose everything, who you are.
Q.  Your next picture was Bell, Book and Candle, wasn’t it?  Right after?
A.  Right after.  So that reinforced it.  Because then going into a whole different mood and everything.  I just loved Bell, Book and Candle, too.  And I worked with Dick Quine, Richard Quine, who was really a great director; underrated a lot.  He was so good and so good for me, I was in love with him.  Though he wanted to change me, too, he recognized that maybe he would like to polish me a little more.  But by the same token, he did recognize that I was what he was attracted to also, what he cared about.  It was one of the directors again who [provided] a liberating experience for me.  Even though I was at Columbia where it was…  So working two in a row, two great movies – I think – I loved Bell, Book and Candle in a totally different way.  It was so great after playing the other.  It was so wonderful. 
Q.  There are so many scenes in Vertigo that the viewer has to think about afterwards.  But I’m thinking about after he’s pulled Madeleine out of the water .  There’s that whole scene of her coming out of the bedroom for their first encounter – and it’s so strange.  Then it becomes even stranger in retrospect when you realize he’s been lying the whole time. 
A.  That’s right.
Q.  Did you have a feeling the first day you stepped on the set to do that scene that you were stepping into an abyss, that there was no guide on how to do it?  Or had you worked it out in your head?
A.  No.  Playing Judy, I felt so in charge.  Probably if Alfred Hitchcock had said play it differently I think I would have argued with him [small laugh].  I do, because by that time – see, we did the Madeleine scenes first – and by the time we were doing Judy, it was like suddenly being able to show who I really was.  I was Judy, period.  Simple as that.  By that time, we got along.  He never argued with anything.  I just continued feeling.  Just talking about it now sort of gives me goose bumpy feelings.  It was so amazing after being Madeleine all that time to be Judy.  To be exposed.
Q.  So you all went to the trouble of shooting the art gallery scenes as Madeleine and then waited until the transformation into Judy before going back and shooting her scenes there?
A.  Yes, that’s right, we did.  I think we did all that, though, in Hollywood.  In other words, when we did the Madeleine [scenes], we were on the exact location.  Then, when we did the ones with Judy by that time they had the sets built and that was at the end of the movie.  So we were able to shoot those after going through the whole transition.  It was in order, thank god. 
Q.  At this point in your career, when you came to the end of shooting were you able to tell what a finished film would look like?
A.  I was so deeply involved in that movie that I really wasn’t thinking about how it was going to look on the other end.  It was almost as if… the camera was there and everything… but I just wasn’t thinking at all about how it would come out.  To me, that wasn’t the point.  It was just being able to express these things that I wanted to express.  The only time, as I say, it bothered me is when you become aware of it when it is out.  I felt so good about it at the end of it.  I felt like, ‘Wow!’  Of course, we didn’t know how it came out when we were shooting Bell, Book and Candle.  But I felt so good about it, it just felt great going into the comedy.  I was feeling really good about myself, because I felt I didn’t cheat anybody of anything.  That’s the way I felt.
                  Then, when it came out, it was the beginning of a disillusioning process.  Of feeling that maybe what you want to give isn’t enough.  Maybe it is exactly what they’re talking about.  Maybe you do have to have the façade all the time.  That in a sense is what the character is saying: Do I have anything to offer?  Wow, no one understood what was going on. 
                  Then, of course, I got fan mail, and the fan mail would keep the balance somewhat.  Because while the reviews in the press were not kind about it – Kind!?  They were saying what they really saw, which was nothing [laughs].  But the interesting part was that in the mail, I was getting a lot of response.  There were people who really understood what I was going for, what different movements and gestures represented.  They were analyzing this whole thing and it helped to balance it, because otherwise I think I would have left a lot sooner, if it wasn’t for the fact that audiences did get it.  A lot of them.
Q.  Why did you decide to leave Hollywood?
A.  Well, because I was not understood.  I felt I had nothing to contribute.  I was really fortunate in my early pictures to have some really good opportunities and I have them all I could.  But then they started to get to be these silly little things where they really didn’t want you to be there other than physically.  And then only so they could paint their picture on what they wanted as a blank canvas.  But I’m not a blank canvas; I came with a lot of baggage, a lot of rough edges and all.  But those are important.  You can add the other, but the combination I’ve always felt it was makes it work. 
It’s fine what they did, but it seemed like – whether it was Hollywood, I guess, I don’t know – but it seemed as if people started thinking of me as a packaged commodity, do you know?  And that really hurt a lot.  Because I wasn’t.  I was fighting all the time to try to maintain.  Finally, you start giving up.  You think, ‘Ah, that’s what they want.  OK, here, paint the picture on the canvas.  Duh-duh-duh-duh.’  And then there’s this very disturbed person coming out there.  Finally, I had enough; I just couldn’t do it.  I felt either I’m going to have to become this blank canvas all the time – eventually when someone wants to stop painting on that canvas, what do you do?  The canvas gets old, it rots away, and so much for that.  It doesn’t even get recycled [laughs]. 
So for survival, I felt I had to maintain my own sense of my own dignity.  I don’t know if that’s the right word  exactly.  I also had to get in touch with who was I, because I was really starting to get confused.  People are saying I’m this manufactured something or other.  And I’m remembering this person who came thinking that this was something that was somehow meant to be.  That I had something to offer.  And I gave it all I had and it wasn’t enough.  That’s tough, y’know.  So I just had to leave with what I had.
Q.  Besides Vertigo, which is recognized as one of the greatest ever, you were in another picture whose reputation has been rehabilitated…
A.  Picnic?
Q.  Was that not well received? I was thinking of Kiss Me, Stupid.
A.  That’s never been well-received [said very disdainfully]. 
Q.  Well, there are people writing about it again now.
A.  Really [disbelievingly]?
Q.  What do you think of it?
A.  When I was told the story by Billy Wilder – I wanted to work with Billy Wilder, he was a great director, brilliant – I thought, oh, this is great.  But he said, “I don’t have a script to show you.”  And Otto Preminger had always told me, “Always read a script before you accept it.  Don’t ever just say you’re going to do it.”  Well, I was really in a dilemma, because he said he didn’t have one.  He said, “Trust me.  Trust me, you’re going to be fine.”  So I did.  But when I read the script, I really had a dilemma because I felt, If I play this role [of] Polly the Pistol people are going to think that I’m this dumb blonde that people were thinking I was before.  I will just confirm their notion, it will take me deeper into this spiral that was going on for me, I felt.  But if I didn’t do it, then they’ll  say, “She can’t even act that.”  So I had a hard time.
                  In order to do that movie, I would write out in my script and then legal pads all over, “I love, Polly, I love the director, I love the director…”  I hypnotized myself literally, or talked myself into it.  By the time I was doing it, I loved Polly.  I was Polly.  I was Polly so much that the fella who I was going out with, who knew me as me – I hadn’t seen him since I started the movie – came in near the end of the movie and it was like we were total strangers.  I mean, Polly the Pistol -- he moved so slow and talked so slow, her rhythms were totally different.  I said, “This isn’t going to work.  I don’t know what I ever saw in you.  I’m sorry, I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but I don’t know just what we had in common.”  He was devastated.  In about two months – maybe not that long – I was devastated, too.  Because it was right.  What was wrong was my rhythm as Polly.  I became slick, I liked things that were all on the surface.  It wasn’t me at all.  But I had completely convinced myself of this. 
                  So I’ve really been upset with myself over that again.  That again made me know I had to leave, because – see, I had left before then.  I had come back thinking I could work out a marriage of give-and-take, in a sense.  But I didn’t know how to do that.  Because if I do a role that I either really like or, as in this case, that I talk myself into, then I get so immersed in it that I have a hard time with it.  I have a hard time.  If I do the other, don’t get involved, well, then I’m not involved and I’m not there.  And that’s not good.
                  What I’m saying all of this to mean is that it really wasn’t meant for me to be in this business.  People didn’t get what I was all about and what I was trying to say.  It obviously wasn’t right because I lost a wonderful relationship over that.  I thought, God’s trying to tell me something that’s more important.   One good thing in your life is more important than trying to please everybody and pleasing nobody.  There was always the mixture of that, wanting to please.  If you want me to do that, that’s the same as Judy again.  “All right, all right, I’ll change my hair.  I’ll do that, if you want me to.”
Q.  You mentioned that early in your career, you didn’t have this problem, that it came later.  When you were making Picnic and The Man With a Golden Arm , Vertigo and Pal Joey, did you think you were having a great run of luck?  Or did you accept just as something happening to you?
A.  How I thought of it is that obviously God is giving me these opportunities, wonderful things.  But it was constantly the uphill battle against these obstacles.  In the case of Picnic, it was working with Josh Logan.  As wonderful as working with Hitchcock was, it was pure punishment working with Josh Logan.
Q.  I heard he was very hard to work with.  What was his problem?
A.  I don’t think he was hard with actors who he respected.  Why he was with me, I think, is that Harry Cohn said, “We want[Novak] in this movie.  Logan wanted Janice Rule, who was a wonderful actress and did it fine on Broadway.  I was sort of pushed on him.  He was a fine man, but I was his whipping boy on that movie.  He just took out all the stress and strain… and he was so understanding with other actors.  With Susan Strasberg, my god, he’d say, “Take your time. When you’re ready for this scene, just raise your little finger and I’ll roll the cameras.”  So she gets in her mood and gets ready for it and she raises her little finger and the camera rolls and he’s being so quiet.  When it comes to me he gets “[rough voice] All right!  Now here!  We got to roll this camera!  I want you to do this!  Now stand here!  Goddamnit!”  And he’d shake me.
                  In one of his books or something, he said I asked him to bruise my arms!  For feeling pain or something.  I had bruised arms every day because he was always shaking me.  He was always taking me and shaking me.  I just felt so beat upon.  I took that and used it as Madge.  You’ve got to make it work for you.  So what I did was think that the fact that I was pretty made me sort of desirable as a sex symbol, in a sense, in Hollywood.  So this I related to the fact that here was this pretty girl who, again, wants to be seen for herself.  But because she’s pretty, it stands in her way.  I said – someone said [Logan] said it, but I said it because I thought of it as I was playing the role – when [Madge] wears that [beauty pageant] Queen of Neewollah crown, I thought of it as a crown of thorns.  It was poking in my head, poking at me all the time.  Being pretty was not good for her, do you know what I mean?  It wasn’t just that she was embarrassed.  She knew somehow that Millie, her sister [played by Strasberg], was going to get a lot further in life because she had the brains.  And that she [Madge] was only going to get these guys who were going to get into trouble.  They always got her into trouble, with her mother, with this and with that.  I took that abuse – the abuse excuse [laughs] – and used it from that point of view.  So it worked, that movie did, and I felt really good about the movie.  I felt I did everything I could do to be Madge.  But by the same token, it was the hardest movie.  It’s OK in retrospect because I was able to use it. 
                  I guess somehow I’ve always liked obstacles, because you have to overcome them.  You have to get that strength to get through it, to overcome it.  So you draw on powers that maybe you don’t even have, really.  But you have to if you’re going to get there to do that.  Those roles, they were either obstacles that were real… there was always an obstacle, in a sense, that I could overcome.  That I had to overcome.  Well, I felt I had to really, I did.  I felt this was destiny and I’m supposed to do this so I’ve got to give it all I could.  I did do that in my early movies, give it all I could.  But, as I say, later I got so tired of fighting it.  “This is what you want?  OK, I’m here.” 
Q.  You said Preminger gave you that advice, so I take it you got along pretty well.
A.  Got along great with Otto Preminger.  Just great.  I loved him.  Again, he was someone who was not supposed  to be nice.  It seemed to work different for me than with a lot of other people. 
Q.  [Man With a Golden Arm] seemed to give you more of an opportunity.  Did he direct you very strictly or was he more like Hitchcock?
A.  He [directed] more on the technical level.  He and Hitchcock were very similar in the sense that technical things were what were important to them.  He, too, allowed you to bring what you thought to the character. 
Q.  I understand what you meant when you said you could use those things in Picnic.  Were there any other bad experiences on films that stand out?
A.  Always it seems [laughs a bit].  I don’t know.  I’ll tell you a good experience.  Probably the movie that I enjoyed making more than any other movie, the whole experience of making a movie, was Middle of the Night, [writer] Paddy Chayefsky’s.  It’s a beautiful movie.  The story, the script; Paddy Chayefsky to me was the most beautiful writer.  So sensitive and so fine.  It was such a delight.  You never had to learn the lines, they were so free flowing because they were right.  Just the way you’d talk.
                  The same was true of Picnic and of Vertigo.   Never had trouble with lines on those.  It’s only bad movies you can’t remember the lines because they don’t make sense.  It becomes, “How can I remember to say this?”  You have to think of it as cue words rather than feelings.  But [Middle of the Night] was so great because I’d never had the experience before of working it out ahead of time, during rehearsals.  I loved it.  Because you had a chance to experiment, to try to see what works.  Paddy Chayefsky would ask, “What do you think?”  And [director ]Delbert Mann.  They were so nurturing and caring.  They were just wonderful.  And of course, Fredric March was just great.  It was great; you could think it all out and work these things out and talk it out.  Then when you go to film all you’ve got to worry about is your makeup and stuff.  It was a great feeling for me to be totally involved in the character.  I loved that movie.  It wasn’t a big hit movie or anything; but it was a fine movie.
Q.  Chayefsky and Mann functioned as a team?
A.  As a team, yeah.  I became great friends with Paddy Chayefsky, we just got along great.  Delbert Mann, too, but Paddy particularly.  I love to write and so writers are what really excite me.  The story is the important thing to me. 
Q.  Why did you come back to Hollywood again, just a few years ago?
A.  Different reasons at different times.  Once in a while I’ll do something because I’ll be reading and see something in a column like “Is Kim Novak still alive or did she die?”  You know what I mean? [laughs]  I’ll think, wait a minute, I’ve got to let them know I’m still out there, that there’s nothing wrong with me! So sometimes I’ve done it just to show the world I’m still here.  But  never to take away from my lifestyle; lifestyle became number one.  A lot of people think I’ve come back and done these little things and little things are all I’ve been offered.  That’s not the point.  I only want to get away a little bit at a time.  Then, once in a while, like with something like Liebestraum, there I got hooked.  I thought, I loved this script, I loved the story, I loved what I read, and I loved my character.  It is not the movie that you saw.  The script was different than what came out.  For that, I came out because it was like…  I’d always felt incomplete in Hollywood.  Or in my work, perhaps.  I know I gave as much as I could when I was young.  But later, I learned a lot more and I grew a lot more.  And I never had the chance to express that.  The more I learned, the less they wanted. 
Q.  Very frustrating.
A.  Very frustrating.  Very, very frustrating.  So that’s why I left, but that’s why also I would now and then come back.  Maybe not because that was right, because by that time there weren’t any really great roles coming along.  I guess I wanted people to know, “I’m still around, guys.”  Because I felt there was something unfinished about it.  And I thought that Liebestraum was going to be a really important picture.  When I read the script, I read from a totally different point of view .  It’s like we were reading different scripts.  The script that [director Mike Figgis] wanted was a different script than I had read.  I don’t know if it was I read things differently, but it was different.  I was really pleased he wanted me, and I thought he wanted me.  But what I found out when we started shooting was that he wanted “Kim Novak,” the Kim Novak he thought I was.  Which was this puppet, again, to be made over. 
                  He wanted what he thought Hitchcock had made over.  But Hitchcock didn’t do that.  [Figgis] didn’t know Hitchcock.  So he treated me the way he thought Hitchcock must have, tried to manipulate me into doing exactly…  I went crazy.  Because, well, I was playing his mother.  It was a true story, he wrote about his life and how he saw his mother.  What I’ve been able to piece together since – because it was a great pain for me , the whole project.  But I realized after that he saw his mother through his eyes.  That wasn’t who his mother was.  I was his mother.  By the time I read that script the first time, I knew exactly what was going on.  There were so many layers again; that’s what attracted me.  Layer on layer.  But he didn’t want any of that.  He wanted one layer, one note, one thing.  I didn’t realize that was how he was playing the whole piece.   It was so different than how I saw it.  I saw this movie, I thought  [prospectively] it was the greatest thing.  It’s nothing like that.
                  Who am I to say?  I still think he is a brilliant director.  Maybe I have no right to say it, but why not?  This is what  I feel.  I feel he was too close to that movie, that movie was too close to him.  He couldn’t see it, he was not able to be objective.  And I feel therefore he was not able to accomplish it.  I think if he had given his script to someone else to do, maybe it would have been all right.  Just like he could get someone else’s script. 
                  It was such a painful thing for me because it took me right back to Harry Cohn and all that time.  And back into saying, Look, for god’s sake, haven’t you heard it enough?  We don’t want you to do anything.  Just be “Kim Novak.”  I was so hurt and so distraught.  That movie pained me more than any movie in the world could do.  I left and that time it was, God, how many times do you have to tell me?  Forget it already. 
But some people never learn.  Here I am, thinking, Isn’t this fun?  [laughs]  But it’s different, because it’s a movie I made a long time ago.  I’m proud of this work.  What is really  nice is seeing how some of the people are appreciating what I did.  And they’re realizing that I did it.  If you have to wait your whole life to hear that, it’s awful nice.
Q.  You’re getting a whole new set of reviews.
A.  And this time I can enjoy them more!  They’re better, for one thing.  If that’s what time is all about, who cares what time it takes?  But it’s nice in your own lifetime to be appreciated. 
Q.  [The publicist] signaled I only have a few minutes and I want to get to just two last questions.  This first is – if it doesn’t violate your privacy – please describe what your life is like now.  And, also, was there anything physically arduous about making Vertigo?
A.  I’ll do the physical, arduous part first.  Most things we didn’t do [more than] two or three takes.  Sometimes even one.  It was not a problem.  Going in the water was a big thing.  That’s the only place where I did see maybe the sadistic side of Hitchcock.  Because I don’t know how to swim.  And I’m very claustrophobic about not being able to breathe, catch my breath.  He had me stand in the water and come up.  It was in a tank, but still.  There was someone under there, but I still had to put my face underwater.  That was the hardest part of the movie for me and if that’s as hard as it gets , hell, that’s not bad [laughs].  Picnic was much harder.
                  My life is like living my fantasy.  This is my fantasy of living in harmony with nature and animals and God and my husband.  It’s just like a fairytale in a way.  It’s very magical.  We live in a magical place in the Northwest.  It’s very spiritual, magical environment.  I can live life and appreciate the preciousness of it every day.  I’m expressing myself and giving love and receiving love; it’s just in harmony.  To me, that’s the goal of life.
                  It’s true, every now and then I see a movie and get a little gnawing, unfinished business thing.  But it really doesn’t mean that much, because I’ve had enough lessons from God.  If something were really right, God would show me.  And if it’s not, I’m very happy. 

Henry Sheehan
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