Jonathan Ross: My fascination with Hitchcock

Jonathan Ross explains his lifelong love of Alfred Hitchcock’s movies to TV Times magazine ahead of ITV’s Perspectives on the director’s life…

How would you describe Alfred Hitchcock?
“I think that the term genius is often misused or applied too liberally, but really, when it comes to Hitchcock, that’s the only word.”

Alfred was born in Leytonstone, east London – coincidentally, where you also grew up and spent your childhood! What is your earliest memory of Hitchcock?
“Psycho was going to be shown on TV when I was a kid. We were told we couldn’t see this movie and it was too scary for children our age. I decided that I knew better, so that night when my parents and brothers were asleep, I crept downstairs and watched it on my own in the dark – because I didn’t want anyone to know I was up – on our black and white television. It scared the life out of me.”

What do you love about Hitchcock and his films?
“There was a darkness to his films that I have always found fascinating. Beneath the surface, he was always interested in the stranger, more sinister side of life.”

He was most well-known for the big Hollywood blockbusters like The Birds, but he actually made early British films like The Pleasure Garden and The Lodger…
“The Lodger was considered – even at the time – to be a masterpiece of British film-making. It established Hitchcock as the top British director at the age of just 28 and its box office success marked him as the British director to watch. And of course, it was just the beginning.”

Last year, there were two two dramatisations of Alfred Hitchcock’s life – BBC2’s The Girl and the movie Hitchcock – neither of which were particularly flattering about the man or his working methods…
“I’m kind of wary of their version of the truth. I mean obviously they [Hitchcock’s previous colleagues] knew Hitchcock – I never met him. But when someone comes out and says ‘He was this’ or ‘He was that’, you think that’s only based on your working experience with him for a short period of time. I think you have to assume that maybe they didn’t see the whole man.”

The legacy he left behind was phenomenal, though…
“Hitchcock was perhaps the first director to become a celebrity in his own right. He was a bigger star than most of the stars in his movies.”