In 1961, a young model named Nathalie “Tippi” Hedren appeared in a commercial for a diet drink named Sego. The spot caught the eye of famed director Alfred Hitchcock, who offered her a seven-year contract. Two years later, she made her film debut in the smash hit The Birds.
At 91, Tippi can’t help but marvel over the long road she’s walked. While her relationship with the famed director soured during the filming of The Birds, she has no regrets. “I never wanted to be an actress,” Tippi exclusively tells Closer. “I was lucky he saw the commercial. He had a lot to do with shaping my career, and having him as my drama coach was perfect.”
OBJECT OF OBSESSION
As a young single mom, Tippi rejoiced in her good luck. Hitchcock viewed her as the new Grace Kelly, but as he groomed her to be a star, he turned controlling. “Every time I’d be talking with a male member of the cast or crew, my next exchange with Hitchcock would be icy,” recalls Tippi, who also felt unnerved by his stare. “If he was talking to a group of people on the other side of the soundstage, his eyes would be fixed on me.”
As time went on, Hitchcock’s obsession grew. He had Tippi followed, took samples of her handwriting to be analyzed and drove past her house. Once he lunged to kiss her in a limousine, causing Tippi to flee.
Marnie (1964) would be their last movie together. Tippi refused to work with Hitchcock again, but he held her to their contract, preventing Tippi from working for anyone else for two years. “He ruined my career, but he didn’t ruin my life,” says the star.
Tippi continued to act and also found greater meaning as an animal rights activist. She remains grateful to Hitchcock, despite his faults. “I still admire the man for who he was,” she says. “I’ve been able to separate the two. The man who was the artist. But on the other side, there is that dark side that was really awful.”