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Anne Heche honored to play 'kook' in 'Psycho'

Web posted on:
Friday, December 04, 1998 5:09:00 PM EST

A NewsStand: CNN & Entertainment Weekly report
From Correspondent Robin Groth and Producer Susan Sjoblom

NEW YORK (CNN) -- First came word that the well-regarded director, Gus Van Sant, was remaking Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 classic, "Psycho." Then we heard that he was using the exact same script, music, camera angles, even the same six-week shooting schedule.

Two differences in the 1998 version of "Psycho": It's in color and, of course, it has a new cast. Vince Vaughn, replacing Anthony Perkins, plays mama's boy Norman Bates, while Janet Leigh's doomed Marion Crane is played by Anne Heche.

So what's it like to recreate a masterpiece?

"The whole shooting process of 'Psycho' was amazing in that way, because I felt like I had been chosen to remake history," says Heche, who made news earlier this week when it was reported that she and her lover, Ellen DeGeneres were moving out of Hollywood, claiming the town gave a chilly reaction when they came out together. (A spokesman says the report of their departure isn't true.)

Director Gus Van Sant

'This chick's a kook'

Heche says it's not sacrilegious to remake "Psycho," as some hard-core Hitchcock fans have claimed.

"You know, so many things get redone -- music gets remade, Shakespeare gets remade," says Heche. "I'm sure there are some people from Shakespearean time who are turning over in their grave saying, 'Please don't do "Romeo And Juliet" again.'"

But when director Van Sant was offered the opportunity to remake an old film from the Universal library, he picked "Psycho," a personal favorite.

"Of all ways to do a remake," says Heche, "I think Gus chose the most incredible way, because what he's saying is 'I honor you.' This is like more praise to Hitchcock than anybody who would take another film, and remake it, and try to make it different. Gus is saying, 'Not only am I not going to make it different, I'm going to honor you every step of the way.'"

And with similar respect, Heche has recreated one of Hitchcock's most memorable characters, Marion Crane.

"I loved the character, but the challenge, to me, became making this character exactly new and modern in exactly the same behavior and language that was already done," says Heche. "Because she wanted to be married, she wanted to risk everything to be with this man, and oftentimes, women are so willing to give and give and give and give, and actually receive so little. And this guy comes in once every couple of weeks and has sex with her in a motel room. This is not a guy to steal $400,000 for."

Yes, the original amount of money stolen was $40,000. But due to inflation, it was one of the few changes made to update the script.

"To me, looking at that same behavior, I'm going, 'This chick's a kook. I mean, what is she thinking?'" says Heche. "So I kind of took the metaphor of her being a bird to the extreme, and thought, in today's world, she's an awful flighty woman."

Vaughn and Heche outside the Bates Motel

Imitating the original

On the set of "Psycho," at Universal Studios, a simple television monitor was probably the most important tool, next to the camera. Wherever the actors went, it went. And when it came time to shoot a scene, the cast would gather around the monitor, watch the original scene, then shoot the remake.

"We decided, OK, we're going to look at the scene every time before we shoot it," says Heche. "And Vince and I went, and we looked, and literally down to the body language of when he hands her the pen, how she ducks in from the rain, how she turns to walk out the door, whether she turns to the left or turns to the right. I wanted to hold my purse the same way, to show how specific you can get, and how different it will be, according to what the mind of a person is."

Heche says she found out more about her character through body language.

"One of my funnest scenes, which made it so clear to me what the character was, is when she's hiding the money," says Heche. "She goes to three top dresser drawers to hide the money, and I was like, 'Oh man, this chick -- couldn't she think of anything different?' That, to me, made her character very clear; she wasn't that thoughtful.

"But that kind of went along with the imagery, for me, of the bird, the flightiness, the lightness, the light-footedness. So we literally timed out that scene in one shot to be the same exact timing as what Hitchcock and Janet Leigh had originally done, down to where she puts the money."

Anthony Perkins (top), the original Normal Bates, and Vince Vaughn

Still showering?

Another character with a different mind is Vince Vaughn, as he plays Norman. He first teamed up with Heche earlier this year in the critically acclaimed "Return To Paradise." Heche attributes their chemistry to both being emotional risk-takers.

"By the end of the movie, we decided we weren't even actors," Heche says. "You know, we're just kind of people who go in and transform into a story, and hope that it touches people. We're both emotional people, and let's just see where this goes, and hope that it's truthful."

Being truthful to character was the "Psycho" challenge. Heche says Vaughn met that challenge and became Norman Bates.

"What Norman Bates calls for is for an actor to be able to go into their insanity," says Heche. "Vince is one of the few people I think who's willing to go into that duplicity in himself, and that insanity, and say, 'You know what? Now I'll show it to you.' I think that we're going to love his Norman Bates, because he's showing you himself in ways that nobody else would have the courage to do. It's an amazing performance."

The infamous shower scene, then and now

The film's most famous moment is the deadly shower scene. After filming the original "Psycho," Janet Leigh swore off showers. But Heche took the remake in stride.

"I wish I could say there was some big fear of mine after that, but the whole three and a half days that it took to shoot were just hilarious, and I heard that Janet Leigh had this thing where she wouldn't take a shower after that, but I actually came home and took a shower," says Heche. "I was, like, that is the neatest thing, to be given this opportunity to remake one of the most famous scenes in film. I just loved it.

"It's the same scene, but because it's in color, certainly it has a little more of the shock value," Heche says.

And in true Hitchcock form, Heche was reluctant to go into much more detail, wanting to keep her audience in suspense. But when it comes to shock value, it'll be hard to top the master.

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