Did you know that Alfred Hitchcock’s classic “Psycho” barely got made?
The “star” dies after only 47 minutes. The studio hated it. The New York Times called the film “a blot on an honorable career.”
“Psycho” could have finished Hitchock’s in Hollywood forever.
That story – the tale behind the making of “Psycho” – is what inspired me to create a new, 6-part audio series for podcast publisher Wondery.
You can listen to the teaser episode of “Inside Psycho” and sign up for free at http://insidepsycho.com or wherever you listen to podcasts.
It’s all here, from the real-world serial murders that inspired the film, to the movie star crank calls that gave us the voice of “Mother,” to Hitchcock’s relentless efforts to terrify Janet Leigh, to the way the movie re-made Hollywood forever. We have created a biopic without pictures, a swashbuckling story of fear and loathing, risk and reward, great joy and paralyzing fear – all in a rich, immersive, ground-breaking sound design.
But it’s even more than that.
It’s the story of a man who risked everything for his art and succeeded beyond the wildest dreams of anyone in Hollywood, but who was never rewarded with an Oscar for his work. A man who spent the last chapter of his long and illustrious career desperately trying to answer the almost impossible question everyone posed to him after “Psycho’s” success: What will you do for an encore?
He was the man who never received the respect he had earned, despite taking risks that no one else was willing to take.
As I was creating this series, the larger theme became clear to me: This wasn’t just about the making of “Psycho,” it was about the creative journey itself. It was about the sheer and often illogical faith any creator has for his or her creation, the almost unimaginable odds against success, the nagging and debilitating fears of failure along the way, and the ultimate problem: Once you achieve the success you could only dream about, how can you possible do it again?
FAST FACT: Actress Dina Merrill could have been the woman killed in “Psycho’s” shower sequence. Director Hitchcock eventually ruled against her, criticizing her forehead and “starchy” demeanor. He later chose Janet Leigh.
Although we may not all be Hitchcock, Hitch is in many ways all of us. If you are a creator, you will see yourself and your fears in this story. Maybe you’ll even see your own success.
At the end of his career at Universal, Hitchcock had released his final picture, “Family Plot.” He watched as the grosses for that film were eclipsed 35 times over by an up-and-coming filmmaker, also at Universal, who had made what would be, for a time, the most profitable film ever made.
The filmmaker was Steven Spielberg and the movie was “Jaws.”
Hitch had done the narration for the Jaws ride at Universal for a million-dollar payday, but he had never met the young Spielberg.
“I could never sit down and talk to him because I’d look at him and feel like such a whore – I couldn’t even touch his hand,” he said. Sometimes even the most brilliant and remarkable creative journey has its own arc.
It’s that fascinating story of risk and reward, rise and fall, dashing expectations and snubbing the critics, that transfixed me as I made “Inside Psycho.”
I hope it has the same effect on you.
Mark Ramsey is the creator of the new Wondery original podcast “Inside Psycho.” You can follow the podcast’s Twitter @ItsInsidePSYCHO. He is a board member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association, producers of the annual Critics’ Choice Awards. He runs the media strategy and content company Mark Ramsey Media.