The New York Film Academy (NYFA) has a long and impressive list of speakers who have shared their insight and knowledge with students who have chosen acting and/or filmmaking as a career. Previous guests have included Philip Seymour Hoffman, Glenn Close, Dennis Hopper, John Carpenter, Kevin Klein, Jon Voight, Kevin Spacey, Ben Stiller, Ron Howard, Juliette Lewis, Sir Ben Kingsley, Andy Garcia and Steven Spielberg.
On Friday, January 20th, it was Golden Globe winner, Tippi Hedren, who appeared before anxious students eager to glean the rare experiences that Ms. Hedren has had as the only woman to have been directed by both Alfred Hitchcock and Charlie Chaplin. Following a screening of Hitchcock's classic “The Birds” (Universal provided a remastered 35 mm version), in the Hitchock Theatre at Universal Studios, a packed house of NYFA students discussed her prolific film career and animal rights work. Students inquired about techniques and wisdom garnered from both the past as well as recent successes on television in 4400, Fashion House and CSI or films such as "Mulligans!" for which she received the “Best Actress in a Comedy Short” or "best Actress" for the short film "Tea With Grandma" from the New York International Independent Film Festival.
One of the few remaining and working “Hitchcock blondes,” Hedren told the story of getting her start in modeling and commercials before being discovered by Alfred Hitchcock. Despite having an often-difficult relationship with him, she spoke highly of the director, saying, “I was so fortunate because I had him, not only as my director, but as my drama coach, which was an absolutely wonderful experience.” She added, “He spoiled me terribly. You almost didn't know he was directing.”
The enthusiastic students asked questions about the icons Hedren had worked with over the years, including Sophia Loren, Jessica Tandy, and Marlon Brando. When asked about her on-set relationship with “Marnie” co-star Sean Connery, Hedren said, “If you have an affair with someone, it shows in your eyes, and I wasn't about to jeopardize that character for a moment -- not even for Sean Connery.” After a brief pause, she joked, “I kind of regret that now.”
The actress spoke at length about her extensive animal rights work, a cause that is dear to her heart, saying, “Some people are just born with a great love of animals.” She invited students to visit the Shambala Preserve (Shambala.org), a wild animal preserve Hedren founded in Acton, CA. The preserve is home to over 50 big cats, including lions, tigers, cougars, and leopards.
As a final question, Hedren was asked about her thoughts on the state of Hollywood today. She simply stated, “I hope that Hollywood gets past all these films that feature special effects as the star, as opposed to true thespians and gets back to some real stories that can affect people and change lives … and don't even get me started on TV Reality programs,” eliciting a roar of applause from the audience. Ms. Hedren was presented with an Honorary MFA degree in Acting for film from the New York Film Academy at the end of the Q&A. “Students have already be asking for her return,” says the programs moderator and the Masters Instructor for NYFA, Chris Devane. “We were quite honored she was able to speak with the students and since the event they have not stopped speaking about how honest and forthright she was about the business they are about to get into!”