Toby Jones' Hitchcock Hang-Ups


Given his recent resume (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Captain America, The Hunger Games, Snow White and the Huntsman), you might assume Toby Jones is both the most popular actor in Hollywood and its unofficial good luck charm.

But given the unique ability to disappear into his various roles, Jones is able to maintain both a high professional output (both in volume and quality) and his anonymity.

Jones' latest project, HBO's The Girl, casts him as Alfred Hitchcock circa 1963 as the famed director created The Birds and destroyed star Tippi Hedren. It's a fascinating study in obsession and dedication, one which Jones couldn't stop gushing about when ETonline rang him up!

ETonline: I was surprised by how much of this movie presented new information since I've been a Hitchcock fan for years. What was your first reaction to the script?

Toby Jones: That's exactly how I felt too. I also felt immediate anxiety and concern whether or not this was legit and based on fact. To that point, it's based on Donald Spoto's book and indeed Tippi Hedren's own experiences corroborate them. She wasn't the only witness to them, either. That said, it's always a concern for anyone working on a film that no matter how accurate you are to the facts, you're not going to be able to tell the entire story. For me, it's about telling a fair story. My job as an actor on this was to convey the wider areas of his personality: his wit, his humor, his self-loathing. You want to be just to a character and defend their truth because no character thinks they're evil.

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ETonline: My only complaint about the movie was that it wasn't longer!

Jones: Listen, I'd love most of the movies I make to be four hours long. But I felt that this was a fairly intense 90 minutes. It shares some qualities with a Hitchcock movie and perhaps a longer running time would actually diminish that. There's an intense focus on these two characters that might fade if it were longer. The subject of obsession is a very rich one in Hitchcock's life.

ETonline: From an acting standpoint, do you approach playing a real character differently than a fictional one?

Jones: I think I probably do. I'm very interested in people, so if a character happens to be real, there's that much more to look at. When you're training as an actor, a lot of the big work you're learning is to treat fictional characters like real people. You don't have the problem of discovering a backstory with real people, but there's always a mystery which is common to both fictional and factual characters. They are never quite the person you think they are.

ETonline: Alfred Hitchcock and Tippi Hedren share an intense yet polarizing bond in the film. When it came to preparing, how did you and Sienna Miller approach the relationship?

Jones: We did work independently but when everything is working well on a movie, certain aspects of the dramatic dynamics begin to be reflected off-screen. Not that I wanted to molest [Sienna] in real life, but more that we both had a common interest in making this the best movie it could possibly be. And because of the prosthetics, there was a lot of time I had to spend away from everyone else. That helped, a bit too.

ETonline: Are you someone who can segue in and out of characters while filming, or do you stay in character all day?

Jones: What happens is some of the characters I've played have voices that are so different from my own, that it would be ridiculous if I would dip in and out of that voice in between takes to ask for a coffee, or something. Or to gossip about whatever was going on. I would go warm up my voice to get to the right place to play him, so I would stay in the voice all day. It's such a key indicator of how a character thinks. Particularly Hitchcock, who takes his time with everything he says. There's a controlling way in how he speaks because he takes his time to finish all his sentences.

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ETonline: This film also deals with one's perception in and of Hollywood. Now that you've worked on massive movies like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, I'm curious what your take on the cult of celebrity is.

Jones: I hope this isn't interpreted wrongly, but it feels like there is such an industrialization of premieres and celebrity that it has become its own industry alongside the making of movies. I think, in a weird way, that de-glamorizes it. Somewhere the glamour has gone because of the industrialization of this whole process. I wish it felt as magical and glamorous as people want it to be, but it feels like a routine people are going through. I love making movies, I love trying to make them as good as I can, but I feel like sometimes the marketing and publicity around the movie, becomes the most important part of it.

ETonline: And then you have on-set photos coming out in the middle of production as paparazzi swarm the set. Now that it's become such a successful and watched franchise, does making Catching Fire feel any differently now than making The Hunger Games did.

Jones: Not so far. We're blessed with, as we were on Harry Potter, lead actors who are amazingly grounded people. Jennifer [Lawrence] is amazingly grounded in the midst of all this to do. It must be unnerving and hard to relate to the amount of attention she generates. She and Josh [Hutcherson] seem very, very grounded. They're getting down to the film like they did last time.

ETonline: As one of the few people who has read the Catching Fire script, what do you make of it?

Jones: It's a bit of relief, I must say. I was worried it might just be repetitive, but it's not. The script is just tremendous!

ETonline: Is it odd being a part of this massive production, yet pretty much only working with one other actor in front of a greenscreen?

Jones: Totally. But that's how it felt doing [the voice of] Dobby as well. You come in as this satellite part of the film, so I only see Stanley [Tucci] in my scenes. These kinds of movies have so many different components; it's about as different from doing The Girl as you could imagine.

The Girl
is now re-airing on HBO, click here to find showtimes.