James D'Arcy isn't one for impersonations. Though he has played King Edward in Madonna's "W.E." and more recently Anthony Perkins in Sacha Gervasi's "Hitchcock" -- in theaters now -- the British actor is hesitant to claim an ability to mimic the famous personalities he's played.
"I think you don't get too bogged down, in that it's not a documentary," he says. "Firstly you've got to serve the script... then after that, you try to be respectful and as honest as one can. I've never met either of [the real life people I've played] so it's very difficult. I think you get stuck down that nasty cul-de-sac if you try and do an impression."
Playing the timid Perkins, whose name was to become synonymous with Norman Bates after he played the fictional killer in Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 film, "Psycho" presented its own challenges. "Hitchcock" follows the titular master of suspense as he develops and shoots his most famous film. The story is largely Hitchcock's, exploring how famed murderer Ed Gein became his inspiration and how the landmark film affected his relationship with longtime collaborator and wife, Alma Reville. The relationship between Hitchcock and Perkins was surprisingly a positive one, though only hints of it are shown in the film.
"Hitchcock was very collaborative with Tony Perkins and I didn't think that was the way Hitchcock operated at all," D'Arcy says. "It was quite a surprise to discover that and the photographs of them together -- you see of them together while they're shooting the movie they're really friendly."
The same could be said of D'Arcy and the man playing his on-screen director, Anthony Hopkins. Almost unrecognizable in his prosthetic mask, contacts and fat suit, the knighted actor's thoroughly convincing costume made him far less imposing to D'Arcy than he otherwise would have been.
"It was so good that it didn't feel like Anthony Hopkins," he admits. "In fact we've become quite good friends since the movie finished and it's still weird seeing him as Tony, as him with blue eyes, really great piercing blue eyes. When we were working together, [and he was in costume,] he was very corpulent and had brown eyes. He looked completely different. You couldn't really see Tony in there at all."
When was the first time you saw a Hitchcock film?
I was 13 and I didn’t want to watch it. I knew it was a horror. I knew something about “Psycho.” My mum, I think, told me that when she’d seen it, people had fainted in the cinema and people had run out screaming. So I knew about this really scary film and I don’t like horror movies. I was staying at a friend’s house and I was lying on the couch. He literally sat on me and made me watch. He sat on me for the whole movie and made me watch it and if I kind of covered my eyes he’d pull my arm away. So that’s my first memory of Alfred Hitchcock and “Psycho.”