I’ll be straight-up: I’ve never seen all of Psycho (my partner recently had to pause Divergent because I found the military scenes too disturbing).
With that said, even *I* know about the classic shower scene.
The iconic (and horrific) moment involved Janet Leigh’s character, Marion Crane, being stabbed at the hands of Anthony Perkins’ character, creepy hotel owner Norman Bates.
The fact that I, a complete horror newbie, am familiar with the cinematic breakthrough of a scene is a testament to how powerful Alfred Hitchcock’s creation was; and it seems that that power was strong enough to affect the actors, too.
Speaking to Women’s World in 1984, Janet Leigh admitted that scene had such an effect on her, she stopped showering altogether and started taking baths instead.
We get it, Janet ― we did the same after watching it.
Yep. The star told journalist Ed Gross at the time, “I stopped taking showers and I only take baths. And when I’m someplace where I can only take a bath, I make sure the doors and windows of the house are locked.”
And she wasn’t keen on closing her shower curtain after filming Psycho, either. “I also leave the bathroom door open and shower curtain open. I’m always facing the door, watching, no matter where the shower head is,” she shared.
As if the post-shower-scene terrors weren’t enough, it seems that real-life threats started to enter Leigh’s life, too. “There were people who were disturbed and who took Psycho as a way to vent their unfortunate demons,” she told Woman’s World, “and I really got a lot of letters where they told me that they were going to do the same thing to me that Norman Bates did to Marion Crane.
“I don’t get as many now as I did in the beginning, but I have to say, it was pretty serious. The FBI had to come in. Luckily nothing ever happened,” she added. Teirrfying.
The eye shot wasn’t a still, by the way
One of the best-known parts of the shower scene involves a shot of Leigh’s unblinking eye, eerily vacant after her character’s death.
There was a theory that this remarkably unmoving image was made using a still photo sprinkled with water ― but Leigh debunked that myth in her Woman’s World interview.
“That is not true,” she said. “About three weeks before we shot it, Mr. Hitchcock and I went off to the optometrists. He wanted me to put in those lenses that would give me a scary look. At the time — remember, we’re talking late 1959/early 1960 — for me to wear those lenses would’ve taken six weeks for my eyes to get used to them.”
Of course, there wasn’t enough time allocated to the movie to allow this training to happen. “And if I didn’t, it could have damaged my eyes. Mr. Hitchcock said, ‘Well, you can’t do that.’ I said, ‘No, we can’t,’ and he replied, ‘You’re just going to have to do it on your own.’ So I held that look. It’s not a photograph, goddamnit... Though I will say, it wasn’t easy,” she added.
Talk about suffering for your craft...