I talk to the trees: Kim Novak interview 2004

James Stewart and Kim Novak in Hitchcock's "Vertigo"
James Stewart and Kim Novak in "Vertigo"

“For one thing, I’ve always admired trees. I just worship them. Think what trees have witnessed, what history, such as living through the Civil War, yet they still survive.”

This is an extract from an interview on the Internet. In March 2003, several readers of the ‘MacGuffin’ website responded to an invitation to send messages to Kim Novak. The messages, paying particular tribute to Ms Novak’s memorable performance in Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958), were duly forwarded. In gratitude for them, Ms Novak [recently] gave the following exclusive interview to author Stephen Rebello, a personal friend of Ms Novak’s. She and Stephen talked one evening in the lounge of the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel (where, notes Stephen, Warren Beatty lived for years and where Julia Roberts played now-famous scenes in Pretty Woman [1990]). The editor of ‘The MacGuffin’ takes this opportunity to express his appreciation both to Ms Novak and Mr Rebello and to the message-writers. In the original interview, the messages are appended after the interview.

Stephen Rebello: So, what was it like for you reading the letters of people from the ‘MacGuffin’ website who wrote so appreciatively of your work?

Kim Novak: I am so deeply moved. There was so much insight, appreciation, and intelligence in every one of them. They arrived at the perfect moment, too. What I always try to do in my acting is to communicate with people, to touch them, so I am especially gratified by everyone’s interest in Vertigo.

SR: When the script for Vertigo came to you, you were under contract to Columbia and its president, the legendarily crass Harry Cohn. You were also the number one box-office attraction at the time.

KN: That’s right.

SR: How did doing Vertigo come about for you?

KN: Harry Cohn told me, ‘I got this awful script that Alfred Hitchcock wants you to do. If it weren’t for Hitchcock, I’d never let you do it.’

SB: How did you respond to the screenplay?

KN: The script was always the most important thing to me and I loved the script. For one thing, I’ve always admired trees. I just worship them. Think what trees have witnessed, what history, such as living through the Civil War, yet they still survive. I’ve always felt that part of why they survive is because they don’t try to intercede, to advise ‘No, that’s the wrong way,’ or to try and wipe out an army. They stood and observed. When I read that part of the Hitchcock script where Madeleine and Scottie are among the redwoods, she touches the tree rings and says, “Here I was born and here I died. It was only a moment. You took no notice,’ I got goose-bumps. When it came to shoot that scene, I had goose-bumps. Just touching that old tree was truly moving to me because when you touch these trees, you have such a sense of the passage of time, of history. It’s like you’re touching the essence, the very substance of life. I remember taking my father to see the redwood forest once. He wept and so did I. He ‘got’ it in the same way as I do. We never talked about it.

3 Replies to “I talk to the trees: Kim Novak interview 2004”

  1. Do you mean when James Stewart kisses our Kim, or when Kim fondles the Tree? Either scene is wonderful. As is the scene in McKendrick’s Hotel (“I’m just oiling the leaves on the rubber plant…”) , or the scene when James tows Kim’s inert body through the Bay, being careful not to bruise those Wonderful Tits, or the scene… well, you know.

  2. The trees, the crazy timeline…’Here I was born and there I died….you took no notice.’ But sure, they’re all wonderful! Even marking hundreds of essays on it doesn’t really take the gloss off.

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