The Big Picture
- Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” changed horror forever with its psychological thrills and shocking twists.
- Christopher Walken was nearly cast as Norman Bates in “Psycho II” but Anthony Perkins ultimately returned to play the iconic role.
- The success of “Psycho II” led to two more sequels, with Perkins starring in and directing “Psycho III.”
When looking at the most iconic horror villains, names like Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, Leatherface, and Ghostface might come to mind. Before any of them, however, was another scary bad guy who wore a different kind of mask. In 1960, Alfred Hitchcock changed horror forever with Psycho. Along with Peeping Tom, which came out the same year, Psycho was the first ever slasher. It’s not a gory film with a high blood count, but a psychological thriller with the double shocking twist involving the death of its heroine, Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), and the reveal that motel owner Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) is the actual killer. Over two decades later, Hollywood came calling for a sequel. Anthony Perkins was originally uninterested in making Psycho II. Undeterred, Universal turned to Academy Award winner Christopher Walken. But in the end, Perkins returned to play Norman and Walken moved on. So what changed Perkins’ mind?
After twenty-two years of psychiatric care, Norman Bates attempts to return to a life of solitude, but the specters of his crimes – and his mother – continue to haunt him.
- Release Date
- June 3, 1983
- Richard Franklin
- Anthony Perkins , Vera Miles , Meg Tilly , Robert Loggia
Norman Bates Is One of the Best Villains in Film History
Psycho is remembered for many things. Robert Bloch‘s novel of the same name was a well crafted blueprint. There’s Bernard Hermman‘s terrifying score (which unfairly snubbed at the Oscars). As mentioned, the two twists in the movie are among the most famous scenes in film history. All of that came together under the masterful direction of horror icon Alfred Hitchcock. None of that would have mattered though if Norman Bates had been miscast.
Perkins was just 28 years old when he landed the role of Bates. Despite his young age, Perkins was already a veteran of Broadway and film, earning a 1957 Golden Globe for New Star of the Year due to his part in Friendly Persuasion. Perkins was the ideal choice to play a villain, when the whole plot was built on a swerve. Hitchcock portrays Norman Bates as being odd, for sure, but also as a victim controlled by his murderous unseen mother. With Perkins’ babyface looks and lean stature, audiences fell for it — he didn’t come across as a knife-wielding psycho.
Christopher Walken Was Nearly Cast as Norman Bates in ‘Psycho II’
Psycho was seen as a masterpiece that couldn’t be replicated, but two decades later, Hollywood was finally brave enough to decide to try a sequel. It had to have seemed like a horrible idea to most people. The cat was out of the bag and there was no way to recapture that magic. Even if there was an appetite for it, Alfred Hitchcock died in 1980. No matter, Bloch had written the first of two sequel novels to Psycho. In an interview last year with Yahoo, Tom Holland (no, not that one), the man who would later helm Fright Night and Child’s Play, spoke about how he was brought in to write the screenplay for Psycho II. Using the sequel novels as a guide was off limits, as Norman Bates was killed off in the first chapter! Holland said Anthony Perkins had already turned down a sequel, as he wasn’t thrilled with the character, but that didn’t stop the movie from happening. Richard Franklin was brought in to direct. Now, all the film needed to do was recast Norman Bates.
Christopher Walken was looked at for the role. While it would have been nearly impossible for anyone to reimagine such a famous character, if anyone could do it, it was Walken. He was one of the top actors in the country in the early 80s, having won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 1978 for Deerhunter. He was also weird in the best possible way. With Walken’s off kilter mannerisms and way of speaking, he’s become one of our most loved actors. He’s done everything from play villainous baddies to host SNL. With that range, playing a psycho would be easy.
Alfred Hitchcock Had His Own ‘Twilight Zone’ Before ‘The Twilight Zone’
“Good evening, I’m Alfred Hitchcock.”
Anthony Perkins Changed His Mind on ‘Psycho II’
Christopher Walken would have played Norman Bates if not for Tom Holland. He made it his mission to write a script that would convince Anthony Perkins to come back. He succeeded, not by trying to remake the past, but by making Psycho II a different beast. Here, Norman Bates is a healed man released from the mental institution. He is trying to live life, but begins being tormented by Lila Crane (Vera Miles), the sister of Marion, and her daughter Mary Loomis (Meg Tilly). Mary’s father was Sam Loomis (John Gavin), Marion’s boyfriend from the first film, but with Gavin now the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, he’s revealed to be dead in Psycho II. Tom Holland said:
“I was an actor for ten years before I started to write. You have to give an actor something to play that they know is dramatic pay dirt. And that’s what that script had. Even in the first one, you felt bad for Norman, because you knew his mother had turned him into that and there was something so vulnerable about Tony.”
Perkins loved the script and decided to play Norman Bates again. With that, Psycho II went from being a direct-to-TV movie to a theatrical feature film. Holland said, “The reaction was so overwhelming that Universal had to release it as a feature film. They couldn’t get a better writer and director because Tony had already agreed to the script!” It was a success in 1983, both critically (it’s one of the best horror sequels ever made) and commercially, which led to two more sequels. Perkins starred in and directed Psycho III. Elsewhere in 1983, Christopher Walken found more success in the adaptation of the Stephen King novel The Dead Zone. It’s safe to say that everything worked out the way it was supposed to for everyone involved.
Psycho II is available to rent on Amazon Prime in the U.S.
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