Andy Warhol interviews Alfred Hitchcock

This conversation that appeared in Interview Magazine in September 1974 doesn’t offer any great insights into filmmaking, but for what it lacks in informativeness it makes up for in novelty.

The meeting of these two icons of the 20th century is particularly significant, as each bridged high art and popular culture in unique intriguing ways. While on the surface it may seem like a odd pairing, they both share many things in common. Warhol and Hitchcock both started out as illustrators. Warhol had started his career working as a commercial illustrator, Hitchcock had started out creating illustrations for title cards in silent movies. Of course Andy and Alfred where also both film directors.

Andy Warhol: Since you know all these cases, did you ever figure out why people really murder? It’s always bothered me. Why.

Alfred Hitchcock: Well I’ll tell you. Years ago, it was economic, really. Especially in England. First of all, divorce was very hard to get, and it cost a lot of money.

Andy Warhol: But what kind of person really murders? I mean, why.

Alfred Hitchcock: In desperation. They do it in desperation.

Andy Warhol: Really?….

Alfred Hitchcock: Absolute desperation. They have nowhere to go, there were no motels in those days, and they’d have to go behind the bushes in the park. And in desperation they would murder.

Andy Warhol: But what about a mass murderer.

Alfred Hitchcock: Well, they are psychotics, you see. They’re absolutely psychotic. They’re very often impotent. As I showed in “Frenzy.” The man was completely impotent until he murdered and that’s how he got his kicks. But today of course, with the Age of the Revolver, as one might call it, I think there is more use of guns in the home than there is in the streets. You know? And men lose their heads?

Andy Warhol: Well I was shot by a gun, and it just seems like a movie. I can’t see it as being anything real. The whole thing is still like a movie to me. It happened to me, but it’s like watching TV. If you’re watching TV, it’s the same thing as having it done to yourself.

Alfred Hitchcock: Yes. Yes.

Andy Warhol: So I always think that people who do it must feel the same way.

Alfred Hitchcock: Well a lot of it’s done on the spur of the moment. You know.

Andy Warhol: Well if you do it once, then you can do it again, and if you keep doing it, I guess it’s just something to do.

Alfred Hitchcock: Well it depends whether you’ve disposed of the first body. That is a slight problem. After you’ve committed your first murder.

Andy Warhol: Yes, so if you do that well, then you’re on your way. See, I always thought that butchers could do it very easily. I always thought that butchers could be the best murderers.

Warhol openly proclaimed that he was nervous upon meeting the legendary director, and posed with Hitchcock by kneeling at his feet.

Warhol’s portrait of Alfred Hitchcock represents an incisive homage to the artist’s favorite director.

Warhol’s portrait offers a variation on the doubled self-image that Hitchcock played with in his title sequence, layering his own expressive line-drawing over the director’s silhouette, suggesting the mischievous defacement of graffiti as much as the canonization of a hero through the timelessness of the inscribed profile. To further thicken the plot, Warhol’s fluid line-drawing has echoes of a crime scene outline of a victim (the artist indeed collected photos of crime scenes), while the profile also echoes the mug shot of a most-wanted criminal (an important subject of a series by Warhol in 1964). By compressing together the image of a hero with a subtext of danger, Warhol’s portrait in some ways parallels the broad themes of morality and its transgression that was a leitmotif for the director, while also expressing a sense of humor which was central to Hitchcock’s persona, which always fused the deliberate gravitas of his demeanor with sly wit. Even Warhol’s choice for the color scheme for his portrait hints at a witty take on the director’s oeuvre, as he contrasts the silvery monochromatic visage of the film director (echoing the black-and-white film that Hitchcock strategically used for his television program and films such as Psycho ) with red pigment that is suggestive of blood. Hitchcock loved using humor as counterpoint to morbid subjects, and so Warhol’s gesture appears particularly fitting.

~ Christie’s Auction House

Other Warhol works of Hitchcock: