Hitchcock Blonde Kim Novak Sees The Artist, Cries "Rape"—Will That Hurt the Film's Oscar Chances?

Actress says she feels "violated" by the film's use of music from Vertigo; director responds

By Natalie Finn Jan 10, 2012 1:25 AMTags
The Artist, Berenice Bejo, Jean Dujardin, Kim Novak, Jimmy StewartThe Weinstein Company; Paramount Pictures

Kim Novak is being haunted all over again.

It turns out that the star of the mind-bending Alfred Hitchcock thriller Vertigo didn't love The Artist, the black-and-white homage to the golden age of silent film that landed on countless best-of-2011 lists and is a surefire Oscar nominee for Best Picture.

Instead of leaving Novak with a warm and fuzzy feeling, it left the 1950s-era screen queen crying rape.

That's right, rape! What about the family-friendly silent film—which not only features an adorable dog but also barely has any kissing, let alone any material that could be deemed offensive—has Novak feeling so disgusted?

"I want to report a rape," began the full-page ad Novak took out in the latest issue of Variety. "I feel as if my body—or, at least my body of work—has been violated by the movie, The Artist.

"This film could and should have been able to stand on its own without depending upon Bernard Herrmann's score from Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo to provide it more drama," she continued in her open letter to, well, everybody!

"In my opinion the combined efforts of the composer, director, Jimmy Stewart and myself were all violated. It is morally wrong for the artistry of our industry to use and abuse famous pieces of work to gain attention and applause for other than what they were intended. It is essential to safeguard our special bodies of work for posterity, with their original and individual identities intact and protecting.

"Even though they did give Bernard Herrmann a small credit at the end, I believe this kind of filmmaking trick to be cheating. Shame on them!"

So the filmmakers did give Hermann a credit, as Novak points out.

But knowing that bad publicity does not always equal good publicity, especially when the risk-averse Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences is concerned, The Artist's director replied promptly.

"The Artist was made as a love letter to cinema, and grew out of my (and all of my cast and crew's) admiration and respect for movies throughout history," said French director Michel Hazanavicius, whose film is nominated for a leading six Golden Globes and who himself was just nominated for a Directors Guild Award.

"It was inspired by the work of Hitchcock, Lang, Ford, Lubitsch, Murnau and Wilder. I love Bernard Herrmann and his music has been used in many different films and I'm very pleased to have it in mine. I respect Kim Novak greatly and I'm sorry to hear she disagrees."

Meanwhile, we doubt Novak's statement is going to go unnoticed by activists who work with victims of actual sexual assault. We have a feeling that they are going to disagree with a few things, too.

As to whether the negative publicity affects The Artist's shot at winning some major prizes this season, we doubt it, so long as everyone remembers what "rape" and "violated" actually mean.

"Kim Novak's overblown reaction is ridiculous," GoldDerby.com's Tom O'Neil tells E! News. "The Vertigo music is used legally. It's bought and paid for, fully credited, and it's used appropriately in the film. The Artist is a movie about making movies, full of many winks to classic films (A Star Is Born, What Price Hollywood) and stars (Douglas Fairbanks), so including some Vertigo is great. Novak's cry of 'rape!' is really the cry for attention from a celebrity who's claiming ownership of something that isn't hers. It will not hurt the movie's Oscar hopes one bit."

Ironically, we have it on good authority that Eva Marie Saint thought The Artist was delightful. But maybe she'd feel differently if it sampled the climactic Mount Rushmore music from North by Northwest?

—Additional reporting by Holly Passalaqua