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60 years later, Novak reflects on ‘Vertigo’ – ‘Being Lara Croft takes months of training’

NEW YORK, March 17, (AP): Last fall, on her ranch in southern Oregon, Kim Novak found herself doing what she calls “my own Me Too painting.”

Novak, who turned 85 on Tuesday, had recently broken her left wrist — her painting hand — but was compelled enough to give it a try with her right. Seeing woman after woman come forward with their stories of harassment stoked Novak’s own recollections. She titled the result — a swirling, vibrantly colored abstraction of a menacing face looming above a woman — “A Time of Reckoning.”

“In that period, the same things went on. I never told these stories but my painting has it all,” said Novak, speaking by phone from her 240-acre ranch, where she lives with her husband Robert Malloy, a retired veterinarian. “It was very cathartic, I’m sure just like the gals of today found it cathartic to tell their story.”

Novak recently granted her first interview in several years to mark the 60th anniversary of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 masterwork, “Vertigo.” On Sunday, as part of the TCM Big Screen Classics series, “Vertigo” will be back in theaters (see FathomEvents.com for the 650 locations), with an encore on Wednesday, March 21.

The initial reviews for “Vertigo” were tepid. The box office was disappointing. But “Vertigo” — entrancing, dreamlike, deranged — has steadily grown in reputation over the years to become one of the most widely acknowledged masterpieces in film. In 2012, it even displaced “Citizen Kane,” after a 50-year reign, as the top film on the Sight & Sound critics’ poll. “Vertigo,” a movie overwhelmed by the sensation and fear of falling, keeps climbing higher.

And with the film’s rise, Novak’s performance, alongside Jimmy Stewart, has similarly surged in stature. Film critic David Thomson has called it “one of the major female performances in the cinema.” Francois Truffaut, in his famed interviews with Hitchcock (who was critical of Novak in the role) tried to convince the director he had it wrong: “I can assure you that those who admire ‘Vertigo’ like Kim Novak in it.”

Novak’s performance in “Vertigo” is exceptional not only because it’s two-fold — she plays both the mysterious, suicidal Madeleine and Judy, whose similar appearance to Madeleine mystifies the Scottie (Stewart), the obsessed detective who had trailed Madeleine before her apparent death — but because it’s so representative of how male fantasies are projected onto women. In Scottie’s elaborate efforts to recreate Judy as Madeleine, Novak recognized Hollywood’s own manipulations of her.


“I identify so very completely with the role because it was exactly what Harry Cohn and what Hollywood was trying to do to me, which was to make me over into something I was not,” says Novak, referring to the iron-fisted Columbia Pictures founder who contracted her. “In the beginning, they hire you because of the way you look, obviously, and yet they try to change your lips, your mouth, your hair, every aspect of the way you look and the way you talk and the way you dress. So it was constantly fighting to keep some aspect of yourself, trying to keep some of you. You feel: There must have been something in you that they liked, and yet they wanted to change you.”

That struggle makes Novak an important forerunner for today’s actresses advocating for gender equality in post-Harvey Weinstein Hollywood. Signed to be Columbia’s successor to Rita Hayworth and groomed as a blonde bombshell to rival Marilyn Monroe, Novak often recoiled from the way she was packaged. She refused to change her Czech last name and, ahead of “Vertigo,” insisted on a higher salary. She had a three-year run as the top female star but left the movie business in 1965, returning only occasionally. “What good is it just to be pretty?” she asked in 1955’s “Picnic.” “Maybe I get tired of only being looked at.”

Novak’s last film was 1991’s “Liebestrum.” After presenting at the 2014 Oscars many online, including Donald Trump, insulted her appearance. She responded that she would no longer hold herself back from speaking out against bullies.

Hitchcock wanted Vera Miles for “Vertigo” but Miles became pregnant shortly before production. Though Cohn thought little of the script, he agreed to lend Novak out to Paramount for the film. When she arrived, Hitchcock wasn’t immediately impressed. “Miss Novak arrived on set with all sorts of preconceived notions that I couldn’t possibly go along with,” the filmmaker told Truffaut.

Novak could take some solace in not provoking Hitchcock’s infatuation. In her 2016 memoir, Tippi Hedren (“The Birds,” “Marnie”) said that the director sexually assaulted her and threatened to ruin her career when she resisted. “I never experienced anything like that. He never got that way with me,” said Novak. “But there were other people.”


LOS ANGELES: It took months of training and endless plates of protein to transform former ballerina Alicia Vikander into musclebound action hero Lara Croft for the new “Tomb Raider” film.

The 29-year-old Oscar winner spent seven months working with Swedish trainer and nutritionist Magnus Lygdback, who also helped Gal Gadot and Ben Affleck get into superhero shape for “Wonder Woman” and “Justice League.”

Lygdback and his team of fitness professionals hosted a boot camp in Los Angeles recently to demonstrate Vikander’s “Tomb Raider” training regimen.

“Physically, anyone can train to be a superhero,” Lygdback said.

Diet is paramount, even more than physical training, he said. He directs his clients to eat every three hours and avoid sugar and “fast carbs” like white rice and flour.

“You’ll see a big change, mentally and physically, just by changing the nutrition,” he said.

Vikander spent seven months preparing to become Croft. The first three were just about diet, Lygdback said. His clean-eating plan includes lots of protein and vegetables. A sampling at the “Tomb Raider” boot camp featured broccoli blossoms and seared steak. He says 17 out of 20 meals should be on point, with three splurge meals in the mix.

“I love desserts. I love chocolate. I love a glass of Barolo on a Saturday night,” said Lygdback, whose Hercules-shaped form appears to have zero body fat.

Four months ahead of filming, Vikander began working daily with Lygdback for hour-long sessions incorporating martial arts, weight training and movement education to give her a greater command of her body.

The process didn’t just pack muscle onto Vikander’s slender frame.

“Magnus really helped me transform for the role,” she said. “And gain a sense of empowerment.”

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