While Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 masterpiece PSYCHO will always be considered a watershed moment in cinematic horror history, over the years, it’s 1983 sequel, helmed by director Richard Franklin from a script by Tom Holland, has also become it’s own revered horror classic!
A big part of what makes the movie still hold up so well today is the relationship between on-screen characters Norman Bates (a pitch perfect Anthony Perkins in the role he was born to play) and his love interest Mary (played by new-comer at the time Meg Tilly – yes, sister of Chucky’s bride Jennifer Tilly!).
The affection between Norman and Mary throughout the duration of the film is palpable. Somehow, a proven murderer garners our sympathies, and we’re rooting for him to end up with this sweet, much younger woman. Granted, one of the film’s many plot twists is that Mary isn’t exactly who she says she is. Regardless, it’s interesting to note that despite their on-screen chemistry, Tilly and Perkins did not get along off-screen.
Tales of their feud have been kept vague and secretive over the years, but the general gist is that Perkins considered it a major insult that Tilly was unaware of his fame within the entertainment industry. Because of her strict upbringing, Tilly had never actually watched movies growing up and hence was unfamiliar not only with Perkins, but any movie stars. So really it was a misunderstanding of naivety. Then again, perhaps these tales of the on-set tension are greatly exaggerated, although Holland admitted in The Psycho Legacy documentary that Tony did try to get her fired off the picture.
An interview with director Richard Franklin on The Psycho Movies website revealed that Perkins was instrumental in Tilly’s casting as he sat in on all the auditions for the role of Mary to help decide which actress had the best chemistry with him. Screenwriter Tom Holland was also there, and it’s interesting to note the many talented actresses that walked through the door for a shot at playing Mary Loomis. Among the candidates? Carrie Fisher, Kathleen Turner and Meg Ryan.
Holland notes in this bonus feature clip from The Psycho Legacy DVD that Fisher was great, but they couldn’t get past her being Princess Leia in the STAR WARS films. A few short years later, Kathleen Turner would get to work with Anthony Perkins in Ken Russell’s CRIMES OF PASSION! Regarding why she got the role, Meg Tilly was a fresh face, and had a certain vulnerability that played perfectly with Perkins’ Norman.
Before any of these actresses came in to read for the part of Mary, producer Hilton Green, who is the only person that’s been involved with every one of the PSYCHO feature films, had his own personal pick for who he thought should’ve been Mary. It was none other than Janet Leigh’s daughter Jamie Lee Curtis.
Hilton notes in The Psycho Legacy doc that they never offered the role to Jamie Lee because she had already done the first two HALLOWEEN movies and was too closely associated with that franchise.
Speaking of reading with actresses, here’s a fun candid story from Anthony Perkins himself talking about how quickly he was able to snap back into Norman just from those initial readings. Check it out: