A large raven swoops down and lands on Tippi Hedren's shoulder one day during the filming of Showtime's "The Birds II: Land's End." She is apprehensive--but not really frightened.
After all, this is the same actress who had survived the attack of an attic full of birds 30 years ago in Alfred Hitchcock's classic thriller "The Birds."
"I should have gotten to know the bird," says Hedren later. "They have big beaks that are sharp. But all the raven did was peck my head and try to get the hair clip out of my hair. That was cute. He was a silly bird."
Hedren developed an affection for ravens in her role as Melanie, the mysterious blonde whose arrival in a coastal town coincided with all the fowl commotion in Hitchcock's "The Birds." She grew so fond of Buddy, a pet raven, that she put a sign, "Buddy and Tippi," on her dressing room door. "He was so sweet that they didn't use him in the movie," she says. "He would play with things on my dressing table."
In "The Birds" sequel, Hedren plays an entirely different character as Helen, the storekeeper on fictitious Gull Island on the East Coast. The original movie, based on the story by Daphne du Maurier, was set in Northern California's Bodega Bay.
"Birds II," directed by Rick Rosenthal ("Bad Boys," "American Dreamer") stars Brad Johnson, James Naughton, Jan Rubes and Chelsea Field. The story centers around a family who has come to Gull Island with their daughters while recovering from the death of their only son.
Hedren describes her storekeeper as "very together and knowledgeable about everything on the island. She is ecologically concerned about what is going on in our world."
However, she was disappointed that she didn't get a bigger role. "I wish that it was more than a cameo. I think they made a mistake by not doing that," says Hedren during the interview in a hotel suite. She now operates and lives on an exotic animal preserve called the Roar Foundation near Los Angeles. "But (the sequel) has helped me to feed my lions and tigers."
Birds, as in the 1963 original, are the real stars in the sequel. This time, however, Hedren didn't have to shoot a horrifying scene, e.g., the one where she was attacked by live sea gulls and ravens in the attic. When that scene in the original was over, she had nightmares filled with flapping wings.
In both productions, the horror of bird attacks is used to create suspense. In "Birds II," one of the scariest scenes is an attack on a young girl while she is looking for her dog.
"The whole thought of birds attacking is extremely scary," says Hedren, the mother of actress Melanie Griffith. "Birds are things we look at every day and expect to be parts of our lives. The thought of having them turn on us is frightening."
Unlike the original, the sequel explains the motives for the attacks.
"In this movie, they are making an ecological statement," Hedren says. "This time, we are trying to show that man screwed up the planet so desperately the birds are retaliating."
"The Birds II: Land's End" premieres Saturday at 9 p.m. on Showtime. Hitchcock's "The Birds" w ill follow, after which a 15-minute behind-the-scenes special, "Inside the Birds," hosted by Tippi Hedren, will air.