A Hollywood remake of one of the scariest films in screen history is set to be filmed in the region that inspired the original story.
Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds terrified cinema audiences on its release in 1963 – and five decades later Transformers director Michael Bay hopes his new version will be equally disturbing.
Based on a short story of the same name by novelist Daphne du Maurier – although her claim to the original tale is disputed – the film is set in a seaside village terrorised by wild birds.
Michael Bay, whose other films include Armageddon, Pearl Harbor and Bad Boys, has hinted that the central role of Melanie Daniels will be played by Naomi Watts and that the outdoor scenes might be shifted from California to Cornwall.
Daphne du Maurier, who lived at Fowey and wrote such classics as Rebecca, Frenchman’s Creek and Jamaica Inn, has long been credited with having dreamt up the plot of The Birds. However, it was
discovered recently that the macabre idea may have sprung from the imagination of a different author entirely.
St Austell writer Paul Newman, who died last year, claimed in a 2010 book that at least 30 years before Hitchcock’s blockbuster, Frank Baker dreamed up a story in which London is attacked by
a mysterious flock of birds. And it was in Cornwall that Baker conjured his nightmarish scenario.
While staying at St Hilary, near Penzance, he wrote: “I vividly remember a gloomy winter afternoon in the Halamanning Valley, when I heard in the air too close to me the swishing of innumerable wings and looked up to see what is inappropriately called a great murmuration of starlings.
“With an alarming and deadly unity, they all decided to drop. In less than a second the field was black and crawling with them – and in the same second my nightmare was conceived.
“A macabre sense mounted in me. Hurrying to my hut I lit a lamp and began to consider with unholy relish what one bird alone could do if ever the devil got possession of it or man’s domination of the beasts weakened. What could it do to a man if it chose?
“With a fiendish zest I began to map out my old world, the world of London I would thus destroy.”
The Birds by Frank Baker was published in 1936 – a full 16 years before Daphne du Maurier’s short story of the same name. Baker raised the apparent duplication in a letter to the Fowey author, but she denied any knowledge of his work. It remains to be seen whether the producers of the remake – Mandalay Pictures, Universal Platinum Dunes – will choose to give Frank Baker a posthumous nod.
Cornwall Film Festival director Louise Fox welcomed plans for a remake, saying: “It would be great to see a production of this kind on location in Cornwall, although remakes are inherently tricky, especially an Alfred Hitchcock classic.”
Meanwhile, actress Tippi Hedren, who played San Francisco socialite Melanie Daniels in Hitchcock’s original, said: “A couple of years ago, when they were first thinking about it, they asked what I thought about a remake of The Birds. I thought ‘Why would you do that? Why?’ I mean, can’t we find new stories, new things to do?”