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Interview With Actress, Author Janet Leigh

Aired February 16, 2002 - 17:21   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: It's one of the most impressionable scenes in cinema history, and it helped secure actress Janet Leigh's place in film history. You're looking, of course, at the famous shower scene from Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho."

And Janet Leigh is not only the famous face that made taking showers for all of us so frightening, but she's also an author as well, and her new book is "The Dream Factory," about the making of starlets in Hollywood. Janet Leigh joins us now live from Los Angeles. Hey there, Janet, how are you?

JANET LEIGH, ACTRESS/AUTHOR: I'm fine, thank you.

WHITFIELD: Well, great. Well, we'll talk first about your book. Your book centers around a young aspiring actress who has to make a decision between Hollywood and the man of her dreams, and everything that ensued thereafter. You pick it up from there.

LEIGH: Well, yes, it is. Guess what, surprise, it's about Hollywood. But you know, I always bring people from different parts of the world or the country into Hollywood, and introduce them to the ways of Hollywood as the reader is introduced. And it's the story of a woman in a man's world. And I made up a little quick poem.

They always say the proper way is to follow someone else's jet stream. But in my heart, I knew I must start to seek my very own sweet dream.

And that's what she does. She seeks her own dream with courage, strength and sort of on her own.

WHITFIELD: So what was the inspiration?

LEIGH: The inspiration was a woman I worked with at MGM, named Lillian Burn-Sidney (ph), who was the drama coach. And her history -- not her personal life, that is all made up -- but the essence of what she did at MGM and how she trained young people like myself and the whole roster of talent, and the big stars as well, and how the producers and directors would come to her for her insight, was such a miracle to me, her mind, that I -- I -- that's the basis of the story. As I said, obviously, the personal side and the other -- everything is fiction, but it's -- the background is real.

WHITFIELD: A real story about the golden age of Hollywood. LEIGH: That's true.

WHITFIELD: And as all eyes are about to be on Hollywood once again with the Oscars now just about a month away...

LEIGH: Right. It's interesting, because in the book my character goes to the 13th Academy Awards, which was 1941, which was the first time that it was a secret ballot. No one knew, first time.

WHITFIELD: Well, in...

LEIGH: So there's a touch of reality.

WHITFIELD: And in 1960, you were nominated for your role in "Psycho," as we saw there. Nobody can ever forget that shower scene; no one can ever take a shower the same way ever again. So do you recall exactly what you were feeling about a month up to Oscar night, about what might some of the actors and actresses who are up for awards now -- directors, et cetera -- might be feeling at this point, with about a month to go?

LEIGH: Well, obviously, trepidation, excitement, nerves. Even though the competition was fierce, nothing quite like today -- because at that time, there wasn't such even -- there wasn't such hype. I mean, I think that in my, quote, "campaign," there were like two times prior to the night of the Academy Awards that they had an ad even. You know, there wasn't this intensity that it is today.

Not that it wasn't as important, it's just was -- was a different focus, I think. But it's -- it' very difficult, and they have to be -- but I think they must keep in mind, the main thing is that they were nominated, and that to me is the big feat.

WHITFIELD: And give me a little bit about inside Hollywood. How much more politicking might there be before these awards are handed out than there was when you remember Oscar night?

LEIGH: Well, politicking -- I mean, there's no such thing as a fix, you know, fortunately. But I think that there's a great deal of -- well, as I said before, the intensity. And there's such a difference, because at my time you had focal points, like you had MGM, and you had -- studios were more one entity, whereas today a motion picture is very often produced by the studios, say, but it has like maybe 10 different companies. So you know, it's not one person or one administration, so to speak, it's like 10. And so you have got 10 times the amount of hype coming at you. It's very strong.

WHITFIELD: Now over the next couple of weeks, you're going to be doing some book signing, right? That is going to take you everywhere, so everybody can get a chance to meet you in person and get you to sign the book, "Dream Factory?"

LEIGH: Right. I'm going to Brintano's (ph) in Century City on the 22nd of February, from 7:00 to 8:00, and then I'm going to the Book Star in Studio City Friday March 8, 7:30 to 8:30. And of course, I've been in various parts of the country. WHITFIELD: And what we'll try to do is put some of that information perhaps on our Web site, because we're running out of time...

LEIGH: Oh, OK, great.

WHITFIELD: ... and we'll never be able to get through the whole list, but we'll try to make sure that our viewers will get a chance to find out where.

LEIGH: Oh, sweet, thank you.

WHITFIELD: ... to get to book signing.

Thanks so much, Janet Leigh, for joining us from Los Angeles. And, of course, we'll be looking for your book on the stands and we'll watching on Oscar night to see what happens.

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