Alfred Hitchcock & Anthony Perkins on the set of Psycho (1960) (via mptvimages/Universal Studios)
Hitchcock had made the all-important decision to hire Perkins way back in early summer, before there was any script. Perkins, who had made his screen debut in 1950, had the facade of a “bobby-soxer’s dreamboat with a brain,” in [critic Stephen] Rebello’s words; he even recorded pop music albums. But Hitchcock liked Perkins as soon as he met him: he was a sensitive, intelligent actor eager to take a dare and play a cross-dressing serial murderer. Although it was never mentioned between Hitchcock & Perkins, the actor’s homosexuality was an open secret in Hollywood, and Perkins as Norman Bates couldn’t help but draw on that subtext.
Hitchcock got along wonderfully with Perkins, whose guarded personality intrigued him. The actor suggested aspects of his boy-next-door wardrobe, and it was Perkins’s idea for Norman Bates to munch candy corn. Even Perkins’s requests for extra takes were indulged, and at one point, when he approached the director to ask haltingly about making a few minor changes in his dialogue, Hitchcock, ruffling his newpaper, looked up.
“Oh, they’re all right - I’m sure they’re all right. Have you given these a lot of thought? You’ve really though it out? And you like these changes?” When Perkins assured him he did, Hitchcock said, “All right, that’s the way we’ll do it.” [Perkins’s character Norman Bates] was accustomed to pampering and part of the strange power of Psycho comes from the fact that the serial killer isn’t harshly judged by Hitchcock, but is allowed to live and breathe - is even pampered - by the director.
-excerpted from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho by Patrick McGilligan