An 'Interview' With Norman Bates On The Making Of 'Psycho'
Born from a 1959 thriller novel by American author Robert Bloch and immortalized on screen by way of some Hitchcockian magic, our guest today has some solid slasher experience under his — or perhaps, her — belt. Indeed, after starring as the antagonist in a total of six films and a TV show, this three-part Slasher with his colorful personalities is the perfect guest to kick off our brand new series: “Inside the Slashers Studio.”
Please welcome, Psycho’s leading star: Norman Bates.
Norman Bates: Thank you, gosh, Thank you. It’s an honor to be here. I never really travel much, you know.
Where were you born, Norman?
Somewhere in Arizona.
How long did you live there?
Until Father died. I was still young. He was stung by bees. We moved to California then. Got the Motel.
The Bates Motel.
She may not look much, but I’ll tell you, I try my best to run the place as well and proper as I can. She’s a tough old broad. I dare anyone to poke a hole in her sturdy walls.
(Audience laughs. Norman smiles at them, confused.)
What is your mother’s name?
Norma. Norma Bates. She used to run the Motel but she’s getting old now. She stays up in the house. I worry that she’s lonely sometimes. I do all the real work. I don’t mind it, you hear. I like seeing people come, and go.
And you like being with your taxidermy birds.
Yes! Although I don’t really know anything about birds. It’s just a hobby.
So we've heard. What was it like playing Norman Bates, that first time?
To play myself? Wow, it was an incredible moment, really. Of course, Mother wasn’t keen on us being filmed. Not too keen at all. I had to have a long, hard talk with her about it. Good for business, I told her. Mother’s just really shy. She mostly kept to herself, up in the house.
What was your favorite scene? As Norman?
As…me? Boy, you sure frame your questions funny! Well, I’d say my favorite scene was probably the one with the pretty young woman who came to stay at the Motel.
Yes, Miss Crane.
So you’re talking about the scene where you —
— where I offered her a light meal and we talked about life and stuff.
Right. You do know that there’s another quite famous scene between the two of you that we’d very much like to hear about. It’s the wonderfully iconic scene with the unforgettable sounds of Bernard Herrmann’s piercing score. It’s the scene that involved 78 setups and 52 cuts to get just right. It’s the scene Hitchcock said was, in fact, the only real reason he made the film in the first place.
I don’t know what you’re talking about.
(Audience laughs. Norman is clearly becoming agitated in his confusion.)
Is it true that one of the sound crew members stabbed a melon with a knife to better capture the sound of skin being pierced? Do you not usually hear skin being stabbed?
I … is this some kind of prank show? I’ve heard of these.
What was it like growing up with a strict, oftentimes abusive mother like Norma Bates? How did it feel exposing all of that in the films you’ve made, and was she really the one who drove you to, well, slash?
Look, I don’t know where you’re getting your information and also extremely unsavory ideas from, but I can assure you that while my mother may be shrewd and complicated at times, she has nothing but love for me! (Smiles) She wouldn’t even harm a fly!
(That big smile stays on his face in a kind of frozen, terrifying way.)
Norman … are you okay? Perhaps we should take a quick break here …
(The smile fades, and the look grows cold.)
Norma: Oh, Norman’s taking a break alright. He’s feeling a bit exhausted by (gestures at everything) all of this going on over here.
So you are the Mother.
Heavens, no! Mother is the bad one. Mother is Norman’s silly little idea of me. Norman’s terrible, horrifying idea of me. Hi! I’m Norma.
That is correct.
Do you remember the scene we were talking about? The one that Norman seems to be suppressing, as expected?
That absolute smut? Yes, I remember it. Horrific. The public outcry was warranted if you ask me. Utter filth, showing a woman in a shower like that. And did you know that it was almost ten times worse? Did you know that in the original source, Mother decapitates that girl?
By original source, you mean the novel, yes?
Correct. Although I must say, that hussy sure had it coming.
Mrs. Bates. We do not refer to women — or anyone for that matter — in such crass terms here.
(Norma scans the audience.)
Why? Because these scantily-clad people prefer to be called whores?
I see why you brought my Norman here! I see how you want to seduce my boy and corrupt his purity with your lights and your attention and your clappy-clap hands! Filth! Absolute filth, all of you!
How long were your mummified body being hidden in that fruit cellar before the arrival of Miss Lily Crane?
(Somehow, Norman now has a dress and a wig on, a giant knife resting on his lap. Just go with it.)
…Mother? Is that you?
(Norman/Norma/Mother is sporting that big smile again, nods ferociously.)
Okay…will you tell us, Mother, how long … uh … how long was your body in that fruit cellar?
Ten years! Ten! Ten ten ten. Bad Norman. Good Norman! Bad, bad bad bad.
Right. Well folks, usually we’d do a round of what we call “Craven’s Questionnaire” right about now but it seems …
(Mother nods again, even more wildly than before, her wig sliding off slightly, her eyes deranged.)
Sure, okay. We can try. Here goes: What’s your favorite weapon?
(Mother jerks the giant knife up in the air. The audience gasps in fear.)
Whoa. Easy now. What’s your least favorite weapon?
(Mother keeps holding the knife up in the air, big smile, staring … salivating?)
I think we’re going to wrap things up right here …
Random Audience Member: But what about our questions?
(Mother twists her head toward the audience member, gets up. Runs over, starts stabbing wildly, sinking that gigantic knife into the poor sod’s chest. Blood sprays over absolutely everybody. The smell of Hershey’ chocolate fills the room. Those violin shrieks start up: “Eek eek eek!” People are screaming, trying to make a run for it. Water sprinklers erupt, somewhere a shower curtain smothers a person. Utter chaos. Utter murder. EEK! EEK! EEK!)
Well, that concludes our interview today. Join us next week as we delve into the minds and hearts of some of Slasher Horror’s most iconic killers, right here: Inside the Slashers Studio.
Top Image: Paramount Pictures