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'Psycho' turns 60: Janet Leigh's body double shares five secrets about iconic shower scene

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 6/16/2020 Patrick Ryan, USA TODAY

Alfred Hitchcock's horror film "Psycho" turns 60 today — and yes, we're still on edge every time we step into a shower. In 2017, USA TODAY spoke with Janet Leigh's body double, who shared five secrets about the iconic shower scene.

Three minutes. 

That's all it took for Alfred Hitchcock to make cinematic history with Psycho's infamous shower scene, in which on-the-run office worker Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) is stabbed to death in a tub by creepy motel owner Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins). 

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More than half a century later, filmmaker Alexandre O. Philippe is putting Hitchcock's 1960 classic under the microscope in the feature-length documentary 78/52, named for the number of camera set-ups (78) and edits (52) used for that particular sequence. 

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Earlier:Tippi Hedren says Hitchcock sexually assaulted her

Marli Renfro wearing a suit and tie: Alexandre Philippe, right, and Janet Leigh's body double Marli Renfro promote the new 'Psycho' documentary, '78/52,' at Sundance Film Festival in 2017. © Taylor Jewell, Invision/AP Alexandre Philippe, right, and Janet Leigh's body double Marli Renfro promote the new 'Psycho' documentary, '78/52,' at Sundance Film Festival in 2017.

Philippe's movie (available on Amazon Prime, Google Play and YouTube) examines how the scene tapped into audience's fears during a tumultuous era in U.S. history, stirred controversy and ultimately broke taboos about onscreen violence. 

"It contains all of Hitchcock: his fears, obsessions, moral universe," Philippe says. "This was a filmmaker who was all about providing emotion on a grand scale and the shower scene is the ultimate trick. It took everybody by surprise."

Leigh's scream queen stand-in, Marli Renfro, 82, a former Las Vegas showgirl and Playboy Bunny, shares what it was really like on the set of one of the most famous horror movies ever made. 

Replay Video

1. Nudity came easy for Renfro. 

Renfro, then 21, was a magazine model when photographer Mario Casilli told her Hitchcock's latest movie was seeking a body double. When she met with the filmmaker and Leigh, she disrobed to see if their bodies were a match. 

On the set the first day — topless, with just her crotch covered by a rubber patch — "I thought, 'Oh, my God, they're expecting a stripper,' " Renfro says. "But there were no jokes or anything. I was a nudist, so I was very comfortable being without clothes." 

Marli Renfro posing for the camera: Marli Renfro, Janet Leigh's body double in 'Psycho,' wasn't put off by stripping down for the shower scene. "I was a nudist, so I was very comfortable being without clothes," she says. © Taylor Jewell, Invision/AP Marli Renfro, Janet Leigh's body double in 'Psycho,' wasn't put off by stripping down for the shower scene. "I was a nudist, so I was very comfortable being without clothes," she says.

2. Most of what you see is her. 

"Janet Leigh could've been wearing a red-sequined ball gown for her part in the shower scene," Renfro says. Leigh donned a cream-colored one-piece bathing suit while filming, and "the camera goes to maybe 2 inches below her breast bone and that's it. If you don't see her face, that's me: the back of my head, my feet, arms, belly button." 

3. The blood is actually watered-down Hershey's syrup. 

The illusion of Norman fatally knifing Marion was created by two off-camera crewmen splattering Renfro with chocolate. "There was one (guy) who was shaking so bad, I thought, 'This is the closest he's ever been to a female without having sex,' " she says. 

4. The hands blow her cover. 

Renfro's ring finger is slightly darker than normal, the result of a childhood accident in which the tip was cut off by a lawn mower and sewn back on. She remembers Hitchcock wanting a close-up of her hand: "I told him what happened, and he (joked), 'It didn't happen that way. You were picking your nose, sneezed and blew up your finger.' "

5. Hitchcock was as meticulous as you'd expect. 

Renfro signed on for a  two- or three-day shoot, but wound up spending a week filming the shower scene because of the many camera angles and the precise blocking required. "There was one time when I'm about to put my hand up to grab the shower curtain, and (Hitchcock) attaches a measuring tape to the lens of the camera, comes over and puts the point of it on my left nipple," she says. "My breast is just out of focus. The cutting is so fast."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Psycho' turns 60: Janet Leigh's body double shares five secrets about iconic shower scene


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