Ray Richmond contributes to Deadline’s TV coverage.

“He ruined my career but he didn’t ruin my life.” That was the defiant stance actress Tippi Hedren took this afternoon during HBO‘s panel session at TCA promoting the original HBO Films docudrama The Girl that premieres in October. The film stars Toby Jones as Alfred Hitchcock and Sienna Miller as Hedren in the story of the iconic director’s obsessive relationship with his leading lady during the making of the features The Birds and Marnie in 1963 and ’64. In a macabre moment, the real-life Hedren emerged for the panel carrying a stuffed, frightening-looking bird. But the winged creature, and Hedren’s intense scenes in the horror film, were nothing compared to her nightmare in staving off the unwelcome advances of Hitchcock. Asked to describe what it was that the director felt for her, Hedren admitted, “I don’t know what to call it. It was something I’d never experienced before. It wasn’t love. When you love someone, you treat them well. We are dealing with a mind here that is incomprehensible. And I certainly am not capable of discerning what was going through his mind or why. I certainly gave no indication that I was ever interested in a relationship with him … He was evil, deviant, almost to the point of dangerous because of the effect he could have on people who were totally unsuspecting.”

Hedren reasoned that the experience of working with Hitchcock wasn’t entirely hellish. In fact, when he was working as her drama coach, he was “absolutely delightful” as well as “brilliant” and “a genius.” Hitchcock had a charisma about him,” Hedren continued. “He was funny. I learned so much from him. I learned so much from the man about how to make a motion picture. There were times of delight and joy with him.” It was toward the end of filming on The Birds that things changed. And she said it was her grounding in religion and teaching from her parents that got her through it. “I hope that young women who do see this film, know that they don’t have to acquiesce to anything,” Hedren said. “My whole life began with the education my parents gave me through a background of Lutheran teachings. And those teachings served me well throughout my life. I can look at myself in the mirror and be proud and strong.” She admits that when she first heard the voice of Jones in the film during a recent screening, her body “just froze.” She added, “At the end of the screening, nobody moved, nobody said anything … until my daughter Melanie Griffith jumped up and said, ‘Now I need to go back into therapy’.”

Were this kind of harassment to have happened to her today on a film set, Hedren stressed, “I’d be a very rich woman. But back then, the studios (had all the) power and there was nothing I could do legally.” Also included on the panel were stars Miller (by telephone from London) and Jones as well as director Julian Jarrold. Miller called her work in the film “intense” and “challenging” but “a lot of fun.”