Clint Eastwood Borrowed A Small-But-Impactful Element Of Psycho For Play Misty For Me

In discussing Jo Heims’ story for “Play Misty for Me,” Clint Eastwood reveals that he was drawn to the material because “there are incidents like this in everyone’s life, to some degree, this whole thing of interpretation of commitment, or misinterpretation of commitment.” Eastwood’s film hinges on a decidedly extreme misinterpretation that compels a mentally fragile woman (the great Jessica Walter) to mistake a one-night stand for a firm romantic commitment. He rebuffs her gently at first, but she’s determined to have him for herself. When she slashes her wrists in his home and assaults his housekeeper, she’s institutionalized. This is just the beginning of his nightmare.

Eastwood tells Stuart M. Kaminsky that everyone, regardless of gender, can surely identify with a situation where a sexual partner tries to force a romantic bond. But Walters is playing a psychopath, which creates not just distance with the audience, but a complete disconnect. How did Eastwood deal with that? As he explained to Kaminsky:

“A lot of times, with stories about psychotic people, there’s no identification factor. In a picture like ‘Psycho,’ the real highlights of the film are strictly the shock and the suspense. It was of course fabulous to have that scene where she sees the skeleton in the basement, but then they almost destroyed everything later with all that unnecessary exposition.”

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