Dakota Johnson Says Alfred Hitchcock Sent Melanie Griffith a Doll of Her Mom Tippi Hedren in a Coffin

"Hitchcock was a tyrant," Dakota Johnson said in a new interview with Vanity Fair

Dakota Johnson ; Melanie Griffith; Tippi Hedren
Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images; Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images; Matt Baron/BEI/Shutterstock

Dakota Johnson is sharing a scary story allegedly involving Alfred Hitchcock that sounds like a twist from one of his famous films.

The 32-year-old actress spoke about the legendary director's disturbing obsession with her grandmother Tippi Hedren for the July issue of Vanity Fair (which Johnson covers) and how it derailed Hedren's career decades ago.

"What happened with my grandmother was horrific because Hitchcock was a tyrant," the Fifty Shades of Grey star told the magazine, in an interview published Tuesday. "He was talented and prolific — and important in terms of art — but power can poison people."

The legendary director, who died in 1980 at age 80, worked with Hedren, 92, in the 1963 film The Birds as well as 1964's Marnie. After the actress avoided his advances, he allegedly threatened to destroy her career.

In an alarming anecdote, Johnson said that Hitchcock once sent her mom Melanie Griffith a small doll of Hedren in a coffin as a Christmas gift when Griffith was a child.

"It's alarming and dark and really, really sad for that little girl," Johnson said. "Really scary."

Alfred Hitchcock (1899 - 1980) directs American actor Tippi Hedren while she sits in front of a typewriter on the set of his film, 'Marnie'.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The High Note actress also looked back at attending a screening for the 2012 HBO movie The Girl, in which Sienna Miller portrayed her grandmother. The film focused on Hitchcock's relationship with Hedren – which was difficult for the family to watch.

"We sat at HBO, my family, and watched that movie together," Johnson said. "It was one of those moments where you're just like, 'How could you not have warned us?' We're in a room with some execs. Maybe this warranted a little conversation beforehand?"

During the viewing, she said she looked over at her grandma and saw "a woman who's just been reminded of everything she went through, and it was heartbreaking".

"She was an amazing actress and [Hitchcock] stopped her from having a career," Johnson charged.

Dakota Johnson, Tippi Hedren, Melanie Griffith
Matt Baron/Shutterstock

Reps for Hedren, Johnson and Griffith did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

Johnson echoed similar sentiments on The Hollywood Reporter's Awards Chatter podcast in November 2021, saying Hitchcock "ruined" Hedren's career. However, her grandmother was still supportive when she began pursuing an acting career of her own.

"She's always been really honest and firm about standing up for yourself. That's what she did. Hitchcock ruined her career because she didn't want to sleep with him, and he terrorized her. He was never held accountable," the star said last year.

In her 2016 memoir titled Tippi, Hedren claimed she was sexually assaulted by Hitchcock several times during the making of both films. She also recalled allegedly inhumane conditions she endured (upon which Hitchcock insisted) while filming the climactic scene in the 1963 horror-thriller.

Hedren claimed Hitchcock would have his driver drive past her home and had once asked her to "touch him" while they were working on The Birds. She also said he once tried to force her to kiss him in the back of a limo, writing in her book, "It was an awful, awful moment."

She explained that she didn't tell anyone of the assault because "sexual harassment and stalking were terms that didn't exist" in the early 1960s.

Alfred Hitchcock; Tippi Hedren
Bettmann Archive

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The actress recalled that things escalated when she worked with the filmmaker on Marnie, writing of one instance where he showed up at her dressing room and "put his hands on me." Hedren wrote, "It was sexual, it was perverse."

Speaking with NPR in 2016, Hedren stressed again that Hitchcock openly threatened her career — and followed through on his statement.

"It became such a problem for me that I demanded to get out of the contract. And he said, 'Well, you can't, you have your daughter to support and your parents are getting older.' And I said, 'They wouldn't want me in a situation in which I'm not happy,' " she recalled at the time. "And he said, 'Well, I'll ruin your career.' And he did."

"He just kept me under contract, paying me my salary, a lot of directors and producers wanted me for their film, but to get to me, they had to go through him," she explained.

On what she taught daughter Griffith, 64, and granddaughter Johnson about Hollywood, "I think they just learned from living with me. And actually, my experiences with Hollywood were really wonderful, except for that. So I'm very happy and very busy."

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or go to rainn.org.

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