While Robert Bloch's novel characterized Norman Bates as fat and unappealing, it was Hitchcock's idea to make the character more sympathetic by casting 27-year-old Anthony Perkins. About this decision, screenwriter Joseph Stefano says, "I suddenly saw a tender, vulnerable young man you could feel incredibly sorry for. I could really rope in an audience with someone like him" (Rebello 39). Perkins, who became a screen heartthrob in the late 1950s, knew that taking on a role as a homicidal transvestite posed a huge potential risk, but he also understood that making Psycho could end up being a career-making move - and he was right. On set, Perkins was extremely committed to the role and very serious about his craft; it endeared him to the notoriously difficult Hitchcock. Perkins's skilled performance cemented Norman Bates's place in the American cultural lexicon.
Hitchcock cast 32-year-old Janet Leigh in the role of Marion after auditioning many of Hollywood's other popular blondes, like Eva Marie Saint, Piper Laurie, Martha Hyer, Hope Lange, and Shirley Jones; he even considered Lana Turner.
Leigh's career started off promisingly - she had worked with auteurs like Josef von Sternberg and Orson Welles - but by 1959, she was probably getting the most press for being married to Tony Curtis. Excited to work with Hitchcock, Leigh said yes to the role of Marion right away, despite the fact that she would only be onscreen for the first 20 minutes of Psycho.
Miles had worked with Hitchcock on an episode of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" in 1956, after which he signed her to a 5-year contract to star in 3 films a year. The great director compared Miles to one of his other favorite actresses, Grace Kelly, saying, "[Miles] has a style, an intelligence, and a quality of understatement" (Rebello 63). The actress and the director had some disagreements in the intervening years, mostly over Miles's decision to marry and have children (her third pregnancy prevented her from starring in Vertigo). However, they made up in time for Miles (who was still under contract) to take on the role as Lila Crane in Psycho.
John Gavin was a contract player for Universal when he was cast in Psycho. He wasn't Hitchcock's first choice for the role of handsome Sam, but budget constraints made it impossible to hire Stuart Whitman, who was a much bigger star at the time. Supposedly, Hitchcock shrugged and said, "I guess he'll be all right" after watching Gavin's work (Rebello 65).
Det. Milton Arbogast
Balsam's casting as ill-fated Detective Arbogast was on the recommendation of screenwriter Joseph Stefano, who suggested Balsam had "a particularly unfriendly smile." (Rebello 66) Balsam was a prominent stage and television actor who had made his big screen debut in Elia Kazan's 1954 classic "On the Waterfront".
Psycho Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Psycho is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.