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See '60s Icon Tippi Hedren Now at 92

The star of "The Birds" is more interested in animals than acting these days.

Once you've seen the movie The Birds, it's hard to forget Tippi Hedren in a green suit being swarmed by a flock of menacing crows and sparrows. The Alfred Hitchcock movie was her first starring role, but despite her memorable performance, her career didn't take off after like you might expect. Hedren chalked this up to Hitchcock, who refused to let her out of her contract after she appeared in her second movie with him, Marnie. So, while Hedren kept acting for years to come, she lost out on some parts that could have shaped her story differently.

But outside of acting and some even more serious allegations against Hitchcock, Hedren has devoted herself to another passion: rescuing big cats, like lions and tigers. She spends her life surrounded by animals—at times in ways that most people would consider too close for comfort. Read on to learn more about Hedren's life today.

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She's continued acting up until recently.

Alfred Hitchcock and Tippi Hedren at the 1963 Cannes Film Festival
Jean Claude Pierdet\INA via Getty Images

Aside from Marnie and The Birds, another of Hedren's big movies from the 1960s is A Countess from Hong Kong, which co-starred Marlon Brando and Sophia Loren. She kept acting consistently for years to come, but has said she didn't know about all the roles she was even offered because of the contract situation with Hitchcock. Some of her most recent projects were an appearance on Cougar Town in 2013, the movie Return to Babylon that same year, as well as the movie The Ghost and the Whale in 2017.

In 2018, she starred in a campaign for Gucci and explained to The Hollywood Reporter, "I am at the time in my life when I have done almost everything I wanted to do. My constant work here at the preserve to care for my rescued and abandoned big cats fills my days now. I doubt that I will do much work in the motion-picture business or television again, and I suppose that is why this commercial was such a special offer."

Her memoir included claims against Hitchcock.

Tippi Hedren holding a copy of her memoir during the Los Angeles Times Festival Of Books in 2017
Tara Ziemba/Getty Images

In 2016, Hedren released her memoir, Tippi: A Memoir. In the book, she claims that Hitchcock, who died in 1980, sexually assaulted her. "I'll simply say that he suddenly grabbed me and put his hands on me," she wrote in her book (via USA Today). "It was sexual, it was perverse, and it was ugly, and I couldn't have been more shocked and repulsed. The harder I fought him, the more aggressive he became. Then he started adding threats, as if he could do anything to me that was worse than what he was trying to do at that moment."

In a 2016 interview with NRP, she said that Hitchcock refused to let her out of her contract. "It became such a problem for me that I demanded to get out of the contract," Hedren said. "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.' 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."

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She owns a big cat sanctuary.

Tippi Hedren at Rio Vista Universal's Valkyrie Awards and Holiday Party in 2017
Greg Doherty/Getty Images for WAV

Hedren got interested in big cats after filming two movies in Africa in the late '60s. She, her husband at the time, Noel Marshall, and her daughter, Melanie Griffith, even made a movie, Roar, about a family confronted by big cats. It was filmed with actual animals, which caused many injuries on set. At this point, Hedren and her family had actually lived with big cats in their home, and there are many photos that show them in this precarious situation. She called the situation "stupid" in an interview with the Daily Mail.

In the '80s, Hedren changed her tune on living with lions and tigers, realizing that people should not own them as pets. She started the Roar Foundation in 1983, which funds the Shambala Preserve in California. The animals have been rescued by authorities "from roadside zoos and private citizens who realize they have purchased an animal they can no longer handle," according to the Shambala Preserve website.

Hedren also helped get a bill passed related to big cat ownership. "It's called the Captive Wildlife Safety Act. It regulates ownership of these animals and the breeding," she told Smashing Interviews in 2016.

Her daughter and granddaughter are actors, too.

Dakota Johnson, Tippi Hedren, Melanie Griffith, and Stella Banderas at the Elle Women in Hollywood Awards in 2015
Frank Trapper/Corbis via Getty Images

Hedren's only child is actor Melanie Griffith, and one of her three grandchildren, Dakota Johnson, is also an actor. The three women, along with Griffith's ex-husband Don Johnson, all appeared together in a Hollywood Reporter video in 2017. In a 2014 Q&A with The Guardian, Hedren was asked about her most treasured possession. She responded, "My beautiful child Melanie, and grandchildren Alexander, Dakota, and Stella."

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Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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