Deadline‘s Pete Hammond is reporting that Fox Searchlight is thinking about playing it safe with the release date of Sacha Gervasi‘s Hitchcock, a mild-mannered drama (I read the script eons ago) about the making of Psycho. It looks and sounds like a perfect end-of-the-year film aimed at educated adults and a likely slamdunk for acting awards, but FS isn’t so sure, Hammond hears.

(l.) Anthony Hopkins as Alfred Hitchcock in Sasha Gervasi’s Hitchcock; (r.) Toby Jones as Mr. Hitchcock in HBO’s The Girl.

The natural thing, of course, would be to release Hitchcock by the end of the year and thereby put Anthony Hopkins‘ portrayal of Alfred Hitchcock into possible Best Actor contention. A late 2012 release would also instill a healthy competitive spirit between Hitchcock and HBO’s The Girl, the “other” Hitchcock drama that will focus on the director’s lewd intentions toward Tippi Hedren during the making of The Birds and Marnie.

And yet Hitchcock editor Pamela Martin (The Fighter, Little Miss Sunshine) told Hammond a couple of days ago that “it is currently undetermined whether Searchlight will try for a late 2012 Oscar-qualifying release of Hitchcock…she says they are still doing the director’s cut and if they decide to get it out this year it will mean a big rush to get it ready in time.” Ahem….Hitchcock wrapped in June and it’ll be a “big rush” to get it out by late December? Otto Preminger‘s Anatomy of a Murder began shooting on 3.23.59, wrapped on 5.15.59 and opened on 7.2.59. So don’t even go there. Don’t use the word “big” and don’t use the word “rush.” Turning a film around in five months is nothing.

Martin, says Hammond, “has nothing but praise for the performances” and “singled out” Scarlet Johansson‘s performance as Janet Leigh, who played Marion Crane in Psycho. I’m sorry but I explained a little more than five months ago why Johansson is a bad casting choice to play Leigh, and I see no reason to change my mind.

You can tell that The Girl won’t be as good as Hitchcock because a set still shows Toby Jones‘ Hitchcock wearing an English bowler, and Hitchcock almost never wore a bowler, certainly not after he moved to California in 1939. The one exception (and correct me if I’m wrong) is a bowler-hatted appearance he made in a trailer for Frenzy (’72). That bowler is the blade of grass that tells you almost everything you need to know about The Girl. Mark my words.

Sienna Miller is playing Hedren in The Girl, by the way.

Fox Searchlight needs to man up and put Hitchcock into theatres before 12.31.12. And then release it more widely sometime in late January or February. Simple.