With both Need (a somewhat “bent” relationship drama with Nicole Kidman and Naomi Watts) and Dirty Tricks (a women-of- Watergate movie with Meryl Streep as Martha Mitchell and Gwynneth Paltrow as Maureen Dean) in pre-production, it could never be said that director Ryan Murphy (Running With Scissors) is one to let grass grow under his feet.

But who would’ve imagined Murphy directing something as unusual and film-buffy as Alfred Hitchcock Presents, a drama about the making of Hitchcock’s Psycho, and particularly the hurdles and roadblocks that the great British director (possibly to be played by Anthony Hopkins) went through in order to bring it come to fruition. Hitchcock was discouraged left and right from making it. The script was seen as way too dark and perverse (especially with the lead female star getting killed off after 45 minutes), and no one wanted to see a movie based more or less on the macabre exploits of serial killer Ed Gein.

Hopkins has played his share of famous willful men — Pablo Picasso, Richard Nixon, John Quincy Adams, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg — and he’s planning to portray Leo Tolstoy in Michael Hoffman‘s The Last Station. But there’s something extra delicious about the prospect of him playing Hitchcock.

Question is, will Murphy’s film circumvent whatever it was that underwhelmed viewers of RKO 281, a TNT drama about the making of Citizen Kane?

I don’t know exactly when Alfred Hitchcock Presents might shoot, but I was told earlier this evening it’s definitely real. Universal, Hitchcock’s home studio for the last 15 or so years of his life, may be involved as a financier-distributor. (Of course, nothing is “likely” until it actually happens so take this with a grain.)

If and when it happens, the plan is for Helen Mirren to play Alma Reville, Hitch- cock’s wife and lifelong creative collaborator. Psycho was shot for Paramount, although Universal founder and Hitchcock confidante Lew Wasserman occupies a portion of the script. Psycho costars Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh are also “characters,” I’m told, but not large ones. Presumably screenwriter Joseph Stefano will also figure in.