Both Alfred Hitchcock and Michael Powell chose to let the story take preeminence over the cast. Powell cast a young Austrian actor, Karl-Heinz Bohm, for the lead role of Mark Lewis. Bohm had only done two previous foreign films, Sissi and Sissi, the Empress; his name was only familiar to those who knew of his father, Karl Bohm the musical conductor. "Nat Cohen, (Peeping Toms producer) hearing the news, threw up. Not only was I not going to star Laurence Harvey, whose films had always made money, but now I was playing an unknown Austrian in the main part."
Hitchcock may have wanted smaller stars than usual for Psycho, primarily because of the films budget, but he would never have cast total unknowns in these roles. Anthony Perkins, at age 27, had debuted in George Cuckors The Actress and had successfully played with Shirley MacLaine in The Matchmaker and opposite Audrey Hepburn in Green Mansions. He also gave strong performances in On the Beach and Fear Strikes Out, and was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor of 1957 for his portrayal of a young Quaker in Friendly Persuasion. He was also a teenage heartthrob who appeared on the cover of fan magazines and had even scored a top forty hit record with "Moonlight Swim."