Sir Anthony Hopkins
(1937- )

 

Most actors are pleased to have just a few roles acclaimed worldwide. But with Anthony Hopkins, over the last 40 years, there have been so many memorable moments, so many extraordinary performances. Remember him as the schizophrenic ventriloquist, losing his mind in 'Magic'? As kindly Dr Frederick Treves, befriending the hideously deformed John Hurt in 'The Elephant Man'? As a fusty old CS Lewis, weeping before the wardrobe in 'Shadowlands', knowing there's no magic to bring Debra Winger back? Then there were the Oscar-nominated roles, as US presidents in both 'Amistad' and 'Nixon', and as a destructively repressed butler in 'The Remains Of The Day'. Of course there were the heavyweight stage appearances as Macbeth and Lear.

Born on December 31, 1937 Anthony’s father was a self-educated man who, having trained as a baker in Piccadilly, built a business after his own father had drunk away what fortune the family had. Strong-willed and free-thinking, Hopkins was a vegetarian and a militant trades unionist. He was drawn to the theatre while attending the YMCA at age 17, and later learned the basics of his craft at London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

There was also the matter of Port Talbot's local hero. By the early Fifties, Richard Burton was a Hollywood star who caused a major stir whenever he returned to Wales. Hopkins had discovered the details surrounding Burton's next visit home, thanks to the actors sister, who lived nearby. With this information in one hand and a pen in the other Hopkins set out to get Burtons autograph, having been suitbaly impressed by his natty sports car.


In 1960, Hopkins made his stage bow in The Quare Fellow, and then spent four years in regional repertory before his first London success in Julius Caesar. Combining the best elements of the British theater's classic heritage and its burgeoning ‘angry young man’ school, Hopkins worked well in both ancient and modern pieces. His film debut was not, as has often been cited, his appearance as Richard the Lionhearted in The Lion in Winter (1968), but in an odd, "pop-art" film, The White Bus (1967).

Now Hopkins' screen career began to take off too. 1971 saw him in his first action lead, as secret serviceman Philip Calvert, investigating piracy off the Scottish coast in Alistair MacLean's When Eight Bells Toll. The next year would see him alongside Simon Ward and Anne Bancroft in Young Winston, a historical epic that followed the young Winston Churchill's exploits in Sudan and South Africa. 

In the 80’s his film projects were smaller, and thankfully more interesting. In '84 Charing Cross Road', he played a quiet bookshop owner who engages in a trans-Atlantic correspondence with New York scriptwriter Anne Bancroft. After this, it was back to Wales with Alan Ayckbourn's A Chorus Of Disapproval, where he played the leader of a Welsh troupe attempting to put on an opera. When newcomer Jeremy Irons turns up, he finds a hot-bed of jealousy, seduction and internecine warfare, far more dramatic than anything on the stage. 

In 1991, Hopkins won an Academy Award for his bloodcurdling portrayal of murderer Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs. The psychotic Doctor who increased Chianti sales no-end with his hisses and rhetoric. If you haven't seen the film you're probably an alien from Mars but on the off chance watch out for his response to Starlings,

'...frankly Doctor, that's the sort of thing that Miggs would say...'

Oh and lest we forget the final line of the film...

With the aplomb of a thorough professional, Anthony Hopkins was able to follow-up his chilling Lecter with characters of great kindness, courtesy, and humanity: the conscience-stricken butler of a British fascist in The Remains of the Day (1992) and compassionate author C. S. Lewis in Shadowlands (1993).

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