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TalkTalk have created this exclusive biography of Anthony Hopkins - we believe it to be the most comprehensive on the web
Most actors are pleased to have just one role acclaimed worldwide. But with Anthony Hopkins, over the last 40 years, there've 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. And there were the heavyweight stage appearances as Macbeth and Lear, and the tortured Dr Dysart in Equus. And more, so many more.
There can be no doubt that Hopkins is one of the finest screen actors ever, with an incredible emotional range. Sod's Law dictates, then, that he should be best-known as the quiet, watchful, ultra-controlled Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter from Thomas Harris's notorious trilogy, eating people's liver with a fine Chianti. Incredibly, it was soon after he played this calculating and manipulative beast that he was knighted by the Queen. Strange world, indeed.
Philip Anthony Hopkins was born on New Year's Eve, 1937, at 77, Wern Road, Margam, near Port Talbot, South Wales. His mother was Muriel (nee Phillips, a relative of the poet William Butler Yeats) and his father Richard Arthur, a man of immense, sometimes violent energy, whose eyes would change colour when he was excited and who, Hopkins believes, eventually died from being wound too tight. Richard's father was a self-educated man who, having trained at a bakery in Piccadilly, built a bakery business after his own father had drunk away what fortune the family had. Strong-willed and free-thinking, he was a vegetarian and a militant trades unionist. He was also very close to young Anthony, nicknaming him George (oddly, father Richard would know him as Charlie).
Richard continued the family bakery, eventually moving Muriel and only child Anthony into Port Talbot to live above the shop. Young Anthony was a sensitive kid, happier drawing, painting and playing the piano (he's now a virtuoso) than hanging with the other kids. A dyslexic, he was poor academically, once saying of himself "I was lousy in school. Real screwed-up. A moron. I was anti-social and didn't bother with the other kids. A really bad student. I didn't have any brains. I didn't know what I was doing there. That's why I became an actor". To separate him from the many other Hopkins at school, he became known as Mad Hopkins.
Failing badly at Port Talbot's Central School, in 1949 his parents sent him to West Monmouth boarding school in Pontypool, hoping he'd learn some discipline and begin to fit in. After five wretched terms, they brought him out again, placing him at Cowbridge Grammar, a lot closer to home. Here he'd spend another unhappy four years, leaving with a solitary O-level, in English.
Hopkins' problem was that, though extremely bright, his interests lay far outside school. Aside from art and music, he was also taken by acting. His bedroom was lit up at night by the red flash of the cinema opposite and, in the holidays, he'd watch at least two movies a week, thrilling to the performances of Bogart and Cagney, and the B-movie likes of Jack Palance (no surprise, then, that he later became such a competent villain). 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. As Burton's sister lived nearby, the young Hopkins found out about Burton's next visit home and went over to get his autograph, being mightily impressed by Burton's natty sports car. Burton, he thought, had escaped this small town and found fame and fortune - why couldn't he?
Following in Burton's footsteps, and having been further inspired by seeing Emlyn Williams touring as Dylan Thomas (he'd later direct a movie about Thomas), he began his apprenticeship with the local YMCA players, then enrolled at Cardiff's College of Music and Drama. After graduation, he took a job with the Arts Council then, in 1958, came National Service. Joining the Royal Artillery as 23449720 Gunner Hopkins, he was posted to Oswestry, then Bulford Camp on Salisbury Plain, spending two years "typewriter-punching" for thirty bob a week. Leaving as a Bombardier, he went back to his parents' new place in Laleston, near Bridgend and, getting back into drama, appeared in several local plays, making his professional debut in Have A Cigarette, at the Palace Theatre, Swansea, in 1960.
Hopkins' inherited characteristics made him intense, and his years as a lonely outsider fuelled the fire. He won a place at RADA, from which he graduated in 1963. He spent a while in rep then, in 1965, was invited to join Laurence Olivier's National Theatre. At his audition, he cheekily chose to read from Othello, which Olivier had performed onscreen that year. But that was Hopkins at 27 - arrogant, angry and prodigiously talented.
In 1966, he made his screen debut in The White Bus, directed by Lindsay "If" Anderson. It was intended to be the first part of a colour-inspired trilogy (to be followed by Red and Blue - Kieslowski would later find fame for just such a 3-parter), but that was not to be. No matter, it was on the stage that Hopkins was to make his name. With the National Theatre, he played in The Flea In Her Ear, Juno And The Peacock, as Boris in The Provincial Life, and Andrei in Chekov's Three Sisters.
1967 was a big turning-point. Acting as Olivier's understudy in Strindberg's Dance Of Death, he took over the lead when the great man fell ill with appendicitis. And he was stupendously good, Olivier himself recalling that this "new young actor... of exceptional promise%u2026 walked away with the part of Edgar like a cat with a mouse between his teeth". Next would come another showstopping performance, in a blonde wig and flapper dress, as Audrey in an all-male adaptation of As You Like It. And he filmed his big screen debut proper, The Lion In Winter, where he played the young Richard the Lionheart, one of three sons of Peter O'Toole's Henry II who are competing for their father's throne. Both fierce and tender, Hopkins was superb, easily matching the grand likes of O'Toole and Katherine Hepburn, and being nominated for a BAFTA.
'67 also saw trouble begin. Hopkins would marry the actress Petronella Barker and have a daughter, Abigail, but the relationship would sour quickly. He was now drinking heavily as he toured up and down the country. Split from Barker and feeling that he'd abandoned his child (he'd not have contact with Abigail for many years though, after reconciliation, she'd appear in several of his movies), his behaviour grew worse. All the attention, too, was not easy for this perennial loner to bear. And he despised the circle who hung around the National Theatre. "I detested all of them," he later said, "Ken Tynan and all those ghastly people, sitting around smoking their cigarettes between their middle fingers".
Nevertheless, steeped in his family's work ethic, he continued a punishing work schedule. Onscreen, he appeared as John Avery in John Le Carre's spy thriller The Looking Glass War, and as Claudius to Nicol Williamson's Hamlet. 1970 saw him appear as both Danton and Charles Dickens, and also in Uncle Vanya and Hearts And Flowers. 1971 saw him back onstage with the National, as Coriolanus, in The Architect And The Emperor Of Assyria and, with Joan Plowright and Derek Jacobi, in The Woman Killed With Kindness. Hopkins' father would attend a performance of this last play and, sitting backstage, loudly gave it only two weeks. Then, introduced to Olivier himself (Mr Plowright) and discovering they were both the same age, he said "Well, we're both going down the bloody hill now, aren't we?"
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. This was directorial debut of Richard Attenborough, a man who'd call Hopkins "unquestionably the greatest actor of his generation" and consequently cast him in many of his pictures. 1973 brought real nationwide fame when he was utterly convincing as Pierre, moving between the worlds of the peasants and aristocrats in a sweeping TV version of Tolstoy's epic War And Peace, a role for which he'd win a BAFTA.
Incredibly, Hopkins was actually now at his lowest ebb. His drinking had progessively worsened and he admits that he was becoming impossible to work with. The crunch came in early 1973, when he walked out of a National Theatre production of Macbeth. Luckily, help was at hand. That same year, he'd marry Jennifer Lynton, a production secretary he'd met when she'd been sent to pick him up at the airport. She'd back him in his long battle against booze, a battle he'd finally win on December 29th, 1975. Having come to in Arizona, with no idea how he got there, he gave up for good.
His success in the UK continued throughout, though. 1974 saw him star as Dr Adam Kelno in the hit miniseries QB VII, where he played a death camp escapee charged with war crimes by the Russians, then accused again 20 years later. Then, in Juggernaut, he was the straightlaced copper criss-crossing London in an attempt to find the man who's planted bombs on an ocean-going liner. And he made an brilliantly arch Siegfried Farnham in James Herriot's vet-fest All Creatures Great And Small.
But America was now beckoning and Hopkins, the kid who'd dreamed of following Richard Burton to Hollywood stardom, couldn't resist. Having seized people's attention with his New York performance as Dysart, the psychiatrist thrown into moral turmoil in Equus (a role Burton himself would later play onscreen), and played a KGB man trying to spoil Russian ballerina Goldie Hawn's relationship with US journalist Hal Holbrook, he now began to work full-time on breaking the States.
The next few years saw an inexorable rise with a series of wildly varying roles. In Dark Victory, he played the doctor who keeps a terminally ill Elizabeth Montgomery going. Then he won his first Emmy as Bruno Richard Hauptmann, executed for murder in The Lindbergh Kidnapping Case. Next he played Israeli President Yitzhak Rabin in the all-star hostage drama Victory At Entebbe, and then came two real stand-outs. First, in the superior supernatural thriller Audrey Rose, he was Eliot Hoover, a man who believes the spirit of his daughter, burned to death in a car accident, is inhabiting the body of a New York's couple's child. The final sequence, where the girl is hypnotised and regresses back past her own birth to her previous horrible death, was stunningly powerful, Hopkins strident, loving and desperate. Then it was back to Attenborough, with another all-star epic in A Bridge Too Far, with Hopkins starring as Lieutenant Colonel John Frost, keeping his upper lip stiff during a lonely and doomed battle on the final bridgehead at Arnhem. His former boss Olivier would also feature large.
The two styles that Hopkins would use to greatest effect were now coming into evidence. In A Bridge Too Far, he was deadly straight, wholly trustworthy and very, very English. In Attenborough's next effort, Magic, he showed a wilder side to his character, as Corky, a successful ventriloquist who appears to be being taken over by his own doll. It was a fabulous performance of massive vulnerability, Hopkins being nominated for both a BAFTA and a Golden Globe.
Now working constantly, switching between theatre and film, Hopkins' projects were not always of great quality. International Velvet, Mayflower: The Pilgrims' Adventure and A Change Of Seasons, where he played a professor who takes student Bo Derek as a lover, then gets annoyed when his wife Shirley Maclaine takes a lover too, were not of the highest order. But the early Eighties did see some excellent material, too. In The Elephant Man, the terrible tribulations of poor John Merrick were best expressed on Hopkins' face. Then came another Emmy, for his portrayal of Adolf Hitler's last days in The Bunker. He was a tremendous Moor in Jonathan Miller's Othello, persecuted by Bob Hoskins' slimy Iago, and he wasn't at all bad when disabled himself, as Quasimodo in The Hunchback Of Notre Dame, pining for Lesley-Anne Down's Esmeralda.
After this he was a ferocious Captain Bligh to Mel Gibson's rebellious Fletcher Christian in The Bounty, Olivier appearing as Admiral Hood. Then, weirdly, he lent his thespian gravitas to a miniseries version of Jackie Collins' Hollywood Wives. In Arch Of Triumph, he again played a death camp escapee, this time holed up in occupied Paris, falling (once more) for Lesley-Anne Down, and seeking revenge on beastly Gestapo chief Donald Pleasance. In The Decline And Fall Of Il Duce, he was an aristocratic relative trying to get Bob Hoskins' Mussolini to ditch Hitler. Then came a couple of family-based dramas in Guilty Conscience, where he was plotting to kill wife Blythe Danner, and The Good Father where he helped jilted Jim Broadbent get even with his ex.
His American adventure had taken its toll. Taking so many roles, and trying to burn so bright in each of them, Hopkins was wearing down. He was also losing touch with his roots, a process made faster by the fact that his wife preferred to remain in the UK while he travelled (this situation would continue till their divorce in 2002). So, by the mid-Eighties, Hopkins decided to work primarily in the UK, rebuilding his career. He took to the stage again with the National Theatre, as King Lear and Anthony in Anthony And Cleopatra, and in Pravda.
His film projects were smaller now, and thankfully more interesting. In 84, Charing Cross Road, he played a quiet bookshop owner who engages in a trans-Atlantic correspondance with New York scriptwriter Anne Bancroft (a co-star in Young Winston and The Elephant Man). Then came Graham Greene's The Tenth Man, which took him back to occupied France. This time he was Chavel, about to be executed by the Nazis. At the last moment, a fellow Frenchman agrees that, in exchange for allChavel's possessions, he will face the firing squad instead. Chavel goes home to find the man's sister, Kristin Scott Thomas, very bitter, living in his house (now her house) and waiting for him, so he pretends to be someone else. And then another man turns up, claiming to be Chavel... It was an excellent effort, taut and fraught, and it earned Hopkins another Golden Globe nomination.
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. Next came Across The Lake, another heroic role where he played Donald Campbell, attempting to break the water speed record in Bluebird.
Come the Nineties and it was time for another tilt at Hollywood. He warmed up as Magwitch in a Disney version of Great Expectations, with Jean Simmons as Miss Haversham (Simmons having played young Estella in David Lean's classic adaptation). Then came Michael Cimino's Desperate Hours where Mickey Rourke busts out of jail and holes up in a suburban home owned by separated couple Hopkins and Mimi Rogers. Will the couple pull together, or will their bickering send Rourke over the edge?
And now, out of the blue, came the big one. Michael Mann had already introduced psycho-genius Hannibal Lecter in his Manhunter. But Jonathan Demme's The Silence Of The Lambs was a bigger budget affair. Here, there's a serial killer on the loose, named Buffalo Bill. People have been butchered and there's a girl missing, presumed In Deep Shit. The FBI can't make head nor tail of the myriad clues, so they send young agent Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) to speak to imprisoned loon Lecter in the hope that he might help them catch Bill. And Hopkins was brilliant, teasing Starling, analysing her, visibly smelling her. Indeed, he was a paragon of alertness, contemplating every detail of every tiny movement in order to turn the information to his advantage. The Oscar was his (something Richard Burton never managed), as was the franchise. Later, he'd return opposite Julianne Moore in Hannibal, casually cooking a slice of the still-awake Ray Liotta's brain. And later still would come Red Dragon, a remake of Manhunter, with Ed Norton as FBI agent Will Graham, who needs Lecter to help him catch killer The Tooth Fairy.
After Spotswood, an Australian flick where he played an efficiency expert called to a moccasin factory (Russell Crowe and Toni Collette featured in early roles), and Freejack, a sci-fi tale where he was a rich, dying guy in the future who wants to transfer his mind into a younger, healthier body, Hopkins entered an incredible run of films. First came Merchant/Ivory's Howard's End, where he played the leader of the Wilcoxes, an emotionally repressed but very rich capitalist family, including Vanessa Redgrave and James Wilby. Pitted against them are the Schlegel sisters, Emma Thompson and Helena Bonham Carter, members of the "enlightened bourgeoisie" and free-thinking women who'd like to hold out a helping hand to the working-class Bast family.
Next it was back to Hollywood big-time as Professor Van Helsing in Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula, hamming it up crazily as he hunts down the Count. A scene where he was seduced by Winona Ryder's Mina was left on the cutting-room floor. There was more Attenborough when he played editor George Hayden in the excellent Chaplin, then he was the priest in Kafka's The Trial. After this, he returned to the Cold War for the first time since 1969's Looking Glass War, as a spy in Berlin in John Schlesinger's The Innocent. In a couple of neat tie-ins, he also revisited his past in two other ways. When Stanley Kubrick's Spartacus was remastered, a scene was re-introduced where Olivier's General Crassus attempts to seduce Tony Curtis's slave Antoninus. The footage remained, but not the soundtrack, so Hopkins found himself providing the voice for his old mentor. Then there was more Spartacus when he provided the narration for Jeff Wayne's musical version of the story - Richard Burton having earlier narrated Wayne's War Of The Worlds.
And it got even better. In Merchant/Ivory's The Remains Of The Day, he was superb as James Stevens, butler for James Wilby and a man so repressed that duty has become everything to him. Thus he loses a chance at happiness with housekeeper Emma Thompson and looks away when Wilby foolishly sympathises with Hitler. With realisation comes torment, and Hopkins is in his element, seemingly dormant then suddenly on the verge of a volcanic emotional eruption. He well deserved his Oscar nomination. And he should have had one for his next part, too, as CS Lewis in Attenborough's brilliant Shadowlands. Here we see Lewis in the Thirties, a stuffy professor who's written the Narnia Chronicles but doesn't believe in magic. Then he meets Debra Winger's Joy Gresham, an American fan with a young son and, his life filled with excitement, he falls in love, only for Joy to fall fatally ill. The scene in the attic, when the boy, desperate to save his mother, rifles through the hanging furs to find the passage into Narnia, is heartbreaking. Hopkins would at least win another BAFTA.
Now he was a big star, carrying Hollywood movies. In The Road To Wellville, he was hilariously larger-than-life as Dr John Harvey Kellogg, examining people's stools and driving them through fascistic fitness regimes at his idiosyncratic health resort. Then he was Colonel William Ludlow, father of Brad Pitt and Aidan Quinn, who watches them battle over Julia Ormond and then suffers a terrible stroke in Legends Of The Fall. Then came another Oscar nomination for his portrayal of disgraced president Richard Nixon in Oliver Stone's Nixon, driven to filthy tactics by the Kennedys and battling to maintain some kind of dignity as his world collapses around him.
Fame and money gave him a chance to direct and provide the music for August, where he set Chekov's Uncle Vanya in South Wales at the turn of the last century. Then he was back to his burgeoning best as Pablo Picasso in Merchant/Ivory's Surviving Picasso, taking mistresses left, right and centre, and generally being a creative force of nature. Following this was The Edge, a sadly ignored surviving-the-wilderness piece penned by David Mamet. Here Hopkins played a millionaire businessman whose young wife, Elle MacPherson is the target of young stud Alec Baldwin. Yet when Hopkins and his rival are aboard a plane that crashes out in the wild, it's Hopkins' knowledge that keeps them alive, rather than Baldwin's youthful strength, particularly when they're menaced by a peculiarly ferocious bear.
Next came Steven Spielberg's Amistad, concerning an onboard slave revolt in 1839. Here Hopkins played his second president, John Quincy Adams, and his incredible powers of memory came into play. Though dyslexic in his early life, he's always possessed a fearsome memory for times, dates and scripts, and he blew away the crew by memorising a 7-page speech for the taut court-room finale. So impressed was Spielberg that he couldn't bring himself to call Hopkins Tony, referring to him throughout as Sir Anthony - Hopkins having been knighted in 1993, after receiving the CBE in 1987. Another Oscar nomination came his way.
And the hits kept coming. In The Mask Of Zorro, he played the original Zorro, now aged and teaching young Antonio Banderas to ride, whip, fight and cut flashy Zs into all and sundry. Then he played another millionaire businessman, this time visited by Death in the shape of Brad Pitt in Meet Joe Black. This movie took a lot more at the box-office than perhaps in should, by virtue of the fact that it was one of the first to carry the trailer for The Phantom Menace - many attended just for a glimpse of the next Star Wars extravaganza.
Instinct saw Hopkins drawing on that primal rage again as Ethan Powell, a primatologist who's turned apeman and slaughtered some poachers. Back in the US, he's locked up in a high-security institution where psychiatrist Cuba Gooding must discover if he's actually wacko. Then came his first Shakespeare in years, when he took on the lead in Julie Taymor's fantastically bloody Titus, revenging himself upon Goth queen Jessica Lange, her two decadent sons, and her Moorish lover (the fabulous Harry Lennix). Cut throats, insanity, severed heads, hands and tongues, and inadvertent cannibalism - who could ask for more?
After this came Hannibal, and then Stephen King's Hearts In Atlantis, where he played a stranger spending a magical summer befriending the young son of a bitter widow, their idyllic life eventually being destroyed by dark forces wishing to manipulate their shared ability to see into the future. This was followed by Bad Company where he played a CIA operative training up feisty new kid Chris Rock (a streetsmart chancer recruited to replace his own dead twin) and taking on terrorists plotting to attack New York (the film's release was delayed for obvious reasons). Then came Red Dragon. Just before this, Hopkins had filmed The Devil And Daniel Webster, a remake of William Dieterle's 1941 classic directed by his old buddy Alec Baldwin. A retelling of the Faust legend, this would see Baldwin as a writer who sells his soul to Jennifer Love Hewitt's shapely Lucifer in exchange for 10 years of success. Hopkins would appear as the titular Webster, a powerful publisher who must argue Baldwin's case and save him from eternal damnation. Sadly, the movie's financing was suspect, leading to a federal investigation and long delays. When it was finally picked up by another company, it was reworked and re-edited and Baldwin had his directing credit removed. Though the film won a prize at the 2004 Naples Film Festival, there was still no offer of a general release.
Following Red Dragon would be The Human Stain, based on the Philip Roth novel. This saw Hopkins as a well-respected classics professor in New England who resigns in a rage after being accused of racism (his rage being in part due to the fact that throughout his career he has pretended to be a Jew when he's actually black). Now in a limbo of bitterness, he engages in an affair with ill-educated janitor Nicole Kidman, the movie discussing whether divisions in class are harder to cross than racials divides. He'd then move on to Oliver Stone's epic Alexander, as Old Ptolemy providing a busy narration that attempted to cover the myriad points of politics and morality that the film itself could not explain. Famously, despite its cinematic grandeur, the movie would bomb big-time.
Hopkins' own private life was fairly turbulent, too. He'd had a relationship with Joyce Ingalls in the late Nineties, then got engaged to one Francine Kay before his divorce from Jennifer Lynton came through in 2002. By then he'd be attached to 46-year-old Stella Arroyave, an antiques dealer he'd marry in 2003. But he had time for others, too, volunteering at Ruskins School of Acting in Santa Monica, and handing money to worthy causes. Once, one Samuel James Hudson wrote to him, asking for help with his acting tuition fees and Hopkins sent him $2,900. Hudson didn't, in the end, need the money and sent it back, only to receive the cheque back once again with instructions to give it to some other struggling actor. And, though, he became an American citizen in 2000 (the final escape from Margam), he still looked out for Wales, donating '1 million to Snowdonia National Park.
2005 would see him highly active once again. In Proof, he played a dead maths professor amongst whose papers is found a revolutionary theory. His depressed daughter, Gwyneth Paltrow, claims to have written it, though her sister (played by Hope Davis, Hopkins' co-star in Hearts In Atlantis) is skeptical. So we see, in flashback, Paltrow's relationship with Hopkins, as they both try to cope with his final debilitating breakdown. The movie was based on David Auburn 2001 Pultizer Prize-winning play, and was something of a re-run of an earlier production at London's Donmar Warehouse, also directed by John Madden and starring Paltrow (Hopkins' part had been played by Ronald Pickup).
Next came The World's Fastest Indian, which reunited Hopkins with Roger Donaldson who'd directed him in The Bounty, 21 years before. This biopic would see him as Burt Munro, a New Zealander who spent many years customising a 1920s Indian motorbike, then broke the world land speed record on Utah's Bonneville salt flats in the Seventies. He'd move on to another prestigious project with All The King's Men, based on Robert Penn Warren's famous political novel, which won a Pulitzer back in 1947. Here Sean Penn would star as Willie Stark, a southern politico (based on Huey Long) who gradually loses his innocence and integrity as he rises to power. His right-hand man would be Jude Law, whose own integrity is severely tested when Penn asks him to dig the dirt on Hopkins, a good and decent judge believed to be beyond reproach. What Law discovers then kick-starts a series of shock revelations and tragic deaths.
Whether you prefer him as a tight-assed Englishman in period dramas or as one of the maniacs he's played so convincingly, it's hard to disagree with Richard Attenborough's statement that Anthony Hopkins is the greatest actor of his generation. He's often outshone his early hero, Richard Burton and matched his early mentor Olivier. The man's a true original, lending weight to every movie he's in, and still headlining, even now he's into his Sixties. Long may he reign.