[20 April 2007]
The Orange County Register (MCT)
Anthony Hopkins’ wife would like him to lie more.
Specifically, she would like him to stop telling the truth when curious people ask him to reveal the secret to his extraordinary acting ability.
She wants him to stop insisting that acting is not that difficult, and to start making up stories about how he creates memorable characters, such as serial killer Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs, for which he won an Oscar, and the brilliant and diabolical wife-murderer Ted Crawford in Fracture, which opens Friday.
“When I tell people that I just learn my lines and that’s all there is to it, my wife thinks that I’m putting down the craft of acting,” the 69-year-old actor explained in his suite at the Four Seasons hotel in Los Angeles.
“But I’m not putting it down. I have nothing but respect for the craft. And I could come up with all sorts of fancy theories about playing these characters but, basically, it’s just a matter of learning the lines. I’m sure that Robert De Niro and all the other Method guys would not approve of that.
“I admire them, but I’m just as Method as those guys. But I believe that the text is all the information you need.”
In Fracture, which he says is the best-written script he’s read since The Silence of the Lambs in 1991, he plays a structural engineer who strongly suspects that his younger wife is having an affair. Rather than encouraging his wife to work out their marital difficulties through counseling, he decides to shoot her in the head.
Ryan Gosling, fresh off his Oscar nomination for Half Nelson, plays an ambitious young assistant district attorney who is faced with the unenviable task of trying to thwart the clever engineer from pulling off the perfect crime.
“When I read the script, I knew I wanted to do it by page 35,” said Hopkins. “It was good, intelligent writing with great description and dialogue. I liked the smell of it. I could tell that the writer knew what he was doing.
“That script was so good,” he added, “that I didn’t need to do any outside research. I’m sure that there are actors who would have spent weeks hanging around engineers, and then learned about guns and ballistics. That would be a nice technical education, but would it advance me as an actor? I don’t think so.”
Hopkins, who has made seven movies in the last two years (including the upcoming “Slipstream,” which he wrote and directed), acknowledged that atmosphere on the set and time spent in rehearsal play an important role in getting him into character.
“Making a movie is a fascinating process, and I have always loved the process,” he said. “The way it works is that I show up at the location in the morning and grab a cup of coffee. I go to hair and makeup, and put on the character’s clothes. I talk to the director and the other actors. The camera crew comes in and marks the set. We go through some rehearsals.
“By the time I get through with all that preparation on the set, and the reading of the script over and over again, I’m into the character. And I have been doing the same preparation for roles my entire career. It works for me. It’s as exciting to me now as it was 30 years ago.”
Anthony Hopkins in Fracture
The Welsh actor, who has held dual citizenship since 2000, has said that he was inspired to get into acting by a chance meeting at 15 with countryman Richard Burton. He later attended a school for the arts and became a protege of Laurence Olivier after graduation. Although he had extensive training and professional experience in theater (including a celebrated role in the Broadway production of Equus), he said he always longed to be on the big screen.
He made a few stops on the small screen long enough to win Emmys for playing kidnapper Bruno Hauptmann in the 1976 TV movie The Lindbergh Kidnapping Case and Adolf Hitler in The Bunker in 1981.
He began his film career on a high note, appearing in the 1968 classic The Lion in Winter. Most longtime fans probably remember his breakthrough role in Magic, the 1978 film in which he played a hapless but eccentric ventriloquist who is controlled by his dummy.
But it was in the 1990s that Hopkins’ career soared, with Oscar-nominated roles in The Remains of the Day, Nixon and Amistad. Earlier, in the same decade, he played “Hannibal the Cannibal” in The Silence of the Lambs. Because of his performance, the character was named by the American Film Institute as the greatest screen villain of all time.
There have been many in Hollywood who did not take full advantage of a big break when it came their way, but Hopkins is not among them.
“I believe that I have made the most of that Oscar,” he said. “I have a wonderful life, and I have worked as much as I wanted or needed to work.
“When you’re approaching 70 (he will turn the big 7-O on Dec. 31), you’re lucky to still be working. It’s always a wonderful surprise whenever people send me scripts to read. And I’m always surprised when people want to work with me.
“I know this is going to sound incredibly silly, but I get thrilled when I get to work with a Brad Pitt, a Jodie Foster or a Ryan Gosling. I feel great pride that not only do these young actors invite me along to work with them, but I am able to hold my own with them.”
Hopkins, who married for the third time in 2003, said he will celebrate his 70th birthday with a party in his hometown in Wales.
“It was my wife’s idea,” he said with a laugh. “It’s a way of bringing things full circle. And I think she also wants to meet all my old girlfriends.”
The actor said he has many fond memories of childhood, but some memories are painful. He suffered from dyslexia, and there were taunts from children, and even some adults, who made the wrong assumption that he was stupid.
“Children can be cruel,” he said, “but so can adults. There was a headmaster at one school who called me “Ox” because he thought I was dumb. He should have known better. And there was another headmaster at a different school who used to beat me for the same reason.
“They won’t be at my party,” he said with a sly smile. “They’re both dead and gone now. And I suppose that that is the lesson of childhood villains. They all get it in the end.”