LOS ANGELES.- Would I have misheard what he was saying to me? Anthony Hopkins? Maybe there was frying in our Zoom call, or maybe Hopkins’s Welsh accent prevented me from understanding what he really meant. But he said it again. Twice. “It was easy,” he told me with a smile. “So easy…”
We were talking about something that didn’t seem easy at all: his acting prowess in The father – for which he won for the second time the Oscar for best actor yesterday, but which he did not receive because he was in Wales – where Hopkins plays a London patriarch suffering from dementia. The character finds himself unmoored from reality, without notion of time and space, and in that sway, Hopkins’s gaze falls between the coldness of steel and the insane gloom, with an elegance that brought him back together with the award. Oscar who had already won for The silence of the inocents. The film also won Best Adapted Screenplay for Florian Zeller and Christopher Hampton.
How then did this titan of the stage and the screen to face a role of such complexity? Hopkins shrugs. “It was an easy role to play,” he insists, “because the script is very good.” And it was even easier when they chose Olivia Colman like his self-sacrificing and abused daughter. “When you look at Olivia and see her face break down and she starts crying, you know you don’t need to act anymore.”
It should be noted that actors do not usually make confessions like that. In general, actors with a chance to win an award report with rehearsed reluctance that they never got out of character despite the hardships and rigorous conditions of the shoot, claiming that they could have died, that in fact they do not know how they did not die. –And they don’t even rule out dying– just for having to remember it.
Hopkins does not need to inflate the complexities of the art of acting: “There is no point trying to suffer to create a character,” he says. After all, a decades-long Oscar winner who gets a well-written script and a co-star who’s a gem, what should he complain about? Also, when an actor tries to make his job so difficult, does anyone win?
Hopkins is sometimes asked to advise younger actors, and he is always willing to grant audiences by video call, to tell them anecdotes and lessons from his career. But when these young men ask him what else they can do to improve their performance, Hopkins invariably answers the same thing: do less, not more. “The issue is getting exposed to the point of dropping all the masks,” says Hopkins. “But it takes time to shed like that, because we all want to hide for a bit.”
He makes a face, like a smile and continues: “I once heard that when Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn were in London, they went to the theater to see Laurence Olivier, who was doing Titus Andronicus. Apparently, for this role Olivier wore a very ornate makeup and a false nose, and according to Hopkins, the couple of North American actors were not convinced at all by that prosthesis. “After the play, Tracy says to Oliver, ‘But Larry, who are you kidding? The public already knows it’s you! ‘. “
By the way, the public of The father you will also know that Hopkins is Hopkins [la película aun no tiene fecha de estreno en nuestro país]. In fact, even the character is named Anthony, and after decades of marveling at this actor’s withering intelligence on screen, his character’s plight is even more poignant. But make no mistake: when Hopkins says it was easy to play such an electrifying role, he is not talking about a effacement of himself, far from it. “I don’t want to be hyper-modest on this point: you have to know how to turn on that electricity, and I’ve been working on this for so long that I already know by heart where the switch is.”
“In acting, the theme is getting exposed to the point of dropping all the masks. But it takes time to shed that way, because we all want to hide for a bit. “
From his home in Pacific Palisades, a posh seaside neighborhood near Los Angeles where he has been quarantined for the past few months. [el premio de la Academia lo encontró en su casa de Gales], Hopkins enjoys the view of the coastline and the cars passing by, all in such a rush to get somewhere. Once, he says, he too was impatient. As a boy, back in the dreary suburb of Port Talbot in Wales, where he grew up, Hopkins did not excel at all. He was bad at school and sports, and his strict working-class father had no hope for his future. “God bless him, but I remember him perfectly saying, ‘You’re a basket case,'” says Hopkins.
A chance encounter with actor Richard Burton – who had also grown up near Port Talbot and had somehow become a Hollywood hero – gave Hopkins a different look at the performance. A great impersonator, Hopkins saw many things about Burton’s career that he immediately wanted to imitate. “He wanted to be famous, he wanted to be rich,” says Hopkins. “I wanted to be successful, to compensate for what I saw as an empty past. And I was all that. “
But not everything came at the same time. After passing through the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, in Cardiff, and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, in London, in 1967 Hopkins was invited by Laurence Olivier to join the National Theater, where he was Olivier’s replacement in a successful production of Macabre dance, Strindberg’s work. As Olivier recounts in his memoirs, when he had appendicitis, “Hopkins was offered to follow, and he left with the role of Edgar between his teeth like a cat with its prey.” But it did not reach him. “I never told anyone what my ambition was, but what I wanted was to come to California and act in movies,” says Hopkins.
Today, at 83 years old and with a formidable career, Hopkins still likes to tease himself: “the ego is a snake,” he told me twice. “Vanity is another of those things that you have to get rid of if you want to serve something as an actor, or even as a person.”
At home with his wife Stella, Hopkins enjoys things that have nothing to do with acting, whether it’s reading Dickens on his iPad, practicing Brahms on the piano, or letting the cat climb into his lap while he has lunch. “I am at peace, I had a long life.”
Every so often, Stella captures a Zen moment with her camera and uploads it to social media. A recent picture of Hopkins in the backyard, half smiling and with the sunshine in his blue eyes, was tagged like this: “Stay in the present. One day at a time.” The tweet received more than 134,000 likes. “It seems like I’m very popular on Twitter,” he says with a wink. “I know I’m old,” he says. “I take care of myself, I am strong and in shape, but there is no guarantee of anything. If not, look at Sean Connery. “
The tragic look of The father Did it lead you to reflect on your own life, or to think about how disturbing the confusion of the present with the past can be? A bit. When Hopkins saw the film again, a few weeks ago, the only thing he recognized in his performance was his own father, the tough old baker who died in 1981. In fact, while shooting a particularly emotional scene, towards the end of the film Hopkins began to sob. He asked director Florian Zeller to give him a moment to collect himself before retrying the shot – he knew he had over-performed the scene, but he couldn’t contain himself. By chance, her gaze had landed on a simple prop, a pair of reading glasses, which reminded her of her father’s. “And if I think about it again, it makes my throat lump again,” says Hopkins.
When his father died, Hopkins found a pair of glasses in his bedroom along with a road map of the United States. He did not get to enjoy that trip. “You work so hard, you try so hard, and in the end, voila! I remember standing by his bed and thinking: One of these days it will be me. ” But with a bit of luck, that day is not near. Hopkins fervently believes in forward momentum, and only looks to the tragedies of the past to learn and use in the future.
And what does that future hold for him? I asked him when we said goodbye. What else do you aspire to achieve now? Smile. Only one thing. A little thing, actually. “I aspire to continue 20 more years.”
(Translation by Jaime Arrambide)
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2021 Oscar Awards: Anthony Hopkins dictates acting chair: “You have to do less, not more”