SSitting at his home in the Santa Monica Hills, California, Anthony Hopkins likes to look at Google Maps and wander the streets of Margam, the small town in South Wales where he came into the world on New Years Eve 83 years ago. “I start at my grandfather’s house, go up Caernarfon Road and take a walk through Port Talbot, the town next door. This is how I entertain myself ».
From kid, to Anthony Hopkins It amused him to ride on the back deck of the bus to Port Talbot, hoping to see new things. He continues with the same illusion when it comes to life. What matters is living it, moving on with it. We are all going to die one day, ”he says. And he adds: “I’ve had a couple of minor injuries lately from walking too fast. My wife insists that I take it all easier. I try to listen to him.
When he came to America forty years ago, Hopkins was still a young man, restless and impatient, with a certain inferiority complex. He thought he didn’t fit in anywhere. Today he is one of the most admired and prestigious actors in Hollywood.
The years have led him to be aware of the fragility of existence. I’m more aware of mortality. As a consequence, I am no longer so harsh when it comes to judging others. Because we are all fragile; In fact, we’re all half broken inside The world is a madhouse, so there is nothing easier than pointing out others and condemning them for what they do. Too easy. I do my best to keep my beak closed and enjoy life.
And the memory comes to mind of when his own father – a baker by profession – was dying in the hospital. «I remember as if I was watching it. A once strong and bossy man, now on the decline, depressed and terrified of death. He was fussy, irascible, what he wanted was for us to leave him alone … That’s what I’ve come to him for. What my father felt in the end was fear. We do our best to pretend otherwise, but we are all alone, more alone than one. Personal success is all very well, it helps you move on in life, but in the end we are all alone and desperate. What I find as painful as it is significant.
Hopkins has only one daughter – born in 1968, from his first marriage, to Petronella Barker – and there are those who say they get on badly and do not speak to each other. “That subject is taboo,” he grunts immediately. “I’m not going to talk about this.” Later he will tell me that «the past … is past. I regret certain things, of course. Some are hopeless, even if you could go back in time. Which I would not like to do either, really. You have to move on with your life, live it without stopping to look back.
A lonely and insecure child
An only child, Hopkins was a lonely and suspicious child, with trouble making friends. “I got mediocre grades and sports were not good for me. He looked around and thought he was surrounded by Martians. A couple of years ago my wife asked one of my former teachers, a man in his late 90s, ‘How was Tony a student?’ ‘A disaster!’ Was the reply.
His parents didn’t know what to do with him. “I had no confidence in myself, none. He kept telling myself that I was a complete fool ».
His mother made him take drawing and painting classes with a young woman named Bernice Evans. “One day I was drawing a pirate, and the girl’s boyfriend came down the stairs. He glanced at the drawing and commented: ‘The pirate’s boots have come out really cool.’ The boyfriend of yore was none other than Richard Burton, then aspiring to become a professional actor. A few years later, when Burton was already a world star, Hopkins approached his house on Caradog Street to ask for an autograph. “He signed it for me and got behind the wheel of his gray Jaguar. I told myself that when I grew up I wanted to be like him. He is convinced that this meeting was decisive.
“One day my drawing teacher’s boyfriend came and praised what I was painting. It was Richard Burton, still an aspiring actor. That meeting was decisive”
Read each script 250 times, not once
After spending several years performing in provincial halls, he managed to sir Laurence Olivier will hire him to work at the prestigious National Theater. Olivier became his mentor. “I guess he liked me because I was physically strong, as well as cheeky and daring. And because he worked like an animal, eye, “says our man. Hopkins remains a tireless worker. He has the habit of reading each scene of a script 250 times – not one more, not one less – training the mind as an athlete exercises muscles, until the script has not the slightest secret for him. This is how my mind works. I am obsessive. The theater made me discipline myself. I’m not one of those social actors. It was a weirdo. I always went my way. After a rehearsal, I didn’t have time to change my clothes and go to the pub from the corner”.
“Recklessness and anger pushed me forward; they led me to achieve things. I made insane decisions and yet they turned out well.”
Olivier noticed his destructive tendencies. Worried about his drinking excesses, he made her go see a psychologist. A few years ago, Hopkins declared that his old-time alcoholism “actually served me wonderfully, it was kind of a gift in my life. Because, no matter what role I play, I am aware of what it is like to be on the edge of the abyss ». Today he sees things differently, he does not consider his addiction to be a gift from the gods, although he insists that the abyss continues to be a motivating element.
“When I look back, I can’t feel proud because I hurt a lot of people,” he tells me. I was an absolute drunk. I would not like to go back to that time, but the fact is that recklessness and anger pushed me forward. They took me to get things. I made insane decisions that nevertheless turned out well.
“The public had not left and I was already raising the elbow in the bar”
In 1974 he played Dr. Martin Dysart in Equus on a Broadway stage. Hopkins loved the electrifying atmosphere of New York, not to mention the all-night bars. «Incredible places where you could see everything. As the audience was leaving the theater, I was already sitting at the bar leaning my elbow. It all seemed like a lot of fun to me. He admits that working with him was difficult because he was always hungover. And at parties he was quite capable of spreading insults left and right. He does not remember many details, but he is clear that “whoever was by my side undoubtedly had a bad time.”
“Drink is the best thing to forget about problems,” he says. It takes effect immediately. And I had a few personal problems. I was not happy with myself. He felt remorse for the things he did. I was excruciatingly ashamed to be who I was. I found that my success as an actor was totally undeserved. “
May I ask about your daughter? “That subject is taboo. The past is past. Some things are hopeless even if you could go back in time”
Hopkins stopped drinking on December 29, 1975, after waking up in an Arizona hotel room with no idea how he got there. He went to Alcoholics Anonymous and since then has not had a single drop … “and I have not felt the need,” he says. “After asking for help, I realized that I was not the only one in the world. There were a lot of people like me, in the same situation, and the fears that gripped me began to disappear ».
I ask for more details, because very few manage to quit alcohol like this. He tells me no. Look, this subject is dead and buried. I’m not one to gloat about their former depravity, how wonderful they are now. Talking about all that bores me. On December 29, he sent a message to his 750,000 followers on Twitter to celebrate his 45 years of abstinence. The video went viral.
After the success of The silence of the lambs, the 1991 film that earned him the Oscar for his portrayal of Hannibal Lecter, the demons in his mind were losing strength. “As soon as I read the script, I knew what I had to do to make the character lovable and cruel at the same time,” he says. At one point he turns into Lecter again. My pulse races when I see him. When it comes to embodying evil, there is no actor comparable to Hopkins.
“We all pretend. It’s normal: we are human.”
Since then he has won many other accolades and has even been knighted in Great Britain. Do you finally consider yourself a winner? “No way! -answers-. When you start to believe it, you are no longer worth anything. Because nobody is important. It all comes down to doing what you can with the little or a lot of talent that has fallen into your lot, trying to have fun as much as possible, without believing yourself better than others ».
In 2003 he married his third wife, Stella Arroyave, of Colombian origin and now 64 years old. Stella ended up instilling in him the confidence to start painting seriously. In addition to acting and directing, Stella finds time to manage the company that he has half with him: Margam Fine Art. “Stella has an incredible nose for business. I don’t even think about doing half the things she does. “
He does not socialize with other actors. “I like to have a laugh, sure, but I’m not too gregarious. Before I went from party to party, I caught some championship blinds and I didn’t remember anything. Now I am very comfortable with myself. At the end of filming, the producer on duty announces that we are all going out for dinner to celebrate. The usual pain, I tell myself. But hey … I’m going with everyone. Once in the restaurant, I look around and see that the others would also prefer to be somewhere else. We all pretend. It is normal: we are human.
You have already been vaccinated against COVID-19. «In the morning I get up, eat some cereal for breakfast and go to the gym at home for a while. I paint, read, play difficult pieces on the piano, because I am interested in exercising my brain. I play with my cat. What happens out there does not interest me. Did the young Anthony Hopkins ever dream of finding such full satisfaction in life? “No, never, because that comes with the years,” he says smiling.
Think of death, ‘but not in a morbid way. The only thing I aspire to is to be at peace when the time comes. She says that accepting her own insignificance is comforting to her. “The first day I was not drinking, a friend asked how I was feeling. ‘Insubstantial’, I replied. And immediately I understood that we all are, without any doubt. There is not a single person who is important. In this vast multi-universe that we inhabit, we are nobody, we are nothing. That day I had a feeling of absolute liberation.
@ The Sunday Times Magazine
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Anthony Hopkins | I was an absolute drunk. I hurt a lot of people