A look back at the life of Oscar-winning actor Sir Anthony Hopkins, featuring interviews conducted with the BBC over the course of his career.
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Anthony Hopkins was born in the Welsh town of Port Talbot,
just like the man who inspired him to become an actor, Richard Burton.
He struggled at school,
but in his twenties was understudying Laurence Olivier
at the National Theatre
and in his thirties was a major television star,
thanks to a BBC adaptation of War And Peace.
Hopkins would be called the best stage actor of his generation,
but fell increasingly in love with film
and out of love with the theatre,
famously walking out of a 1973 production of Macbeth
midway through its run.
You got big roles at the National, Coriolanus,
and then the big walk-out from Macbeth.
My bad years.
Why were they bad years?
I was a bad boy. I was trouble, I was a rebel.
I was discontented, I was angry and fed up.
And hated being part of an establishment
and hated doing Shakespeare.
It was all my own making, I was the enemy within, you know.
It was all my own making, nobody else's fault.
Everyone did their best to, you know, cater to my needs.
Were you drinking at that time?
Oh, yes. But all actors drink.
That was just an episode in my life that's over and done with,
and that's a boring episode.
I don't think it helped.
But I was restless, I wanted to get out and I was frightened.
I was afraid I was taking on this monumental part
and I never pretended that I had the courage to do these
great parts like Macbeth and King Lear.
I never said I could do them.
I never thought I'd have the courage to do them.
It takes a lot of courage to do them, I didn't have that.
I didn't have the sustaining power.
I didn't have the discipline to learn verse
and I just couldn't get it.
And it got from bad to worse.
I think I reached a crisis of nerves,
I lost my nerve and I just one day walked out,
because I couldn't...
The screaming voice of John Dexter.
One day, I thought, that's it, I'm off.
And I got on the bus and left and I never looked back.
I'm not proud of any of that, but I'm glad I did it.
I made my amends, I wrote back to Olivier and said,
"I'm sorry I did that, but I had to go".
And no regrets, no shame about that, it's over and done with.
But I had to do it, otherwise I would have gone mad.
Anthony Hopkins didn't just leave Macbeth, he left Britain
and spent years living in America,
carving out a career as a movie star.
How did you get into films rather than the theatre?
-Your first film, of course, was The Lion In Winter, wasn't it?
Well, I make the starting admission...
I came to a startling conclusion a few months back,
that I really always wanted to do films and...
I'd spent so much time doing what I thought other people
expected me to do, and we tend to do that a lot of the time,
and I made up my mind a few weeks ago, a few months ago,
that I really enjoy films.
I have a marvellous time, I love filming and I love television
and I like the theatre, but...
And I'm sure I will go back to the theatre, but... I don't know.
I hate it when it goes wrong, and you just have to go on stage,
night after night after night when it's wrong,
when it's been badly conceived.
And I've had a couple of negative experiences
that way in recent years.
I'm pretty firm, the way I work now,
and I have a talk with the director before we start,
asking him how he works.
And I will tell him how I work, and I expect him
to do his homework, as I'm expected to do mine.
Before, I used to politely stand there and take it, take nonsense.
And now I don't do it, because it's my job,
and if I'm not satisfied, I walk away.
And I will always walk away if I'm not satisfied, because I don't
see why should put myself through the mill
for the sake of incompetence.
And I don't.
It's probably very offensive to some people,
and they probably don't like it.
I had an experience recently, in the last two-and-a-half years,
I won't mention names or the play, But it was a nightmare.
A director who hadn't prepared a thing
and it was a big, big play with two weeks' rehearsal.
I don't want to go over old ground, but I made the mistake
of being politely accepting of this man's incompetence
until it was too late, and then I blew up.
It was an enormous explosion.
Now I've learned from that lesson, hopefully not to put up with it
and to be honest, because it's only dishonesty that allows
one to put up with nonsense and incompetence.
So maybe I sound terribly pompous, but now I say,
"No, I won't put up with it. I'm not going to do that".
When you left Britain after your years in the National Theatre,
did people accuse you of deserting British theatre,
-of selling out to money and stardom?
Yes. I suppose I have sold out.
I did whatever it means. No...
I suppose I'm going through a kind of period of change, myself.
I don't know.
I find it more important for me to enjoy my life,
to get on with my life, my living...
Aside from work,
I found that nose-to-the-grindstone attitude in the theatre
all the time, taking everything so seriously was making me, in a way...
I don't know.
I suppose uptight and neurotic and...
And I left the theatre and went off to Israel
and I did a film, QB VII, and then I went off to America
and I feel more at ease, I feel more confident in myself,
I just feel happier.
Happier than I've ever been.
Because there's no panic.
If I do Othello, I hope I do it well, of course...
But I haven't the great need to play Shakespeare,
I haven't the great need to do the classics,
I have no great need or urgency to do Ibsen or play Sophocles.
You know, if I play it, I play it,
and if I don't, I don't. It's a very good opportunity,
for me to play Othello...
I feel free. And I didn't in the theatre, I just didn't.
So I suppose I've sold out. I just didn't feel free.
I felt hemmed in and cooped up.
Maybe I don't have the nature or the discipline.
I got bored very quickly.
To fight that propensity for boredom,
Hopkins has taken on roles that are intense and challenging.
One such example was a schizophrenic ventriloquist
in Richard Attenborough's 1978 film, Magic.
-Why do you think I blew the whistle?
Er, because I was leaving, because you were jealous.
Wrong, Smucko! I did it because I could. See?
Why didn't you stop me?
Answer? You didn't because you couldn't!
Look at him, he still doesn't understand!
Better sit down, kid, while I hit you with an explanation!
Ever since we got together, I laid low. It was best for the act.
I let you share the limelight.
If there's one thing about me, I'm big!
But then the day when I begged you, pleaded not to be left behind,
well, that tore it.
If I'm boring you, please walk around. I don't care.
Don't start in on me, please! Don't!
Listen, I took a failure, worked a charm,
I took a dig at Nixon, I made us skyrocket!
It's not going to be you and her, it's going to stay you and me,
except from now on, even that's changed, it's ME and YOU!
-You've got a weak stomach!
-You look tired!
-Then what are you yawning for?
-I'm not yawning!
-Gotta wake you up! Crawl around! That should help.
Heh, yeah! Pick those up.
-Say, "Thank you, Fats!"
-Thank you, Fats!
That's a very, very chilling film, as I said.
In fact, what's remarkable about it is you did your own "vent" work
-in that, didn't you?
Who taught you?
A man called Dennis Allwood, in America.
And a man called Michael Bailey taught me the magic tricks.
I only learned a few, but he taught me the basics.
What about the "vent" though, first of all.
How difficult is it to throw your voice like that,
Without moving your lips, as they say?
Well, I found it fairly easy, mainly because I'm an actor, you know,
you have to keep your voice flexible, and I was willing to learn
and I decided that the only way I could do it was to enjoy it.
And I've been a mimic as well,
so I found it fairly easy and had a good teacher.
-Maybe I was a good student.
-Can you still do it?
-Um... Yes, I can.
-IN VENTRILOQUIST'S VOICE:
-Hi, Michael, how you doing? Good to see you.
-Hi, gang. You OK?
-What are the words you can't say?
Bottle of beer, that's the classic one.
-"Gottle o' geer, gottle o' geer".
-It's the "P", "F" and "B" sounds, all those plosive sounds.
You have to use the lips, so you translate them into...
-"F" sound is...
-So instead of saying fantastic you say "Thantastic!"
What about the tricks? The little magic tricks that you had to learn?
Because the guy in fact did a magic act
-as well as the vent act in the movie?
Well, Michael Bailey taught me the bits of magic,
because I couldn't handle cards, so he taught me one-hand shuffles
and cuts and also the fanning and a coin trick,
which is basically... This is a classic which is called
The French Drop and it's... So you see.
And there it is.
I enjoyed learning them. I play the piano so I'm able to...
-Oh, I can still do it.
Now, you had to learn... APPLAUSE
You mentioned that it was all made easier for you,
-because you have this gift of mimicry?
-Now, have you always have this?
-Ever since I was a little kid, yes.
-You used to take off schoolteachers?
It was my only weapon, really,
because I was not too sharp at school, I didn't like authority,
so I always had a go at them, through mimicry.
And later, when I became an actor, I always had a go at directors,
so I used to be a very good mimic, of some directors
-I wasn't too happy with.
-Did you use it as a weapon?
-I used to. But I use it out of the affection now.
It has been said of you
that you're one of the best mimics in the business.
-You specialise in doing the act at nights, don't you?
Are you going to... I love mimics.
-Let's start with... Well, everybody does Gielgud, don't they?
-To be, or not to be, that is the question.
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings
and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms above a sea
of troubles and by opposing, end them,
to die, to sleep no more.
-Olivier, doing the same one? AS OLIVIER:
-To be, or not to be,
that is the question.
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings
and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms
against a sea of troubles and by opposing, end them.
To die, to sleep no more, and by a sleep to say we end the heartache
and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.
Can you do one of my favourites, Sir Ralph.
To be, or not to be,
that is the question.
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows
of outrageous fortune, or to take arms
against a sea of troubles and by opposing, end them.
LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE That's brilliant.
One you proffered before we came on,
that was one I'd not heard, James Mason.
To be or not to be, that is the question...
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows
of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles...
I have a lot of fun doing that.
-Can you pick up like a tape recorder, Tony?
You find you can play back most people?
-Yeah... What, do you mean do I have do I have to listen or study?
No, they come by accident.
Or sometimes listening to somebody else who may sound like them.
I remember Michael York, who sounds a little bit like James Mason,
I got it by listening to Michael and I got the James Mason through him,
or the Alec Guinness... Actually, I was reading a preface in a book
Alec Guinness had written, and suddenly, his voice came to me.
And suddenly it all sounded rather... like that, you know,
and "Tinker, tailor, soldier, spy".
No, so I got the Alec Guinness as well.
-I didn't know how I got them.
-I use them as fun, I use them out of affection.
You're over here now, you're making a film
which we won't see for a year or so called The Elephant Man,
which is a rather strange story.
Would you tell us about it?
Yes, so, a very touching story about a man called John Merrick who was
so seriously deformed, I don't know the nature of his disease was,
but he had a very large head and one side of his body, totally deformed.
And he was a sideshow freak and he was cruelly beaten
and treated very badly.
He was born like this, and the part I play is Dr Frederic Treves.
And Treves found him the circus, in the sideshow,
and took him back to a London hospital and kept in there
and he met tremendous opposition
from the Board of Governors of the hospital.
But John Merrick could speak and he could read and he could write
and he became a centrepiece for society in London -
this is about the 1880s -
and Princess Alexandra visited him and Queen Victoria sent a telegram
to Treves, congratulating him on his humanitarianism.
And Merrick died, I think, in his twenties, he suffocated.
He couldn't sleep on his back, because of the weight of the head,
so he used to sleep sitting up.
It really is a tremendous script, one of the best ones.
It's a very touching story.
One of Hopkins's biggest films after The Elephant Man involved
another intense character.
Captain Bligh in The Bounty,
Hollywood's 1984 version of the famous naval mutiny story.
-Put those bloody fires out!
-I want my opinion in the log...
Have that lashed down, I want all men on deck, now!
-I want my opinion in the log!
-Very well, Mr Fryer.
If that's what you wish, you shall have it.
The ship can't stand it!
This script is a more accurate version,
more historically accurate than the other two films.
We're not trying to steal a march on the other two films,
but it is more historically accurate.
Bligh wasn't the sadistic monster
that Charles Laughton brilliantly created.
He was a great seaman, a great navigator.
He was Cook's navigator on the Pacific voyages.
Bad-tempered, no sense of humour.
But a just man, not an unjust man at all.
-KNOCKING ON DOOR
Can I have a word with you?
I'm busy, is it important?
I think, yes.
William, about your decision to go round the Horn.
Not "Sir"? Not "Captain"?
I don't think the men will have it.
Oh, the men won't have it? Are they in charge of The Bounty?
-They might be, if you insist.
-Again, would you repeat that, please?
The men "might be in charge". What are you threatening me with?
It's not a threat, it's a warning.
-Oh, there are rumblings, are there?
There is fear.
Around the Horn is the easiest way, the better way
and that is how we will go. Anything more?
Don't put Adams under the lash.
He was insubordinate.
Cowardly and insubordinate!
He frightened the men.
I do not put that fear there, he did.
So he will be lashed and we will go round the Horn.
Are you frightened to go round the Horn, Mr Christian?
Are you a coward too, sir?
Start the rain, we're getting them wet.
We're shooting the storm scene, where The Bounty's attempting
to go round the Horn.
So we've got the boat on rockers, the interior's on rockers.
We were all beginning to feel seasick, really,
because they do rock and one of the actors was seasick last week.
And we've got about 50 tonnes of water,
I don't know if we're going to use the lot today.
So we've all got wet suits on under our costumes.
Captain Bligh may have been a monster in the eyes of some,
but that was nothing compared to the character that, in 1991,
would transform Anthony Hopkins's career for ever.
That was of course, Dr Hannibal Lecter in The Silence Of The Lambs.
The part turned Hopkins from a star into a superstar.
His mesmerising performance won him that year's Oscar
for the Best Leading Actor,
and the very next day, he made this appearance on the Wogan show.
Welcome, live from the St James's Club, LA,
cuddly cannibal, Anthony Hopkins!
APPLAUSE AND CHEERING
Now, Anthony. Welcome and congratulations!
Thank you, Terry.
Now, I haven't seen the movie, but were you good?
I was OK... What d'you mean you haven't seen it?
-You haven't seen...
-I read the book! I read the book. Were you good in that?
I was good in the book. Not so good in the film,
in the book I was terrific.
How do you feel this morning?
Well, er, still baffled.
Still... I'm coming down off cloud nine a bit, now.
I'm just feeling... I still can't believe it, that I got this thing.
It's a wonderful honour.
I'm looking forward to coming home, back to England,
I was so astounded at the Oscars ceremony when they called my name.
I thought they were going to call Nick Nolte, you know.
So it was a heady experience, it was like a dream.
I knew I was going to wake up any minute,
and I didn't know what to say to anyone.
I didn't know who to thank, and it all went out of my head.
Have you spoken to your mum yet?
Yeah, I phoned her.
I phoned her from the Academy, from the press room.
And she was staying with some friends of ours,
Eve and Jean Williams and Jill and Tony,
and I phoned her and I think they were all sipping the champagne
and getting really, truly plastered, I believe.
I think they were all over the moon.
I was just... I didn't know what I was doing.
I was just out in left field, I didn't know what I was doing.
I was just so stunned by it all.
I really didn't expect it.
Although during in the ceremony when Billy Crystal
was making those kind of comments
and coming on with a mask, dressed as Hannibal Lecter,
I wondered if I had a better chance and I still said,
"No, they'll give it to Nick Nolte",
who is a wonderful actor, but I'm glad they gave it to me anyway.
What's that you've got on the table in front of you?
This is... What, the orange juice or the coffee? That's the Oscar.
That's the Oscar.
Be careful of it, because I understand they are cheaply made
and it'll chip if you let it drop.
Yes, it bends, you know.
No, it's a great piece of work, actually.
It's very heavy.
It hasn't been a bad year for you.
I mean, you got the BAFTA awards the other weekend
and now you've got this.
I didn't expect that, either.
I think the reason you didn't expect it, presumably,
was, in all modesty,
is because you're the third Briton in succession
to actually win the Oscar for Best Actor.
Daniel Day Lewis and then, last year, Jeremy Irons and now you.
I mean, that's the unexpected element, isn't it?
Well, it just goes to show so much for...
You know, the tremendous generosity of America.
They are the most generous people one could imagine.
You know, they don't seem to...hold their punches.
When they want you to have something, they'll give it to you.
I think...it's fantastic.
They know no bounds with generosity.
I was... Of course I expected it, maybe, just slightly political thing
that they would give it to an American.
But when they gave it to me, I was so...
and that shows how generous the Americans are.
They're an amazing people.
They were encouraging me right the way through saying,
"You're going to get it, you're going to get it." I said, "Don't tell me that!"
They said, "You're going to get it, we want you to get it."
I mean, they are amazing people.
It's a great privilege being here.
It's all the more remarkable in view of the fact that
the film was released in America before last year's Oscars ceremony,
so one would have thought that no matter how good it was
they would have forgotten about it.
Yes, well, I guess that goes with the nature of the book -
because it's a brilliantly written book -
and Ted Tally's amazing screenplay.
And then you get a combination like Jonathan Demme as a director
and you put a couple of people like you know...
The actors, sort of, showed up and did their bit, you know.
But when you get a good script like Ted Tally's script, screenplay,
based on a sensational book,
you know that you have a good chance of it being a good success.
It doesn't always work, but...
I sensed that it was going to be a big box office hit
because the book was such a top bestseller.
So we had a good combination going in.
But, you know, you can always make mistakes.
But I'm glad it proved to be a very successful film.
And I'm glad to be sitting here with...Mr Oscar.
And I never imagined I'd have one of these.
Can you explain how the character of Hannibal Lecter...
..such a character manages to hold
such a sway in the public's imagination?
And even the Academy voter's imagination
or memory over such a long period?
Yeah... Well, I don't know,
I don't have any psychological theories about it,
but I think what it is
is the old Beauty and the Beast syndrome
or the old Beauty and the Beast theme.
I mean, there is a man who has a potential for love,
strangely enough, in his own dark way, in his own...
And yet he's a man who's trapped in a monstrous brain,
like Quasimodo was trapped in a deformed and tragic body.
And I think that Hannibal Lecter's trapped in this
distorted and extraordinary mind
and will never be able to get out of it.
But he has a human capacity for understanding,
a tremendous capacity for understanding,
and he understands Clarice Starling, Jodie Foster.
And when she confronts him,
I think he admires her, I think he loves her in a way
and he would never harm her if he ever got out.
But you can't let this man out
because he's a lethal killing machine.
I guess that's something that maybe an audience recognises
or in the book that made him so popular
because there is that potential there, hidden deep down.
And, I guess, I suppose...audiences or readers respond
deep in themselves in a way.
I don't want to make it sound heavy going,
but I think that's what it is. As you asked me, that's my theory.
Well, one of the reasons that I'm interviewing you, so far away,
is because, quite frankly, after that movie,
I'm fairly apprehensive of you.
And I imagine that most people
wouldn't really want to sit beside your at dinner, would they?
No, they all get up and leave
when I go into a restaurant. People just get up and leave.
No... People don't respond in any different way.
I tell them I'm a vegetarian.
TERRY CHUCKLES, AUDIENCE LAUGHS
What about a sequel? Is there a sequel planned to this?
Surely there must be.
Well, Thomas Harris is writing the book now, I believe,
or so they tell me
and Jonathan Demme is waiting with bated breath for the screenplay
and the book to come out.
And Jodie Foster said to me, "We've got to do the second one."
So...I hope we do.
I don't know where it's going to take place
or what shape the story's going to be,
but it would be interesting to do it again,
I hope in the not too distant future. And then I think that's it.
I don't want to go on playing men like this,
but it was the highlight of my acting life, I suppose,
to get a part like that.
When I read it I thought, this is a sensational part of a lifetime.
And I'd like to have one more crack at him, you know.
Well, look, I'm sure it will be a few days more
before the full realisation sets in.
Do enjoy the enormous success.
I'm sure every producer in Hollywood has beaten a path to your door.
We wish you continued success
and, of course, the congratulations of everybody here to Anthony Hopkins.
Thank you, Terry.
-CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
-Thank you very much.
That Oscar win did trigger an incredible run
of award-winning films that further confirmed Hopkins' reputation
as one of our greatest screen actors.
Here he is discussing one such role with Jonathan Ross.
But there were a few things you do in Howards End
which struck me as being not only brilliant and very moving,
but, also, I can't imagine they were in the script.
-In particular, the character you play, Mr Wilcox...
There are two events in the movie
when he is talking about something shameful in his past.
And both times he does not wish to be looked upon,
he doesn't want to make eye contact with his wife,
he kind of hides his face away.
-Do you remember those moments?
-Oh, I did that.
Look at me.
You were that woman's lover?
-Since you put it with your usual delicacy, yes, I was.
-Ten years ago.
I'm sorry, ten years ago.
I don't know. Maybe I'd seen it in a movie somewhere.
I think Charles Laughton did it in Hunchback Of Notre Dame,
or something, hid his face.
It may have been... I think it was that.
Maybe I stole it. It was a good piece to steal!
He says, "How ugly I am," and he puts his...
-I think I stole that.
-It's a wonderful moment
and it really, kind of, breaks through, as well, because...
Oh, and then he breaks down, doesn't he at the end?
He couldn't bear to be seen crying, yes, showing of emotion.
I think that's why I have a lot in common with these characters.
I don't like bearing emotion much.
Maybe it's a British thing, maybe it's a male thing,
but I don't like it, I don't like displays of tears and...
Urgh, you know.
I can imagine you must feel quite uncomfortable on Oscar night, then.
Oh, God, I... I can barely watch them. I can't watch them.
Howards End and how he got into his part
also came up in this Barry Norman interview from 1993,
a year that saw the release of two of Hopkins' best-loved films -
The Remains Of The Day and Shadowlands.
Let's have a look at another film...
one of your more recent ones, Howards End.
How did you get a handle on the character you played in that?
-It was the moustache did it.
So I went to the make-up room
and they said, "Would you wear a moustache?"
I said, "Well, I haven't grown one, no."
She said, "Well, I've got one for you."
I said, "OK, well, let's put it on."
I put it on and I said, "There's the man."
And it made me feel like my grandfather,
my father's father, who was a very strict Victorian.
And I looked in the mirror and I thought, "That's him."
And it did something my eyes, it did something to my face.
It gave it a sort of edge and it made my eyes stand out.
I thought, "This man is a ruthless man and he's a tough man,"
and I could see him in the dark suit.
So I didn't have to do much work on top of that.
-Well, have a look and see if it works now.
I don't think you quite understand.
Oh, yes, indeed, yes.
I'm asking you to be my wife.
Yes, I know.
Are you offended?
How could I be?
-Well, perhaps I should have written first? I...
Rather you will receive a letter from me.
-Not at all.
And it's you I thank.
Should I order the motor round now?
That would be most kind.
-That's a nice scene, that, isn't it?
-Nice scene, yes.
I enjoyed that.
Is it true that before you actually go on the set
for the first day's filming,
you will probably have read the script up to 150 times?
-You must know everybody's part, then, not just yours?
Ah, yes... More or less.
What I do is I take the scenes and I go over them and over them.
I sometimes go over them 200 times.
Sounds obsessive, but it is a bit obsessive.
And I go over...a scene, loud.
Once I know it, it's like putting a cake in the oven
and letting it bake.
And I hope that in that process,
that I'll be physically relaxed enough
so that when they say, "Action," or
"Let's go to rehearse," or whatever...
..the part will flow through me in some way.
What about this "understated sexuality" of yours
that I keep reading about?
-Do you notice it? Does your wife notice it?
Every time I read a profile of you,
it talks about Hopkins' "understated sexuality".
-I'm deeply envious of it.
-Where does it come from?
-I've never heard of it. I mean, I don't know.
I get... I laugh
because I think I'm a bandy-legged balding Welshman, you know.
I don't feel at all sexy.
I'm told that...some of the ladies like me.
-I don't know what to say - I blush a bit.
-You would do, wouldn't you?
My wife says, "If they could only see you first thing in the morning!"
But, no, I don't know, you know, I mustn't take myself too seriously.
-It's very pleasant.
But I... Is that what they say?
-That's what they say, yes.
-Yeah, there you go.
The new film, the one we're about to see soon,
The Remains Of The Day, which I think is, in many ways,
the best role you've had because you dominate that film,
you're in practically every scene.
I mean, it's really a film about wasted lives, in a way, isn't it?
It is about all our lives, really, isn't it?
About every human being, you know.
How we hold ourselves back from the real abundance of life.
We've got a clip of that too, we can refresh your memory.
It's so recent, I'm sure it doesn't need refreshing but there we go.
Oh, God! Stevens.
I'm most sorry, sir.
But I do have something to convey to you rather urgently, sir.
If I may be permitted, I'll come straight to the point.
Perhaps you will have noticed this morning, sir,
the ducks and the geese by the pond?
Ducks and geese? No, I don't think so, Stevens.
Well, perhaps the birds and the flowers, then,
or the, um, the shrubs and the bees.
-No, I've not seen any bees.
Well, this is in fact not the best time of the year
-to see them in their full glory, sir.
-What, the bees?
No, sir. What I'm trying to say, sir, with the arrival of spring
we shall see a most remarkable and profound change
in all these surroundings, sir.
Yeah, I'm sure that's right. The grounds are not at their best now.
-I have to say I wasn't really paying much attention
to the old glories of nature because it's all rather worrying,
you know, um, Dupont D'Ivry has arrived
in the foulest mood imaginable,
which is the last thing anyone wants.
Monsieur Dupont D'Ivry has arrived, sir?
Yeah, half an hour ago, in a really foul mood.
In that case, please excuse me. I better go attend to him, sir.
That's my favourite scene, actually, from the film
because it's the scene where you, Stevens,
have been instructed by your employer to teach the facts of life
-to his godson who's about to be married.
There's marvellous cross purposes, beautifully played.
-Of course, Emma Thompson's in it again.
Are you going to make a habit
of playing romantic films with Emma Thompson?
-You'll be like the Lunts...
-Or Bogart and Bacall?
Or Bogart and Bacall, yes.
I have a feeling that you might reach another milestone
with another Oscar nomination for The Remains Of The Day.
-You think so?
I'll have to divorce it out of my...
I don't know. It would be very nice. I dare not think about it.
I dare not think about it.
-You've also got Shadowlands coming up soon.
So they're keeping you very busy or you are keeping yourself busy.
I'm keeping myself busy.
It keeps me off the streets, keeps me out of trouble,
keeps me out of the bars!
Long may all this prevail.
The Remains Of The Day did result in another Oscar nomination,
which, as with all the plaudits he was receiving,
Hopkins found hugely satisfying.
Did you want to be a great success?
-You are a great success.
How has that changed you?
It hasn't changed me at all.
I've got more confidence in myself.
Yeah, when I started out I just wanted to be famous,
I didn't want to become a great actor.
I didn't want to become a great Shakespearean actor.
People say you're the next Olivier.
I didn't want to become the next Laurence Olivier.
and stand in wrinkled tights at The Old Vic for the rest of my life.
I had ideas beyond that.
Some people would call it arrogant and ambitious, I'm all those things.
Um...I'm very ambitious, um...
It hasn't changed me except I've faced up...
..to the honesty and saying this is what I always wanted.
I remembered once I was working with Emma Thompson
and we did The Remains Of The Day, I think it was,
or maybe Howards End.
She read an interview and I'd said,
"All I ever wanted to be was rich and famous."
I think the interviewer that day, I was being rather, you know,
bad boy and I said, "No, I didn't want to become a classical actor,
"I wanted to become rich and famous."
Emma said to me when she read this, she said, "Oh, that's not true."
I said, "Darling, yes, it was absolutely true."
She said, "But I can't believe that about you.
"Aren't you interested in the art?"
I said, "No, not at all.
"I want to get on fast planes..."
As Muggeridge once said,
you go up and down the world like the devil and one day
you have to come home. Maybe one day I will come home
but, for the moment, I'm just enjoying the movement of my life.
But though he was enjoying himself, Hopkins was also, as ever,
looking to avoid complacency and find his next creative challenge.
If you're talking about The Remains Of The Day,
it was a simple, straightforward part for me to play because I...
I'm good at that containment now. I've mastered, I suppose.
I'm very experienced at it, I've been doing it for a number of years
and I've learnt a few tricks here and there.
I know how to contain a performance and, er,
like Shadowlands, or what, you know.
What is it, um...
Are those techniques that work better on film than on the stage?
I think they work...I think they can work on stage.
On film you have an ideal opportunity to, er...
..do less and create more in fact by doing less.
It's fairly straightforward.
It is a very straightforward process. I really do...
I say that I work very hard.
I do love study, I do love research.
I do a lot of reading and learning of the text,
or the lines, or whatever you want to call it.
But once I'm ready, I feel very relaxed
and I enjoy it and I'm detached, in a way, especially on film
because you have...
And I'm in control and I enjoy the control.
I enjoy being master of the technique,
I enjoy being master of the performance.
Um...but I keep it very light.
But now I'm reaching a stage where I want to give up that...
a quiet, passionless person.
I now want to break out and do something big
and boisterous and dangerous again.
Because I know that's all still in me,
cooking around and it's time to move on.
That's what I want to do.
Hopkins found his big, boisterous character
in the next Oscar-nominated performance
in the title role in Oliver Stone's 1996 film Nixon.
First, the most obvious question is why did Oliver Stone
choose you to play Nixon?
In a sense, it's a bit like getting Paul Newman to play Harold Macmillan.
Maybe a good choice, but not an obvious one. Why?
I've asked myself that question a lot since.
He'd seen The Remains Of The Day
and Shadowlands and some of my work.
He'd read a few interviews...
..er, of mine.
Those rather boring interviews where
they talk about my drinking years and my pain and all that.
I think he thought I'd been through the mill a bit
and he thought the work in The Remains Of The Day was, um,
really good, playing repressed men which I've been associated with.
For some reason, I don't know why he didn't think
about the British accent and the lack of Americanism in me
because I'm a British actor.
He said something about being Welsh.
I don't know how much Oliver knows about Welsh people,
but he said there was something dark about me
and being the outsider.
Whatever the combination was, he wanted to cast me
and I played... I didn't play hard to get
but I did question him. I said, "You are aware I'm not an American
"and it's no easy task to get into an American rhythm of speech."
Nevertheless, he said, "Well I think you can do it
"and I want you to do it.
"It's up to you, but the part's yours if you want it."
He said, "I'll give you some time to think about it."
I thought, well, here's a chance to work with a really great,
great director, a really great director of today's modern cinema.
I'd be a fool to turn it down
and I'd regret it for the rest of my life if I didn't.
I may fall flat on my face.
I've done the film, I may still yet fall flat on my face,
but I needed that challenge because I'd become a little complacent,
very complacent, in fact.
I was playing parts that were easy for me,
like The Remains Of The Day, Shadowlands -
they were dead easy parts.
Is it true, as I've heard that the clincher was that Stone said to you
if you don't play it, I'm going to offer it to Gary Oldman?
-Yes, it was.
Oliver's a sort of demon, really.
He said, "You've got a choice.
"You can go off and make those boring films that you usually make
"which nobody goes to see," meaning some Czechoslovak film,
which I've done one or two of those.
And he said, "Yeah," because I was still undecided.
He said, "Do you think Gary Oldman will be good?"
I said, "I'll do it!"
How can a...
How can a country, come apart like this?
What have I done wrong?
I opened China.
I made peace with Russia.
I ended a war.
I did what I thought was right.
God, why do they hate me so?
It's unbelievable, it's insane...
Please forgive me.
WEEPS AND MUMBLES INCOHERENTLY
You were quoted a couple of years ago saying that it wouldn't bother you
if you never acted again. Did you actually say that?
-I think I was going through one of my phases.
-I go through phases...
-The lonely melancholy phases?
I think people say... I think actors say that to get a bit of sympathy.
"Oh, you can't! Think what we're losing!"
I think somebody might have said to me, "Well, why not? OK, fine."
I wouldn't have liked that.
I love the cinema because it's, er, I love it.
I love the whole feeling of it, getting up in the morning,
going to the dressing room, make-up on.
I love the routine, I love the excitement of it.
I love the circus atmosphere.
Hitting the road. At the end of wrap party saying,
"Bye, see you, adios amigos"
and get in the car and back into the night and onto my next set.
It's like life, it's like a life and a death
and there's something very impersonal about it.
I think there's something so exciting about that,
there's something about life in that, life and death,
you know, the long goodbyes and it's over and done with.
Since 1993, Hopkins has been Sir Anthony, deservedly joining
the ranks of the acting knights he'd been mimicking for so many years!
And his passion for cinema continues to this day.
Whether in crowd pleasing blockbusters,
or intimate labours of love,
Hopkins still has an appetite for a challenge that's as impressive
as that of his most famous creation,
A look back at the life of the Oscar-winning actor Sir Anthony Hopkins. In interviews conducted with the BBC over the course of his career we see him discuss his approach to acting, his hell-raising years and the famous films and roles that helped make him a star including Remains of the Day, Shadowlands, Nixon and, of course, The Silence of the Lambs, in which he first portrayed his most celebrated character, Dr Hannibal Lecter.