Anthony Hopkins:’ Most of this is nonsense, most of this is a lie’

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Alcoholism and desire fuelled the actors rise to the top. He talks masculinity, fame and why hes finally ready to play Lear

For anyone who appears toward their later years with fear, Sir Anthony Hopkins (” Tony, please “) is a proper tonic. He is 79, and happier than he has ever been. This is due to a mixture of things: his relationship with his wife of 15 times, Stella, who has encouraged him to keep fit, and to branch out into depict and classical arrangement; the calming of his inner fire, of which more later; and his work.

Hopkins passions to work. Much of his self-esteem and vigour comes from acting-” Oh, yes, effort has obstructed me disappearing. Work has given me my energy”- and he is in no way contemplating slowing down. You can feel a quicksilver force about him, a restlessness. Every so often, I think he’s going to stop the interrogation and take flight, but actually he’s enjoying himself and prevents saying,” Ask me more! This is great !”

We meet in Rome, where he is making a Netflix film about the relationship between the last pope( Benedict) and the present one( Francis ). Hopkins is playing Benedict, Jonathan Pryce is Francis. He is experiencing this-” We’re filming in the Sistine Chapel tomorrow !”- and we are both relishing the lovely look across the city from the penthouse suite in the inn where he’s staying. Still, he declares that the film we are here to talk about, the BBC’s King Lear, filmed in England and directed by Richard Eyre, is the piece of work that has stirred him rightfully happy.” I felt,’ Yes, I can do this .’ I can do this sort of production. I didn’t walk away. And it’s so invigorating, because I know I can do it, and I’ve got my sense of humour, my humility, and nothing’s been destroyed .”

He’s played the area before, at the National Theatre in 1986, with David Hare directing.” I was …”- he counts in his head “… 48 ,” he says.” Laughable. I didn’t realise I was too young. I has no such concept of how to do it. I was struggling .”

Now, he feels he’s got Lear right, and few would contradict. In a star-studded cast- Emma Thompson plays Goneril; Emily Watson, Regan; Jim Broadbent, Gloucester; Jim Carter, Kent; Andrew Scott, Edgar – it’s Hopkins who dominates. He is fantastic: his white hair close-cropped, his demeanour like a heavy-headed bull, a terrifying oppressor losing his strengths, a drinker who turns into startling rage.

Hopkins’ belief is that Lear’s wife died giving birth to Cordelia, and Lear produced her up, his favourite, as a tomboy. Of the older two daughters, Emily Watson said,” and I agree with her, that they have become monsters, because he made them so “. Hopkins believes that Lear is terrified of the status of women, can’t understand them. Hence the horrid specificity of the curses he rains on his older daughters, damning their wombs. He searches refuge in boys, smothering himself with a unruly male army. The backgrounds where Lear wants to bring his retinue to Regan’s house are suggestive of an horrid, all-boys-together drink-fest.

” I comes here a generation where followers were humen ,” Hopkins says.” There’s nothing soft or touchy-feely about any of us, where we were from in Wales. There’s a negative side to that, because we’re not very good at receiving adoration or handing it. We don’t understand it. After Richard Burton died, his brother Graham invited me to the Dorchester where they were all having a get-together, the brides and the three men, all the sisters and brothers. All pee-pee. And I noticed the status of women were sipping their ports and brandy, but all the men were,’ Come on, drink! Drink !’ I supposed,’ There’s something exceedingly Greek about this .’ Men together. You know, like the bouzouki dancers. It’s not homosexuality, but it is a sexuality, a kind of bonding. That’s what I was just thinking about .”

Hopkins often utilizes his past to find his room into a persona. Small incidents that stick in his sentiment, real people who inform. In the vistum with Kent, Edgar and the Fool, as Lear descends into madness, he has all three line up on a terrace and addresses them with the wrong appoints. Hopkins has been determined that Lear had examined his father drown three puppies when he was young and imagined his friends to be those pups.” Cruelty to an animal stays with you for the rest of your life ,” he says.” I once witnessed something like that, but I can’t think of it too much, it’s too upsetting. But that little kernel of an contest doesn’t lead. It ripens with you .” When he shows purposely terrifying parties- such as Hannibal Lecter or Robert Ford in the Westworld series– he plays them quietly, emphasising their ominou self-control. His Lear, though, is explosive.” He’s completely bonkers- he chuckles at the storm. That’s what I been fucking loving him .”

In the cinema, Hopkins uses a horseshoe as his treetop. He questioned a friend, Drew Dalton, a props person on Westworld who is also an Idaho farmer, to get it for him, and he told him it was from an age-old pony, endure in 1925. When Hopkins talks about this pony, he gets a little teary.” I carry the horseshoe with me wherever I go now. I still get psychological about it- the influence, and the loneliness, and the agony of that horse. That’s Lear .”

As Lear in 1986.’ I didn’t realise I was too young. I had no concept to seeing how to do it. I was floundering .’ Photograph: Donald Cooper/

Tears come readily to him, especially when he talks about hard work, old age, masculinity. His father, Dick, was a baker, a tough, practical male, accept of another baker. But, Hopkins says, as he got older, small things would disturb him,” like if he made a mistake in his car and drove off a ramp instead of getting it just right, he’d break down crying. Towards the end of his life, he used to booze, and he was unpredictable. Never violent, but abrupt turns of frenzy, and then deep sadness. Turned on my mother, turned on me. I was age-old enough, so it didn’t bother me. We didn’t speak much before he was dead. He resented me for something. I understood it, I could get it, and I believed,’ What a cruel, lonely fright, for parties at the end of their lives .'”

It’s easy is how he outlined on this for Lear. Hopkins has a daughter, more, Abigail, from his first wedlock, but they don’t have a relationship, so there was no inspiration there.” No. I accepted it year ago. It’s her pick and she must live their own lives. I say to young people,’ If your parents are giving you trouble, move out .’ You’ve got to let go. You don’t have to kill your parents, but he left if it’s holding you back .”

In Lear in 2018, with Florence Pugh as Cordelia. Photograph: Ed Miller/ BBC/ Playground Entertainment

Lear came out of another BBC film, an adaptation of Ronald Harwood’s The Dresser, also directed by Eyre and broadcast in 2015. Hopkins was the aging, belligerent performer Sir, who is preparing to play Lear; Ian McKellen was Norman, his dresser. Hopkins had is ready to do the play since picking up a photocopy in a bookshop in Los Angeles, where he lives:” It opened the valves of nostalgia .”

When he first became involved in the theatre, in the late 1950 s, Hopkins was a stage manager, touring northern towns, join” old-fashioned, ruined, alcoholic, wonderful” vaudeville comics who’d worked during the war, talking to stage mitts who knew the technique of plunging the screen for comedy( fast) and tragedy( very slow ). Then he joined the National in the time of Olivier and Gielgud. He was impatient for success. “Oh,” he says,” I had nonspeaking portions, messengers and God knows what, and I was very disgruntled, because I wanted to be bigger. So I went to the casting administrator and said,’ Who do you have to sleep with to get a part around here ?’ I’d exclusively been there three weeks !”

In The Dresser with Ian McKellen. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

The casting director was taken aback, but mentioned him to Olivier, who handed him a part as an IRA man in Juno And The Paycock. Hopkins knows now that his hubris was outlandish, but he was anxious to get to the action, and still is.” I imagine, with life, simply get on with it, you are aware ?” he says.” We’re all going to die, and that’s a great motivator .”

At the National, he satisfied the actors Ernest Milton, Donald Wolfit and Paul Scofield, and he depicted on these recalls to play Sir( Harwood had been Wolfit’s dresser ). He astounded himself by how much he enjoyed constituting The Dresser. It was a sort of revelation.” When I was at the National all those years ago, I knew I had something in me ,” he says,” but I didn’t have the train. I had a Welsh temperament and didn’t have that’ meeting in’ mechanism. Derek Jacobi, who is wonderful, had it, but I didn’t. I would oppose, I would rebel. I envisaged,’ Well, I don’t belong here .’ And for almost 50 times afterwards, I felt that edge of,’ I don’t belong anywhere, I’m a loner .’ I don’t have any friends who are actors at all. But in The Dresser, when Ian[ McKellen] reacted, it was wonderful. We got on so well and I suddenly felt at home, as though that shortage of belonging was all in my resource, all in my egotism .”

He’s always announced himself a loner-” alone, recluse, solitary”, he says to me- and in past interrogations his outsiderdom has become almost his headline characteristic. But he and McKellen bonded, regaling each other with old-fashioned fibs instead of rehearsing. Having felt, for all those years, unwanted by the establishment, the establishment was forming him welcome. He also realizing that he wanted to do Lear for real.

His last stage participate, M Butterfly, in 1989. Photograph: Nobby Clark/ ArenaPAL

Not on stagecoach, though. Despite his nostalgia, Hopkins detests the theater. In 1973, he stepped out of Macbeth mid-run at the National and moved to LA. The last stage play he was in was M Butterfly, in the West Point in 1989. It was a torment, he says, the tipping level being a matinee where nobody chuckled,” not a titter “. When the light-headeds was put forward, the cast realised the entire audience was Japanese.” Oh God ,” he withdraws.” You’d go to your dressing room and someone would pop their top round the door and say,’ Coffee? Tea ?’ And I’d consideration,’ An open razor, satisfy .'”

He can’t stand being unproductive, working without a object; it drives him mad. David Hare once told Hopkins he’d never met anyone as angry:” And this was when I was off the booze !” He “ve been given” drinking in 1975. For a while, he tried to quieten down his personality (” I was ever so careful “), but his mother told him it wasn’t working.” She said,’ Why don’t you exactly be the mongrel that “youve” ?’ She said,’ I know what you’re like, you’re a monster .’ I said,’ Yes .’ She said,’ Well, OK then, has become a monster.’

” But the wrath, you begin to channel it ,” he says.” I’m very happy I’m an alcoholic – it’s a great gift, because wherever I disappear, the abyss follows me. It’s a volcanic fury “youve had”, and it’s gasoline. Rocket fuel. But of course it can rip you to portions and killing yourself. So, gradually, over the years, I have learned not to be a people-pleaser. I don’t have a temper any more. I get impatient, but I try not to evaluate. I try to live and let live. I don’t get into disagreements, I don’t render beliefs, and I think if you do that, then the exasperation finally begins to transform into drive .”

Now, if he’s not play, he covers, or romps the piano. He liberated an book of classical pieces, Composer, performed by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in 2011, which was well-received.” Hopkins writes with significant flair and trust ,” said one critic, while Amazon demonstrates it four starrings. He began coating at the behest of Stella, who “ve seen how” he embellishes his writes. He leads over his wrinkles around 250 meters, until he can recite them backwards, sideways, in his sleep. Each time he reads them, he reaps a scrabble on his dialogue, and the doodles, which start as tiny crossings, proliferate terribly big, including all the blank space. Stella saw this and went him to paint “favours”, little presents for their bridal guests.

Hopkins with his wife, Stella. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

” She said,’ Well, if they don’t work , no one’s going to put you in prisons ,'” he says. And nothing did, because his depicts are pretty fine; they sell for thousands of dollars. He testifies me some on his telephone. They’re expressionist, full of luminous colourings-” South American colourings: Stella is Colombian”- and he’s working towards a demonstrate next year in Saint petersburg, which he’s very excited about.

” Ask me more questions !” he says. He doesn’t want to waste time sitting around while the photographer locateds up. We talk animals. He and Stella collect stray cats and dogs. We talk politics. He doesn’t care about Trump; he doesn’t referendum. He takes a widescreen approach to politics, because focusing on the detail realise him extremely sad.” I don’t vote because I don’t trust anyone. We’ve never got it right, human beings. We are all a mess, and we’re very early in our progression. Look back throughout history: you have the 20 th century, the murder of 100 million people, barely 80 year ago. The 1914 -1 8 battle, the civil campaign in America, massacre, bloodshed … I don’t know if there’s a design in it, but it is extraordinary to look at it and get a perspective. I see,’ Well, if it’s the end, there’s nothing we can do about it, and it’ll blow over, whatever happens .'”

He recollects talking to his father on the phone during the Cuban missile crisis (” and I was a raving Marxist then “) and his father remarking that the rocket would be discontinued on London, so Hopkins would be all right,” because the bomb will descend on you, so you won’t know much about it. But in Wales, we’ll suffer the fallout .” His dad also once said to him, about Hitler and the second world war,” Six years later, he was dead in a bunker. So much for the Third Reich”, which attains me laugh.

Now he forestalls word and politics, for his peace of mind.” In America, they’re obsessed with health food ,” he says.” They tell you, if you snack junk food, you get fat and you die. Well, video is run by money and corporate ability and sponsorship. It’s junk food for the brain. Toxic .” If he’s not busy, he tells works online and sends them to friends- Wake Up And Live ! by Dorothea Brande, The Life-Changing Magic Of Not Giving A F ** k by Sarah Knight- or watches old-time films and TV on his iPad. He was haunted with Breaking Bad, and wrote a lovely letter to Bryan Cranston extol his acting; now, he likes watching Midsomer Murders, The Persuaders and Rosemary& Thyme.

We talk a bit about the #MeToo gesture. Hopkins says, about Harvey Weinstein,” I did know about the person you are referring to, about his sex stuff. I know he is a rude man and a dictator. But I eschewed him, I didn’t want anything to do with people like that. Bully .” And actually, despite his desire to live and let live, Hopkins often announces bullies out: when John Dexter, the director of M Butterfly, started screaming at everyone in the cast, Hopkins told him to stop.” I said,’ John, you don’t need to do this. You’re a great director. Stop it .’ And he cried. I mean, I understand if parties are bullies. They’ve got their problems. I can’t evaluate them, I won’t make fun of them at awardings. It’s correct for women to stand up for themselves, because it’s unacceptable. But I don’t have a desire to dance on anyone’s grave .”

He understands that we can all be awful, and we can all be kind. Fame and supremacy “ve got nothing” to do with it. I tell Hopkins something the vocalist Tony Bennett formerly said-” Life educates you how to live it if you live long enough”- and he is delighted.” How astonishing. What an amazing thing to say! You know, I meet young people, and they want to act and they want to be far-famed, and I said about, when you get to the top of the tree, there’s nothing up there. Most of this is nonsense, most of this is a lie. Accept life as it is. Just be grateful to be alive .”

He establishes me a illustration on his telephone. It’s of him aged three, with his father on a beach near Aberavon. His dad is grinning. Hopkins is a cherubic child, with golden curls, caught somewhere between chuckling and crying.” I was unnerve because I’d sagged a cough sweetened .” He remains it because it prompts him of how far he’s come.

” I thoughts,’ Good God, I should be provided in Port Talbot .’ Either dead, or working in my father’s bakery. For some inexplicable conclude I’m here, and nothing of it realizes gumption. And I look at him and I say,’ We did OK, kid .'”

* King Lear is on BBC2 on Monday 28 May.

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