Vol. 5 Num 272 Thu. March 03, 2005  

All Time Greats
Sir Anthony Hopkins: A hard core professional
For those with an inclination for gore, the film titled The Silence of the Lambs, is a definite choice. Essaying the role of murderer Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter in this film, Sir Anthony Hopkins won wide appreciation--and a well-deserved Academy Award in 1991.

With the aplomb of a thorough professional, Anthony Hopkins was able to follow-up his chilling role of Lecter with characters of great kindness, courtesy, and humanity: the conscience-stricken butler of a British fascist in The Remains of the Day (1992) and compassionate author CS Lewis in Shadowlands (1993). In 1995, Hopkins earned mixed acclaim and an Oscar nomination for his impressionistic take (done without elaborate makeup) on President Richard M Nixon in Oliver Stone's Nixon.

After his performance as Pablo Picasso in James Ivory's Surviving Picasso (1996), Hopkins garnered another Oscar nomination--this time for Best Supporting Actor--the following year for his work in Steven Spielberg's slavery epic Amistad.

Following this honour, Hopkins ventured into father figure roles, first in the well-crafted Meet Joe Black and then in the have-mask-will-travel swashbuckler Mask of Zorro with Antonio Banderas and fellow countrywoman Catherine Zeta-Jones. In his next film, 1999's Instinct, Hopkins again played a father, albeit one of a decidedly different stripe. As anthropologist Ethan Powell, Hopkins takes his fieldwork with gorillas a little too seriously, reverting back to his animal instincts, killing a couple of people, and alienating his daughter in the process.

Born on December 31, 1937, Hopkins made his stage bow in The Quare Fellow in 1960, and then spent four years in a regional repertory before his first London success in Julius Caesar. Combining the best elements of the British theatre's classic heritage and its burgeoning "angry young man school", Hopkins worked well in both ancient and modern pieces. His film debut was not, as has often been cited, his appearance as Richard the Lionhearted in The Lion in Winter (1968), but in an odd, 'pop-art' film, The White Bus (1967).

Other works: Young Winston (1971), followed by QB VII (1974), the first television mini-series. The same year he essayed a Broadway role in Equus, eventually directing the 1977 Los Angeles production. The actor became typed in intense, neurotic roles for the next several years: in works such as Audrey Rose, Magic and Bounty. On TV, Hopkins played roles as varied (yet somehow intertwined) as Adolf Hitler, accused Lindbergh-baby kidnapper Bruno Richard Hauptmann, and the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Hopkins would face one of his biggest challenges with 2003's highly anticipated adaptation of Philip Roth's Clinton-era tragedy The Human Stain, a prestigious Miramax project directed by Robert Benton and co-starring Nicole Kidman, fresh off her Oscar win for The Hours. Unfortunately, most critics couldn't get past the hurdle of accepting the Anglo-Saxon paragon Hopkins as Stain's flawed protagonist Coleman Silk, an aging, defamed African-American academic who has been "passing" as white for most of his adult life. The film died a quick death at the box office and went unrecognised in year-end awards.

Compiled by Cultural Correspondent

Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs