“The face is not important,” says Anthony Hopkins. “It’s the eyes that are the most haunting part of one’s soul.” And there they are, the vibrant eyes from Dreamscapes, a recent book of paintings from the world famous Welshman who bills himself on Twitter as an “Artist, Painter, Composer, Actor of film, stage and television” (“actor” comes fourth!). But look closely at his painted eyes and see how they reflect the stage and movie lights he’s seen during a long career, and the power behind those eyes.
Penblwydd Hapus, Anthony! Hopkins will be 80 on New Year’s Eve. You might say it as you see him gazing out from the ads for classic Italian menswear with the tag line “Tailoring Legends Since 1945.” That pays the bills for a legend, although he won’t fall too far into celebrity. “Movies are metaphors…Is it all a dream?” is the legend from his “Dreamcat” serigraph from his art collection from Margam Fine Arts.
Speaking of his newer art, Hopkins claims ,“It’s very primitive. It’s childish art. It has to be childish because I am a child. I’ve discovered lately that I enjoy all that is supposedly wrong with me.”
The ad for his artistic collection says “A portion of all proceeds will go to Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center.” To lighten his own youthful distress at school, Philip Anthony Hopkins, born on 31 December 1937, in Margam, Port Talbot, developed a trick of drinking India ink to distinguish himself from the other boys. They called him “Mad Hopkins.” Years later, when his mother saw his performance in The Silence of the Lambs, she said, “I always knew you were strange.” His eyes still see that.
“Well, Clarice – have the lambs stopped screaming?” asked Hannibal Lecter in Silence. Anthony Hopkins won a 1992 academy award as Best Actor for that role,. “People sometimes come over and ask if I can do that ‘Well, Clarice …’But I do it just for fun.” Or he could say “First principles, Clarice. Simplicity. Read Marcus Aurelius. Of each particular thing ask: What is it in itself? What is its nature? What does he do, this man you seek?” This man, this child, this painter, Hopkins acts.
At age 15, after an encouraging meeting with Richard Burton, Hopkins enrolled in Cardiff’s College of Music & Drama. He started professionally in Swansea in 1960, finished his national service, and moved to London for the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and, later, roles in repertory. Laurence Olivier invited him to join the National Theatre in 1965 and, as his understudy, Hopkins went on for Olivier in August Strindberg’s Dance of Death in 1967. Olivier noted later in his Confessions of an Actor that a new, young actor, “walked away with [his] part of Edgar like a cat with a mouse between its teeth.”
His breakthrough role in film, Richard Lionheart, came in 1968 with Peter O’Toole and Katherine Hepburn in The Lion in Winter. Hopkins remembered “some bizarre nights with Peter…He enjoyed his drink – and I did, too.” But “the firebrand, Hopkins” stopped drinking in 1975. He also got acting tips from Hepburn. “Watch Spencer Tracy. He didn’t act. He just spoke the lines.” Many movies later, Hopkins noted, “I think you have to let the audience do the work for you.” Yes they will.
Other films he’s made, with a Welsh touch, include Young Winston (1972), playing David Lloyd George; August (1996), directing an adaptation of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya set in Wales; The Mask of Zorro (1998), with Catherine Zeta-Jones; and Dylan Thomas: Return Journey (1990) directing Bob Kingdom. Oh, and he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1993 and then became a US citizen in 2000.
Last September 2017, he unfortunately did not win another Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor for his “creep-tastic” role in as Robert Ford, the founder of Westworld, on HBO. But he will now play Pope Benedict in the The Pope for Netflix, with Pope Francis played by Holywell’s Jonathan Pryce, Don Quixote in Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, coming in 2018. Hopkins himself claims, “I became an actor by default, really…so I’ve stuck with that for the last 50-odd years.”