This multitalented artist has written, directed and even composed the score for a number of films.
Actor, director, producer and piano virtuoso, Sir Anthony Hopkins CBE was born on New Year’s Eve 1937. His full name is Phillip Anthony Hopkins, born to mother Muriel Anne, and father Richard Arthur Hopkins in Margam, Port Talbot, Wales. His mother is distantly related to Yeats, the Irish poet. Hopkins’ father made a living in Wales as a baker. In his early years, Hopkins’ grandfather called him George, while his dad had nicknamed him Charlie.
Growing up, Hopkins often spent time alone: due to his dyslexia he preferred to paint and play the piano rather than making friends at school. After some time his parents became concerned about their son’s lack of curriculum and in 1949 sent him to West Monmouth Boys School, in Pontypool, Wales. He only attended the school for a few terms; much to his dislike, and even now looks upon the time as rather bleak. He then went on to attend Cowbridge Grammar School instead.
Hopkins recalls: “I was lousy in school: a real screw-up, a moron. I was antisocial and didn’t bother with the other kids… I didn’t know what I was doing there. That’s why I became an actor.”
At 15, Hopkins met Richard Burton, a fellow Welsh actor, whose sister lived nearby. Very much influenced by this already famous man, Hopkins enrolled at the College of Music and Drama in Cardiff. Hopkins had found his vocation: performing he discovered his natural talent and something he actually enjoyed doing.
Following his graduation in ’57, Hopkins had to do his two years of National Service with the army; he was known as 23449720 Gunner Hopkins. However, he left the guns of the army behind and instead set his sight on acting. In 1960, Hopkins made his professional debut in 'Have a Cigarette', at the Palace Theatre, Swansea. After this he moved to Bloomsbury, London, to train at The Royal Academy of Drama and Art (RADA), where he’d won a place.
Now in 1965, having honed his craft, Hopkins was invited by one of England’s greatest actors of the time, Sir Laurence Olivier, to be his understudy at The National Theatre in a production of August Stringberg’s 'Dance of Death'. Hopkins was thrown into the limelight after Olivier was taken ill with appendicitis. Olivier noted in his memoir: "A new young actor in the company of exceptional promise named Anthony Hopkins was understudying me and walked away with the part of Edgar like a cat with a mouse between its teeth."
At 30, now married to his first wife Petronella Barker, (they have a daughter Abigail Hopkins, an actress) he was bored with the monotony of theatre, but got another fortunate break when he was cast in the TV film of 1967 'A Flea In Her Ear'. Swiftly he moved on to another part in 'The White Bus' and the following year, 'Lions in Winter', alongside the then unknown former bond actor Timothy Dalton. In 1969, he played Claudius in a film version of 'Hamlet'.
Although he had moved into film, Hopkins still spent several years performing on Broadway and managed to sustain a successful career in both. He starred as Charles Dickens in the 1970’s 'The Great Inimitable Mr. Dickens', the series 'Danton', in an episode of 'The Ten Commandments' and the 1972 mini series 'War and Peace', for which he won a BAFTA TV Award for Best Actor.
At this time, his marriage had broken down and, before he was divorced, he had got engaged to Jennifer Lynton. After a couple of years with his new wife, his battle with alcoholism stopped: he’s been sober since 1975. His marriage to his second wife lasted nearly 30 years.
In 1976 Hopkins picked up an Emmy for ‘Outstanding Lead Actor’ for his principal role in the TV film 'The Lindbergh Kidnapping Case'.
Two films of note that followed were: 1977’s action war film 'A Bridge Too Far' (it won three BAFTAs), directed by Attenborough, with an all star cast including Robert Redford, Dirk Bogarde, Michael Caine and Laurence Olivier, to name a few, and the supernatural thriller 'Audrey Rose' of the same year.
In 'Magic' (1978) Hopkins played a weird and very frightening schizophrenic ventriloquist who lost his mind and the dummy took over. In 'The Elephant Man' (1980) he displayed his emotional versatility as an actor playing the kind Dr Frederick Treves, who helped the hideously deformed Elephant Man. 'Silence of the Lambs' director Jonathan Demme chose Hopkins to play Lecter after seeing him in this role. However, Hopkins can’t see the connection between the two characters.
On TV, he played Othello in the ’81 adaptation of the same name. In 1982, he won another Emmy for ‘Outstanding Lead Actor’ in the TV film 'The Bunker'; the same year he played Quasimodo in 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame'.
Following his respectable notoriety, he was, in 1987, awarded with the Commander of the order of the British Empire, giving him the letters CBE after his name. That year saw the release of '84 Charing Cross Road' where his character who sells books enters into a very special correspondence with a character portrayed by Anne Bancroft’s BAFTA winning performance.
It wasn't until his role of serial killer Hannibal Lecter in the 1991 film 'Silence Of The Lambs' that Hopkins would become one of the most sought after English actors. For 16 minutes of onscreen time, Hopkins earned an Oscar and a BAFTA for ‘Best Actor’ – with these highly regarded awards, Hopkins is proud of his role as Dr Lecter.
On set he often unnerved co-star Jodie Foster by mocking her character Clarice's West Virginia accent. Hopkins added a subtle touch to his portrayal of Lecter, the unnerving trait of never blinking his eyes when he spoke.
Also in ’91, Hopkins leant his ability of mimicking by duplicating Olivier’s voice in the restoration of 'Spartacus' (1960) because the sound track was lost and Olivier had died two years previously. Demonstrating, to TV chat show host Michael Parkinson, during an interview his gift of being able to change his native Welsh accent into whomever, Hopkins entertained the audience with a Tommy Cooper impression “Just like that!”
In 1992, he starred alongside Emma Thompson and Vanessa Redgrave in Merchant/Ivory’s thrice Oscar winning 'Howard's End', based on the novel by E.M Forster. Hopkins played Henry Wilcox - the film went on to win three Oscars, two BAFTAs and a further 19 other awards. Despite being nominated, Hopkins failed to win any awards, although Emma Thompson won an Oscar and a BAFTA for ‘Best Actress Award’.
Also in 1992, Hopkins played Professor Abraham Van Helsing in Frances Ford Coppola's 'Dracula', based on Bram Stoker’s novel of the same title. He starred alongside Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, Keanu Reeves and Richard E Grant. Although Dracula was based in London, it was filmed entirely in California. Originally, Liam Neeson was considered for the part of Van Helsing, but after Hopkins’ Oscar win and personal interest in the role, Neeson was turned down and the part was offered to Hopkins.
In the same year, Hopkins starred in 'Chaplin' along side Robert Downey Jr. He played the only fictional character, George Hayden, in the film based on the real life of Charlie Chaplin. Directed by Richard Attenborough, the film was awarded three Oscar nominations and won a BAFTA.
Success followed once more in 1993 when Hopkins teamed up with Emma Thompson yet again in 'Remains of the Day', a post WWI love story. He was nominated for Best Actor at the Oscars, Golden Globes and BAFTAs.
That year, Anthony Hopkins CBE would become known as ‘Sir’ after he was once again recognised in The Queen’s New Year’s Honours’ List and Knighted. Controversially, he was allowed to keep this title after he became an American citizen, as he has dual nationality. In 1994, Hopkins went on to portray former U.S. President Richard Nixon, in the movie 'Nixon', directed by Oliver Stone. Hopkins prepared for his role of the shamed ex-President by watching almost every single one of Nixon's speeches. The real Nixon died at the time the film was being made in 1994; the funeral scene, at the end of the film, was later added. The film was then released in 1995 and nominated for four Oscars.
Not content with just acting, Hopkins took on the role of director with the 1996 film, 'August', which he also starred in. The film’s location was in his native land of Wales. His love of music led him to compose the film’s musical score. His directing skills were noted as the film went onto win ‘Best English Drama Award’ at The BAFTA Awards in Wales.
In his next film, Hopkins portrayed troubled artist Pablo Picasso in an unforgettable performance in 'Surviving Picasso' (1996). The film is based on the passionate story of the relationship of Picasso's one and only lover Francois Gilot. His portrayal of the painter proved that there is nothing he cannot do when it comes to delivering an exceptional and emotional performance. As an actor who is so passionate about his work, Hopkins prepared for his role, getting into character by eating the same menu as the real life Picasso.
During the remainder of the Nineties, Hopkins delivered strong and memorable performances in a number of big films: in 1997 was 19th century court room drama 'Amistad'. Directed by Steven Spielberg, the film scooped four Oscar nominations. Through his career Hopkins has conquered his dyslexia by memorising his scripts – reading them through as much 250 times. Spielberg was so blown away by Hopkins knowing verbatim a seven page dialogue, he only ever referred to him as 'Sir Anthony'.
After that followed roles in 'The Mask Of Zorro' (1998), with Catherine Zeta Jones and Antonio Banderas; 'Meet Joe Black' (1998) alongside Brad Pitt; 'Instinct' (1999) with Cuba Gooding Jr. and 'Titus' (1999).
In 2000, Hopkins became an American citizen and celebrated with a 3,000 mile drive across his new homeland. In the same year, he also returned to his role as non-blinking, salivating, Dr Hannibal Lecter in the sequel to The Silence of The Lambs: 'Hannibal'. Although Jodie Foster wasn't onboard this time, Julianne Moore took over the role as Clarice and Hopkins, although at first reluctant, still stepped into the shoes of Lecter for the second time. Gossip followed Hopkins and Moore after their electric chemistry on-screen. They were nominated for ‘Best Kiss Award’ at the 2001 MTV Awards.
After filming 'Hearts in Atlantis' (2001), based on the novel by Stephen King, Hopkins resurrected Dr Hannibal Lecter for a third outing in 2002's 'Red Dragon'. Lecter’s story preludes his previous two films as it’s set before his imprisonment. In 2006, a fourth instalment of the series, 'Hannibal Rising' was released, but this time Hopkins had retired from the role. On release, the film didn't fare very well with audiences.
In 2003, Hopkins married his third wife, Colombian-born Stella Arroyave. That year also saw him star alongside Nicole Kidman in 'The Human Stain' where he played a Professor with a dark past who had an affair with Kidman's young character. Hopkins’ scenes with Kidman proved to be controversial; film critics applauded his performance. The same year, he was honoured with a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.
Hopkins’ next character was Old Ptolemy, teaming up once again with director Oliver Stone in the film 'Alexander' (2004) about the Macedonian King who was one of the greatest military leaders in the history of warfare. In 2005, Hopkins impressed movie goers with his performance of a mentally disturbed mathematician in 'Proof', with Gwyneth Paltrow and Jake Gyllenhaal. Hopkins played the recently deceased father of Gwyneth Paltrow's character. The film, directed by John Madden, was a story partly based on the life of John Nash, a professor who won the Nobel Prize for his work in game theory.
Later in 2005, Hopkins took to the road in the film 'The World’s Fastest Indian', a biographical story of New Zealander Burt Munro whose motorcycle riding helped set the land speed record in Utah 1967. Hopkins' career has gone from strength to strength since the Sixties. Famed actor and director Richard Attenborough considers him one of the greatest actors of our generation. With an Academy Award and BAFTA Awards to his name, he is constantly impressing audiences around the world with his amazing acting talent and charisma.
Recently, Hopkins was part of a huge ensemble cast in the 2006 film 'Bobby', a film which centres around 22 people who were at the Ambassador Hotel the day that U.S. Senator Robert F Kennedy was shot in 1968. The political drama won an award at The Hollywood Film Festival for ‘Best Ensemble Cast’ which included talent such as Helen Hunt, Demi Moore, Sharon Stone, Martin Sheen, and Emilio Estevez, who also wrote and directed the film; Hopkins was executive producer.
Later in 2006, Hopkins played Judge Irwin in another political drama, 'All the King’s Men', alongside Sean Penn and fellow English actors, Kate Winslet and Jude Law. Based on the Novel by Robert Penn Warren, set in the Fifties, it tells the story of elected governor Willie Stark. Hopkins could also be seen playing another psychopath in 'Fracture' (2007) opposite Ryan Gosling. His character is a man who plays a game of cat-and-mouse with Gosling's assistant DA after being accused of trying to murder his wife.
After many years in film, Hopkins put pen to paper and wrote the sci-fi fantasy film, 'Slipstream' (2007). The film is a story about an ageing script writer who lives in both his own world and in reality. Hopkins acts along side Christian Slater. Hopkins also directed again - something he hadn't done since the film 'August' (1996). His next project was 'The Wolfman'. His latest roles were in 'Noah' (2014) and 'Solace' (2014)
From actor to director, to piano virtuoso, composer and producer, Sir Anthony Hopkins CBE is one of the most talented actors of our time and an example to a new generation of actors. Still entertaining and impressing audiences of all ages.
He has generously donated to good causes throughout his career: he once gave £1,000,000 to the Snowdonia appeal and helps out with actors’ tuition fees. Now he volunteers at the Ruskins School of Acting in Santa Monica, Los Angeles. As he says himself: “Acting is fun!”.