Although many recognize him as one of the greatest living actors of his generation, Sir Anthony Hopkins didn’t always have his heart set on becoming an actor. In fact, the Academy award-winning actor discovered the world of theater after spending his childhood as an “uptight loner” who was often bullied, he said in a recent talk.
Describing himself as “not at all bright” in school, Hopkins claims that he became an actor because he “had nothing better to do.”
On Wednesday morning, Hopkins joined the LEAP Foundation as a guest speaker for the nonprofit’s annual student leadership program. LEAP — Leadership, Excellence and Accelerating Your Potential — works to inspire the coming generations to build a steady foundation for a successful future. Through the program, students listen to motivational guest speakers and celebrities such as Apolo Ohno, Usher, Seth Green, Eva Longoria and more, about life skills.
Throughout his talk, Hopkins stressed the importance of self-motivation and determination (“Say yes to everything. Say yes, and take the risk”) to a group of nearly 500 high school and college students. He spoke fondly of his early acting career, all the way back to his start in drama at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama.
Currently residing in Malibu with his wife, Stella Arroyave, the actor described the first time he visited California in 1973, a visit that took place while he was filming a movie with Goldie Hawn (The Girl From Petrovka). Following that first visit, Hopkins was convinced that he was destined to return to Hollywood.
“I thought, ‘I have to come back here,'” the actor spoke of Los Angeles. “I knew I was gonna come back here.”
While on stage at the UCLA Palisades Ballroom, the Welsh actor also openly spoke about his longtime struggles with alcoholism. “Because that’s what you do in theater, you drink,” the 80-year old actor explained. “But I was very difficult to work with, as well, because I was usually hungover.”
Hopkins went on to discuss the turning point in his life, which took place in December of 1975. Describing himself at the time as “disgusted, busted and not to be trusted,” Hopkins realized that in his drunken stupors, he was a danger to not only himself but those around him. The words of a woman at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting struck a chord with Hopkins.
“Why don’t you just trust in God?” the woman asked him. From there, Hopkins says that the craving to drink was taken from him, “never to return.”
“I believe that we are capable of so much,” Hopkins told the group of students. “From my own life, I still cannot believe that my life is what it is because I should have died in Wales, drunk or something like that.”
He continued, “We can talk ourselves into death or we can talk ourselves into the best life we’ve ever lived. None of it was a mistake. It was all a destiny.”
Following the Q&A, led by celebrity dentist and LEAP founder Dr. Bill Dorfman, Hopkins answered some questions from the audience themselves. A student named Nicole asked Hopkins how he separated his passion for real success from the appeal of financial wealth.
Hopkins’ response modeled his own approach to life, he said: “If you chase the money, it’s not gonna work. And if you chase success, it’s not gonna work. You just have to chase whatever you want to be, but live it as if it is happening now. Act as if you’re already there, and it’ll fall into place.”
As for advice on his own acting method, the iconic actor advises the students to “just learn the lines.”
After recently starring in season two of Westworld, Hopkins is set to appear in upcoming Netflix drama Pope, in which he stars as Pope Benedict, alongside Jonathan Pryce as Pope Francis.