'Awards Chatter' Podcast — Anthony Hopkins ('The Father')

Anthony Hopkins
Gabriel Grams/FilmMagic

Sir Anthony Hopkins, the legendary actor who, at 83, wishes to be called "Tony, please," has had a most unusual career.

A Welsh protege of another Sir, Laurence Olivier, he started out on the stage in 1965 and, apart from his big screen debut in 1968's The Lion in Winter opposite Peter O'Toole and Katharine Hepburn, worked exclusively on the boards until 1973, when he stormed off them, having tired of an abusive director and the whole process of theater acting.

People told him that his career was over. But just a short time later, he was making a whole new name for himself on screens small and big, winning Emmys for 1976's The Lindbergh Kidnapping and 1981's The Bunker, and appearing in instant-classic films such as 1978’s Magic and 1980’s The Elephant Man.

Then, against all odds, at age 51, he became a full-fledged star thanks to his haunting portrayal of imprisoned serial killer Hannibal 'The Cannibal' Lecter in Jonathan Demme's The Silence of the Lambs, for which he was recognized with Academy, BAFTA, New York Film Critics Circle and National Board of Review awards. The character, which he later reprised in Ridley Scott's 2001 sequel Hannibal and Brett Ratner's 2002 prequel Red Dragon, was chosen in a 2003 American Film Institute survey as the greatest screen villain of all time.

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In the years since then, Hopkins has given indelible performances in a wide range of films, including 1992's Chaplin and Howards End, 1993's The Remains of the Day (which brought him Oscar nom #2) and Shadowlands, 1995's Nixon (Oscar nom #3), 1997's Amistad (Oscar nom #4), 2005's Proof and 2019's The Two Popes (Oscar nom #5). And he has been not only knighted, but presented several major career achievement honors, as well, including the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's Cecil B. DeMille Award at the 2006 Golden Globe Awards and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts' BAFTA Fellowship at the 2008 BAFTA Awards.

Today, at a time in life when many of his contemporaries are retired and playing golf, he is doing some of his best work yet, and is back in the awards conversation.

In Florian Zeller's feature directorial debut The Father — which premiered at Sundance in January 2020, opened in select New York and L.A. theaters this weekend, will expand to more cities on March 12 and will become available for streaming on March 26 — Hopkins plays a man, also named Anthony, who is descending into dementia. He delivers, in the words of the critic who reviewed it for The New York Times, "an astonishing, devilish performance" that gave her "actual chills." And it has brought Hopkins Golden Globe and Critics Choice award nominations and pending SAG and BAFTA award noms, with Oscar nom #6 almost sure to follow.

During a recent episode of Awards Chatter, Hopkins, who rarely grants interviews, opened up about his accidental path to acting and the early breaks he was given by Olivier; why he walked away from the stage in 1973 and wound up on the screen; what paved the way for his later-than-usual ascendance to stardom with The Silence of the Lambs 30 years ago, and how it shaped the career he has had since, right through The Father; plus much more.