Sir Philip Anthony Hopkins, CBE (born December 31, 1937) is an Academy Award-, Golden Globe-, double Emmy-, triple BAFTA- and Saturn Award-winning Welsh film, stage and television actor. Considered by many to be one of film’s greatest living actors, he is arguably best known for his portrayal of cannibalistic serial killer Hannibal Lecter in the 1991 blockbuster The Silence of the Lambs, its sequel, Hannibal, and its prequel, Red Dragon. Other notable film credits include The Elephant Man, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, The Remains of the Day, The Mask of Zorro, Hearts in Atlantis, Nixon and Fracture. Hopkins was born and raised in Wales, and also became a U.S. citizen on 12 April 2000. He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2003 and was made a Fellow of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts in 2008.
Hopkins was born in Margam, Port Talbot, Wales, the son of Muriel Anne (née Yeates) and Richard Arthur Hopkins, a baker. His mother is a distant relative of the Irish poet William Butler Yeats. His schooldays were unproductive. A loner with dyslexia, he found that he would rather immerse himself in art, such as painting and drawing or playing the piano, than attend to his studies. In 1949, to instill some discipline, his parents insisted he attend Jones’ West Monmouth Boys’ School in Pontypool, Wales. He remained there for five terms and was then educated at Cowbridge Grammar School, Cowbridge, Wales.
Hopkins was influenced and encouraged to become an actor by compatriot Richard Burton, whom he met briefly at the age of 15. To that end, he enrolled at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff, Wales from which he graduated in 1957. After a two-year spell in the Army for National Service, he moved to London where he trained at RADA.
In 1965, after several years in repertory, he was spotted by Sir Laurence Olivier, who invited him to join the Royal National Theatre. Hopkins became Olivier’s understudy, and filled in when Olivier was struck with appendicitis during a production of August Strindberg’s The Dance of Death. Olivier later noted in his memoir, Confessions of an Actor, that, “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”.
Despite his success at the National, Hopkins tired of repeating the same roles nightly and yearned to be in movies. In 1968, he got his break in The Lion in Winter playing Richard I, along with Peter O’Toole, Katharine Hepburn, and future James Bond star Timothy Dalton, who played Philip II of France.
Although Hopkins continued in theatre (most notably in the Broadway production of Peter Shaffer’s Equus, directed by John Dexter) he gradually moved away from it to become more established as a television and film actor. He made his small-screen debut in a 1967 BBC broadcast of A Flea in Her Ear. He has since gone on to enjoy a long career, winning many plaudits and awards for his performances. Hopkins was made a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) in 1987, and a Knight Bachelor in 1993 In 1996, Hopkins was awarded an honorary fellowship from the University of Wales, Lampeter.
Hopkins has stated that his role as Burt Munro, whom he portrayed in his 2005 film The World’s Fastest Indian, was his favourite. He also asserted that Munro was the easiest role that he had ever played because both men have a similar outlook on life.
In 2006, Hopkins was the recipient of the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement. In 2008, he received the Bafta Fellowship Award.
Hopkins is renowned for his firm preparation for roles. He has confessed in interviews that once he has committed to a project, he will go over his lines as many times as is needed (sometimes upwards of 200) until the lines sound natural to him, so that he can “do it without thinking”. This leads to an almost casual style of delivery that belies the amount of groundwork done beforehand. While it can allow for some careful improvisation, it has also brought him into conflict with the occasional director who departs from the script, or demands what the actor views as an excessive number of takes. Hopkins has also stated that after he is finished with a scene, he simply discards the lines, not remembering them later on. This is unlike other actors who usually remember their lines from a film even years later.
Richard Attenborough, who has directed Hopkins on five occasions, found himself going to great lengths during the filming of Shadowlands (1993) to accommodate the differing approaches of his two stars (Hopkins and Debra Winger), who shared many scenes. Whereas Hopkins liked to keep rehearsals to a minimum, preferring the spontaneity of a fresh take, Winger rehearsed continuously. To allow for this, Attenborough stood in for Hopkins during Winger’s rehearsals, only bringing him in for the last one before a take. The director praised Hopkins for “this extraordinary ability to make you believe when you hear him that it is the very first time he has ever said that line. It’s an incredible gift.”
In addition, Hopkins is a gifted mimic, adept at turning his native Welsh accent into whatever is required by a character. He duplicated the voice of his late mentor, Sir Laurence Olivier, for additional scenes in Spartacus in its 1991 restoration. His interview on the 1998 relaunch edition of the British TV chat show Parkinson featured an impersonation of comedian Tommy Cooper.
Hopkins’ most famous role is the cannibalistic serial killer Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs (for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1992) opposite Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling, who also won for Best Actress. In addition, the film won Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. It is the shortest lead performance to win an Oscar, as Hopkins only appears for about seventeen minutes. Hopkins went on to reprise his role as Lecter twice (Hannibal in 2001 and Red Dragon in 2002). His original portrayal of the character in The Silence of the Lambs has been labelled by the American Film Institute as the number-one film villain. At the time he was offered the role, Hopkins was making a return to the London stage, performing in M. Butterfly. He had come back to Britain after living for a number of years in Hollywood, having all but given up on a career there, saying, “Well that part of my life’s over; it’s a chapter closed. I suppose I’ll just have to settle for being a respectable actor poncing around the West End and doing respectable BBC work for the rest of my life.”
The character first appeared in the film Manhunter, which was loosely based on Red Dragon. Lecter (spelled “Lektor” in the film) was played by Scottish actor Brian Cox. Since Red Dragon was considered a remake of Manhunter, it allowed Hopkins to play the iconic villain in adaptations of all three of the best-selling Lecter novels by Thomas Harris. The author was reportedly very pleased with Hopkins’ portrayal of his antagonist. However, Hopkins stated that Red Dragon would feature his final performance as the character, and that he would not reprise even a narrative role in the latest addition to the series, Hannibal Rising.
As of 2007, Hopkins resides in the United States. He had moved to the country once before during the 1970s to pursue his film career, but returned to Britain in the late 1980s. However, he decided to return to the U.S. following his 1990s success. He became a naturalized citizen on April 12, 2000, and celebrated with a 3,000-mile road trip across the country.
Hopkins has been married three times. His first two wives were Petronella Barker (1967–1972) and Jennifer Lynton (1973–2003). He is now married to Columbian-born Stella Arroyave. He has a daughter from his first marriage, Abigail Hopkins (born 1967), an actress and singer.
He has offered his support to various charities and appeals, notably becoming President of the National Trust’s Snowdonia Appeal, raising funds for the preservation of the Snowdonia National Park and to aid the Trust’s efforts to purchase parts of Snowdon. A book celebrating these efforts, Anthony Hopkins’ Snowdonia, was published together with Graham Nobles. Hopkins, who can speak some Welsh, also takes time to support various philanthropic groups. He was a Guest of Honour at a Gala Fundraiser for Women in Recovery, Inc., a Venice, California-based non-profit organization offering rehabilitation assistance to women in recovery from substance abuse. He is also a volunteer teacher at the Ruskin School of Acting in Santa Monica, California, where he resides.
Hopkins is an acknowledged alcoholic who has been sober since 1975. Hopkins is known to be a joker while on set, lightening the mood during production by barking like a dog before filming a scene, according to a Tonight Show interview broadcast on 9 April 2007.
Hopkins is a prominent member of environmental protection group Greenpeace and as of early 2008 featured in a television advertisement campaign, voicing concerns about Japan’s continuing annual whale slaughter.
He is an admirer of the comedian Tommy Cooper. On 23 February 2008, as patron of The Tommy Cooper Society, the actor unveiled a commemorative statue in the entertainer’s home town of Caerphilly. For the ceremony, Hopkins donned Cooper’s trademark fez and performed a comic routine.
Hopkins is a talented pianist. In 1986, he released a single called “Distant Star”. It peaked at #75 in the UK charts. In 2007, he announced he would retire temporarily from the screen to tour around the world.
In 1996, Hopkins directed his first film, August, an adaptation of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya. His first screenplay, an experimental drama called Slipstream, which he also directed and scored, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2007.
Hopkins is a fan of the BBC sitcom Only Fools and Horses, and once remarked in an interview how he’d love to appear in the series. Writer John Sullivan saw the interview, and with Hopkins in mind created the character Danny Driscoll, a local villain. However, filming of the new series coincided with the filming of The Silence of the Lambs, making Hopkins unavailable. The role instead went to his friend Roy Marsden.
Hopkins has played many famous historical and fictional characters including:
- John Quincy Adams (Amistad, 1997)
- Pierre Bezukhov (War and Peace, 1972)
- William Bligh (The Bounty, 1984)
- Charles Dickens (The Great Inimitable Mr Dickens, 1970)
- John Frost (A Bridge Too Far, 1977)
- Bruno Hauptmann (The Lindbergh Kidnapping Case, 1976)
- Abraham Van Helsing (Bram Stoker’s Dracula, 1992)
- Adolf Hitler (The Bunker, 1981)
- Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (The Road to Wellville, 1994)
- C. S. Lewis (Shadowlands, 1993)
- David Lloyd George (Young Winston, 1972)
- Burt Munro (The World’s Fastest Indian, 2005)
- Dr. Hannibal Lecter (The Silence of the Lambs, 1991) (Hannibal, 2001) (Red Dragon, 2002)
- Quasimodo (The Hunchback Of Notre Dame (1982 film), 1982)
- Richard Nixon (Nixon, 1995)
- St Paul (Peter and Paul, 1981)
- Othello (Othello, 1981)
- Pablo Picasso (Surviving Picasso, 1996)
- Quasimodo (The Hunchback of Notre Dame, 1982)
- Yitzak Rabin (Victory at Entebbe, 1976)
- Richard Lionheart (The Lion in Winter, 1968)
- Marcus Crassus (Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of Spartacus, 1992)
- Titus Andronicus (Titus, 1999)
- Frederick Treves (The Elephant Man, 1980)
- Don Diego de la Vega/Zorro (The Mask of Zorro, 1998)
Besides his win for The Silence of the Lambs, Hopkins has been Oscar-nominated for The Remains of the Day (1993), Nixon (1995) and Amistad (1997).
Hopkins won the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in 1973 for his performance as Pierre Bezukhov in the BBC’s production of War and Peace, and additionally for The Silence of the Lambs and Shadowlands. He received nominations in the same category for Magic and The Remains of the Day and as Best Supporting Actor for The Lion in Winter.
He won Emmy Awards for his roles in The Lindbergh Kidnapping Case and The Bunker, and was Emmy-nominated for The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Great Expectations. He won the directing and the acting award, both for Slipstream, at Switzerland’s Locarno International Film Festival.