When we mention Sir Anthony Hopkins, the first performance most of us will think of is his Oscar-winning turn as the terrifying Dr Hannibal Lecter in 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs. However, Hopkins enjoyed a long, varied career on stage and screen before that classic film, and he’s also had a lot of success since.
Here are 10 things you might not have realised about this true acting legend.
10. He had a working-class upbringing in Wales
Philip Anthony Hopkins was born on New Year’s Eve 1937 to a working class family in Wales, and he has always claimed that his father’s working class values have been the bedrock of his life.
Hopkins has been quoted as saying that “whenever I get a feeling that I may be special or different, I think of my father and I remember his hands. His hardened, broken hands.”
9. He has an ‘inferiority complex’ about his intelligence
Hopkins did not perform well at school, mainly because he was much more interested in the arts than in his academic studies.
He went on to reveal that: “I was a poor learner, which left me open to ridicule and gave me an inferiority complex. I grew up absolutely convinced I was stupid.”
8. He is obsessive in his preparation
Hopkins is one of those actors whose performances come off so natural, they almost seem effortless. Of course, as a true professional, Hopkins puts in a huge amount of preparation beforehand.
He once revealed that he will go over his lines as many times as he thinks is necessary, which can sometimes be over 200, until he can deliver them without even thinking.
7. He has been called the greatest actor of his generation
Hopkins has been praised by many over the years, but surely one of the highest compliments he has ever been paid is when the great Sir Richard Attenborough, film director and legendary thespian in his own right, called Hopkins “the greatest actor of his generation.”
Attenborough knew what he was talking about, having directed Hopkins in five films: 1972’s Young Winston, 1977’s A Bridge Too Far, 1978’s Magic, 1992’s Chaplin and 1993’s Shadowlands.
6. He made audiences even more scared of doctors and dentists
Hopkins is said to have channeled Truman Capote, Katharine Hepburn, and HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey to bring us his legendary performance as Dr Hannibal Lecter, the psychiatrist/cannibal serial killer in The Silence of the Lambs, the 1991 screen adaptation of Thomas Harris’ novel.
Hopkins also insisted that Lecter always wear white, hoping to encourage the fear that many people already have for doctors and dentists.
5. He genuinely scared Jodie Foster on The Silence of the Lambs
Jodie Foster has said that during the first meeting between Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs, Anthony Hopkins’s mocking her southern accent was improvised. Foster’s horrified reaction was completely genuine, as (having confessed insecurity about the accent) she felt personally attacked.
The Academy voters clearly didn’t have any concerns about the quality of Foster’s accent, however, as they gave her the Best Actress Oscar for performance, as well as naming Hopkins Best Actor.
4. He won the Best Actor Oscar for only 16 minutes of screen time
Given how Anthony Hopkins’ performance as Hannibal Lecter has become, it’s easy to forget he’s hardly in The Silence of the Lambs at all. Hopkins’ Best Actor Oscar nomination and eventual win prompted some controversy, as he only actually appears on screen for 16 minutes in total.
Some felt it would have been more appropriate for Hopkins to be in the Best Supporting Actor category. Still, his is not the shortest performance to win a Best Actor Oscar: David Niven won the award in 1959 for a 15 minute 38 second appearance in Separate Tables.
3. He once delivered a seven page monologue in one go
Hopkins began his career on stage, where actors are expected to know their entire play inside out and perform it word perfect night after night. With this training, Hopkins has proved unusually adept at committing scripts to memory.
For example, when shooting Amistad, Hopkins astounded Steven Spielberg by delivering a seven page courtroom monologue in one go.
2. He’s had five more Oscar nominations and one more win since The Silence of the Lambs
The Silence of the Lambs wasn’t only Anthony Hopkins’ first Oscar; it was also his first nomination at the illustrious awards show. In the years since he’s been nominated three more times for the Best Actor Oscar, for 1994’s The Remains of the Day, 1996’s Nixon and 2021’s The Father. The last of these was his second Oscar win.
On top of these, Hopkins has also had two Oscar nominations in the Best Supporting Actor category, for 1998’s Amistad and 2020’s The Two Popes.
1. He’s an accomplished musician
As well as being an Oscar winning actor, Hopkins is also an accomplished musician. A pianist, composer and conductor, he released a single in 1986 called Distant Star which reached number 75 in the UK chart, and later releasing an album, Composer, in 2012.
Hopkins has been quoted as saying that “I’ve been composing music all my life and if I’d been clever enough at school I would like to have gone to music college. As it was I had to settle for being an actor.”