PLAYBOY: With your recent knighthood, must we address you as Sir Anthony?
HOPKINS: They say "Sir Hopkins." What do Americans think of all that?
PLAYBOY: We're impressed. But never mind what Americans think, what did you think when you found out about it?
HOPKINS: It was a big surprise. It's nice. I'm honored, but I don't know how to use it. Maybe I can get special tables at restaurants.
PLAYBOY: Which is a bigger honor, an Oscar or a knighthood?
HOPKINS: I hope this won't get in the English press, but the Oscar, because I'm a movie actor. Getting the Oscar was a great moment for me. It changed my life, because it knocked down my self-doubts. I think praise is a good thing to have in one's life. It's better than a kick in the ass. When I was a little kid, my father used to pick me up and throw me into the air, and I always wanted to touch the ceiling. And I thought, Well, now I've touched the ceiling. It's like they let me out of the cage.
PLAYBOY: Many people are predicting you'll get a second Oscar for The Remains of the Day. Would you like to win again?
HOPKINS: One is enough. I have an Oscar so I'm off the hook, really. I've done everything I've
ever wanted in my life. The knighthood is another thing. I nearly blew it all some years ago,
and I had sort of a resurrection. Many people don't survive drugs or survive the horrors I did,
and I came through it. Then The Silence of the Lambs came out of the blue and I was
given an Oscar, and then I was given this knighthood and now I've done this amazing film called
The Remains of the Day, which really is coming home to me. And next I played the writer
C. S. Lewis in Shadowlands. So I'm getting these parts now, and I'm thinking, What the
hell's happened? Why are these parts coming to me?
PLAYBOY: Nothing? Don't you enjoy it?
HOPKINS: I love going to the studio, I love going to location and getting into the dressing rooms--all that ritual of going to makeup, putting the clothes on. If they want me to wait there for three days, I don't care. These assistants run up and say, "Sorry to keep you waiting." I say, "Just make sure my agent gets the check, that's all." I read books, I relax, I sleep. I love it. I always save my energy. I don't hang about. I stay away from other actors; I don't want to have lunch with them. And as soon as the day's over, I'm in the car and I'm off. I don't want anything to do with it. A friend of mine said it's easy for me to say that. Well, it is. It's easy flying a jumbo jet when you know how to do it. It's the same for me, it's easy, because I know what I'm doing.
PLAYBOY: Laurence Olivier said acting is a masochistic form of exhibitionism.
HOPKINS: What a lot of crap. It's all bullshit. Bullshit. It's a crock of horseshit, all of it. I don't know, maybe I'm shallow. Maybe I don't have much going on in my mind. The only quote which is fairly accurate for myself is that I think actors are all damaged goods.
PLAYBOY: Why did you want to become an actor?
HOPKINS: It's all I know. I've been getting away with it for 30 years. I became an actor because I wanted to do something new that would get me out of the rut that I was in. I wanted to make a mark somehow; I wanted to become famous--that's all I ever wanted. I'd seen Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift and that's what I wanted to become. I wanted to become an American actor. My longing to come to America was a more powerful influence than anyone like Olivier, who was the greatest actor of his time. But looking back, I remember I wanted to become an actor because Richard Burton had made it and he came from the same hometown I did. He escaped and made a career for himself. I wanted to become somebody like that. I just didn't want to be what I was.
PLAYBOY: Was your childhood traumatic?
HOPKINS: I was an idiot at school. I didn't know what time of day it was. We lived in the rural part of an industrial, steelworking town. When I first went to school I was in a completely alien environment. I can remember the smell of stale milk, drinking straws and wet coats and sitting there absolutely petrified. That feeling stayed with me. The fear stayed with me through my childhood and right through adolescence--that gnawing anxiety that I was freaky, that I wasn't really fitting in anywhere. Maybe I was dyslexic. In fact, I wasn't popular at all. I never played with any of the other kids, and I didn't have any friends. I wanted to be left alone all through my school years.
PLAYBOY: Did you ever do anything to attract attention?
HOPKINS: Just after the war, I was in a little school called Bridge Street School and every lunch I could get on the bus and go home, which was about three miles. But I would never get on the bus, I would run beside it, like an idiot, like the school clown. I was so ill when I got home, it's a wonder I didn't have a heart attack. I was throwing up because I was exhausted. I used to race the school bus, and naturally it would get ahead of me and I'd catch up at the bus stop and kids would say, "Come on." I would do things in a weird way, like I wouldn't go to my own birthday parties.
PLAYBOY: Did your parents find your behavior odd?
HOPKINS: I was an only child and my mother and father were a little worried because I didn't seem to grasp anything. My parents sent me off to a boarding school and I lived away from home from the age of 11. That sense of potential failure is still in the back of my mind. I still don't hang around people. I'm not gregarious with anybody.
PLAYBOY: And this stems from your being so withdrawn as a child?
HOPKINS: Oh, yes. In school I wouldn't speak to anyone for four weeks. And I was punished.
PLAYBOY: How were you punished?
HOPKINS: They hit me.
PLAYBOY: The teachers?
HOPKINS: The teachers, yes. They would slap me about the head. And I did not speak, I just wouldn't speak. I was hauled before the headmaster, who talked to my mother and father and said there was something wrong with me.
PLAYBOY: How old were you?
HOPKINS: I was 14. In 1953 I was reading Trotsky's History of the Russian Revolution and I was asked if I was Communist or a Marxist. I didn't know what they were talking about. The book was taken away from me. Then some of the kids would call me "bolshi, bolshi, bolshi." I went completely into myself. I thought I would defy them all. That has stayed with me the rest of my life, the thought that I would show them all one day. And that's why I became an actor.
PLAYBOY: Did you hate the classmates who teased you?
HOPKINS: I hated the rejection, I hated being sneered at by other kids. I get a recurring dream that I'm outside of the group. I don't belong and they show me that I don't belong. It's about going back to school--or it could be among a group of adults in a dream--and they turn on me, humiliate me, and I wake up. It's so vivid, it takes me a few minutes to realize that it was a dream.
PLAYBOY: How do they humiliate you?
HOPKINS: They call me crap: "You're nothing, you're so worthless, you're nasty, you're a vicious person." Once I get back to my senses I take it as a good sign that I no longer see myself that way. I'm aware of what you could do out of self-contempt. So my life is a remarkable revelation to myself.
PLAYBOY: As a child, did you have any religious beliefs to fall back on?
HOPKINS: No. Once, when I was about four, they recited the Lord's Prayer in school and I couldn't comprehend it. Whenever I mentioned this my father said, "It's a load of rubbish, God." So for years I believed it was all self-determined and you just suffer in this uncomfortable universe. My father's philosophy was: "You're going to fight. It's dog eat dog! Don't trust anyone and don't give anything away."
PLAYBOY: How much of a force was your father in your life?
HOPKINS: He was a man of colossal energy, but a lot of the energy didn't go anywhere. He was just spinning his wheels. He was exhausting to be with. My father said all bakers are mad because they have such violent temperaments. I remember him in a rage, tearing a loaf of bread because it had gone wrong and throwing it all over the wall in frustration. In the Depression years people did anything to survive and people cracked.
PLAYBOY: Do you take after your father?
HOPKINS: As I get older I feel so much like him. I have a thing about waste, I hate waste. I had a thing with Francis Coppola during Dracula with reams of scripts because I don't like wasting paper. I don't like wasting food. It makes me uncomfortable when you order a meal in America and they bring you a huge feast. That's a terrible waste. And I switch off lights. My wife says, "For God's sake, don't get like your father." I say, "You don't need all of these lights on." And she says, "We're not living in Charles Dickens' England." I go around and switch them off.
PLAYBOY: Did you ever work with your dad in the bakery?
HOPKINS: No. He said, "You don't want to come into this business, do you?" I said no. He told me, "You'd be hopeless."
PLAYBOY: Your father must have thought it a miracle that you got through school at all. Is it a major accomplishment to survive the British school system?
HOPKINS: Yes, it is. The public school system is one of the most insufferable systems of all. I'm glad I was in that system because it gave me enough rocket fuel to get out and do something different. It pushed me into rage for years. I look back at it now and think it wasn't that something was wrong with me, it was that something was right with me. I may have hurt a few people along the way, but it got me what I wanted.
PLAYBOY: What were you good at as a boy?
HOPKINS: I was good at impersonating teachers. I could imitate mannerisms and voices. That was my way of getting back. I really developed it when I became an actor.
PLAYBOY: Did you ever get caught mimicking someone?
HOPKINS: Olivier, once. I was doing a speech, just fooling around, and he was standing right behind me.
PLAYBOY: What was his reaction?
HOPKINS: He said, "Is that supposed to be me? Doesn't sound anything like me. But it was a good impersonation. When [director] John Schlesinger and I were together making The Innocent in Germany, I did John and he said, "Oh, fuck off." Schlesinger is an interesting character. He's precise and quite volatile. When I went into the army for my military service, there was a Sergeant Brolins, and I used to be able to imitate his voice. I'd stand outside the huts and call everyone out on parade half an hour early. I'd vanish and they'd all come out. I suppose it's all a residue of my childhood. Somebody said of me once, "What is with Tony, always the jokes and laughter, fooling around, what's he covering up?" Maybe she was right, maybe I am covering up something.
PLAYBOY: Didn't you also find some release through music and drawing?
HOPKINS: Well, I was captivated by Beethoven and his music and I wanted to become Beethoven. I can compose and improvise. I often manage to sneak a little of my own music into my films.
PLAYBOY: Do you still draw?
HOPKINS: I used to draw when I was a kid, used to lie on the floor while all these war planes were dropping bombs. There was a woman called Bernice Evans, 18 or 19, and she came to the house one day to see my mother. She looked at my drawings and said, "They're very good. He should have lessons." I was sent to this little school that Bernice had in town, once a week on Friday nights, and she taught me how to paint with poster paints. Then, in the summer in 1947, this man came up the stairs and into the room. He had on a bright checked jacket and had very piercing eyes. She said, "Anthony, this is Richard, he's an actor."
PLAYBOY: Was it Richard Burton?
HOPKINS: Yes. Never met him again until I went to ask for his autograph when he became a bit more famous. But he went out with Bernice.
PLAYBOY: What about you? Did you go out much or were you sexually naive?
HOPKINS: Just a bit dumb. I didn't know what it was about. It was something you didn't talk about. Especially with a Welsh background, I was closed off about it. I didn't want complications in my life, so I closed down. It's all rather baffling and mysterious. I never had an easy relationship over the years, then I gradually began to like women. But I was shy for a long time, fearful. I was a bit of a recluse. I went out with a girl briefly, and I went out with a girl at the Royal Academy. In 1961 I went out with an American girl for about six months. That was a bit of a traumatic experience. I was besotted with her, but she was ephemeral, elusive. One day she said, "That's it." It's all such a big deal that's made of everything, whether it's sex or acting. Now I think it's no big deal. You function, you get on with your life. One day it's all going to be over and that's the end of that.
PLAYBOY: After school, what kind of jobs did you hold?
HOPKINS: In 1955 I worked in a steel company in Wales for eight weeks. The fitters would come in
and say, "I'd like two dozen steel bolts and two pieces of 52 piping." And I'd always get it
wrong. I remember one man said, "You're not really connected, are you?" That's what I felt most
like in those years. My father would say the same thing. "Take this bread to the shop. No,
forget it, get out." He gave up quickly. Mind you, I got out of a lot of duties and hard work.
In the army I qualified for a clerk's course and I was in the chief clerk's office for 18 months.
I couldn't type and I couldn't do anything right. The staff sergeant looked at me and said, "I
was just wondering, How the hell did I give you this job?" I was so stupid.
PLAYBOY: Did you have a feeling of belonging when you were with other actors?
HOPKINS: No, not at all. I still don't get a sense of belonging.
PLAYBOY: What did you learn when you studied at the Welsh College of Music and Drama?
HOPKINS: Not very much because I was too young. I learned some speech, and the history of the theater and makeup and all that. I left when I was 19 and went on a tour of Britain for the Arts Council. Then I did my national military service for two years.
PLAYBOY: Did you try to get out of the draft?
HOPKINS: They said that if you drank a bottle of vinegar it would cause a heart tremor and get you out of the army. I was hoping I could have something wrong with me, but there was nothing. I couldn't fake it.
PLAYBOY: After the army you enrolled in the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Did you settle down then?
HOPKINS: I was a troubled student. I didn't like dancing and ballet, I couldn't stand all that stuff. I used to skip those classes and go out to the movies. But I worked quite hard on what I chose to work on.
PLAYBOY: Did you worry much about technique at that time?
HOPKINS: You have to learn to speak clearly, which is the British system. I can understand why American actors think that's for the birds.
PLAYBOY: When you joined the National Theater, Olivier was its director. Were you friends with him?
HOPKINS: He was an old man, and I didn't get that close to him, but he took me under his wing. He liked me because I was a bit odd and I was pretty feisty. He liked physically strong people. He wasn't a very strong man. He had very bad legs and always complained about them, saying that they weren't thick enough, they were spindly. I was always naturally kind of muscular and he would come up and say, "God, lucky man." He said you have to be strong, you have to have stamina.
PLAYBOY: Did he ever give you any kind of advice?
HOPKINS: Yeah, he said, "Work hard. Be courageous, do the impossible. Do the outrageous. Don't ever be calm or tame. And don't waste your time doing the movies. You're a fine actor, you ought to stay in the theater for a while. Don't sell out, keep that training going. But British actors all want to sell out now. They keep saying about Richard Burton that his life was a waste. What do you mean it was a waste? He did what he wanted to do and made a lot of money, married a famous movie actress and did some good. He certainly shook the rafters and made a bit of noise.
PLAYBOY: You made a bit of noise yourself when you quit the National Theater in 1973 in the middle of a run of Macbeth. Was it a self-destructive act?
HOPKINS: No, it was the most creative thing I've ever done, because it got me out of where I was. Unfortunately, I left a lot of people in the lurch. But I just had to get the hell out of there. I would have gone under if I'd stayed.
PLAYBOY: So it was constructive?
HOPKINS: It was. At the time I thought, My God, I'm a terrible, irresponsible wreck and I've destroyed my career. It was quite a cold, calculated thing. Here I was being groomed to lead the company and I just wasn't fit for it, not intellectually, emotionally or physically. I wasn't interested in becoming a classical actor. I was drinking too much and I had a lot of fire and anger. And on top of that, I had this director, John Dexter, whom I later worked with on Equus and became good friends with. But at the time, I couldn't take John. So I left. I woke up at three A.M. and I had this voice going around in my head. And I thought, I'm not going to go back there. So I phoned up my agent and I said, "I'm out. I value my mental health, or what's left of it, more than I do the theater. I'll drive a taxi, I'll do something. I don't care." I had painted myself into a corner. I had to make a break with myself and with the past. I put down the phone and walked across Green Park in London. The birds were singing and the cabs and buses were driving by and I thought, I'll never have to go back again. I have no future. And within a few weeks, I was out in the desert sitting on the back of a camel with Leslie Caron doing QB VII for American TV. It was the beginning of a whole change in my life.
PLAYBOY: To go from Shakespeare to a TV miniseries might seem like a step backward. But you don't see the worth or virtue in either the Bard or yourself, do you?
HOPKINS: I don't like virtue and I don't like worthiness. I don't like valor. Why keep being so nice? It's something in me, I can't stand that. My father couldn't stand all that stuff. I don't say that I'm not a phony. I'm as phony as everyone else. We're all phony. We're all charlatans, we're all flawed, we're all liars. Nobody really carries the mantle totally in their lives. But there's a part of it I can't stomach. Who gives a damn about a theater that was built 400 years ago? Who cares? Pave it. Who cares? It's dead stuff. It's like the bloody Bard. Whether this Lear is better than that Lear--who gives a damn? You're doing what 15,000 actors have done before you. How the hell do you find something new? It's a fucking nightmare.
PLAYBOY: What about the claim that every actor should do Hamlet?
HOPKINS: Most actors want to do Hamlet when they're at their craziest. I was the same way. I think it's a death wish.
PLAYBOY: So actors should forget William Shakespeare?
HOPKINS: I suppose it's good to have done it. I've done quite a bit of it, but I don't find it enriching. I don't like Shakespeare. I'd rather be in Malibu.
PLAYBOY: You're harsh about the acting profession. How do you feel about your fellow actors?
HOPKINS: What's so special about being an actor? Actors are nothing. Actors are of no consequence. Most actors are pretty simpleminded people who just think they're complicated. I remember when I had heard about Robert De Niro in Raging Bull and I thought, I have to go see this film. I went to see it at a small theater in New York, with the smell of urine, and pissing, and a couple of people asleep. It was like that moment of truth: Is this what it's all about?
PLAYBOY: What about live theater?
HOPKINS: I occasionally go to see a play if there's a friend of mine in it, and I'll go backstage afterward. It's so depressing. There's the smell of rotting garbage from nearby restaurants. You look at this grotty, dirty little dressing room, and there's the actor who looks like he's just been in the ring with Mike Tyson--all for 15 lines. I come out in the bright sunshine and I think, I don't have to do any of that.
PLAYBOY: Is it an exercise in futility?
HOPKINS: Yes. It's the same with movies. If you can't enjoy doing what you're doing, what's the point of doing it?
PLAYBOY: Did you enjoy your first movie, The Lion in Winter?
HOPKINS: Yes, though I was just a young, brash, nervous actor. I had a lot of opinions about myself; you swing between tremendous arrogance and self-contempt. So I was pretty nervous and pretty scared and unsure of myself. But I loved standing in front of the camera. I loved working with Katharine Hepburn and Peter O'Toole. I could feel a sense of power and a center of strength. I thought, I must never lose it, never let go of this sense of center in myself. I had never felt it when onstage.
PLAYBOY: Didn't Katharine Hepburn advise you not to overact?
HOPKINS: No, she said, "You don't need to do anything. You'll understand, just relax." Then she said, "You don't have to act. You have a good voice, you look good, you have a big frame, you'll look good on film. Don't act. I'll do the acting. I'm always overacting, that's the way I am. But you don't need to do that." She was right.
PLAYBOY: Did you know Peter O'Toole before you did that movie?
HOPKINS: No. Never had met him. He was electrifying. The most exciting and dangerous actor I've ever worked with. We had some wild times together.
PLAYBOY: How wild?
HOPKINS: There were fights.
PLAYBOY: Physical or verbal?
HOPKINS: O'Toole and I, both smashed, were ready to beat each other up. He was mad. He drank as much as I did and probably more, and he had that kind of yearning zest for life. He hated the Welsh. I didn't give a damn about race--Welsh, Irish, it's all the same to me. A lot of Welsh people are anti-English. I've got no bones to grind, I told O'Toole. He said, "You're like that other Welsh bastard, Richard Burton. You're a fucking misfit. Play the piano and all that stuff, and you're a stargazer." Because I like astronomy. It got up his nose for some reason. He was pretty smashed and I had had a few and we were in a restaurant and I suddenly got out of my chair and leaned across the table and said, "You bastard, come outside." I meant it, I was going to deck him. I didn't care.
PLAYBOY: Did you care about what the critics said about your performance in Magic?
HOPKINS: I don't know why I did that film. They should have gone to somebody else, an American actor, a New York actor like Al Pacino.
PLAYBOY: Critic Pauline Kael felt you used all the emotions of a dummy.
HOPKINS: Who's this? Never heard of her. I'm always wary of knowledgeable people who are very critical. We have them in England. Jack Tinker, who is one of our foremost critics, works for one of the tabloids. It's the most irritating writing, because he creams his jeans over any Vanessa Redgrave performance. It's all bullshit, all these endless analyses of films.
PLAYBOY: You found Shirley MacLaine intolerable when you worked together in A Change of Seasons. What was the problem?
HOPKINS: We didn't get along too well. We didn't speak to each other. She didn't like me. She's very clever and talented, but she likes to run everything, she likes control. That's OK, but I can't be bothered with that circus. You have one director, you don't need three. You don't need the actress telling you what to do.
PLAYBOY: Have you considered working with someone like Barbra Streisand, who acts, directs and demands total control?
HOPKINS: No, I give them five minutes. I'm not going to put up with that. It's not that important. None of this has any consequence at all. And dubbing, editing, all that bullshit--do your job, go home. If somebody asks me, "Do you want to be involved in the development of this production?" I say, "No, give me the script, point the way to the studio and show me the camera and I'll do it." I have no interest in developing, in producing, in directing anything.
PLAYBOY: One television miniseries you did, Hollywood Wives, was a mess. Why did you do it?
HOPKINS: Just for a laugh. I was living in England and I wanted to spend some time in Los Angeles and my agent phoned up and said, "Do you want to do Hollywood Wives?" And I said, "Is it porno?" He said, "No." I said, "OK. How much are they paying me?" I had a good time. I never saw it.
PLAYBOY: Another miniseries you did, The Bunker, wasn't done for laughs. Was it difficult to get inside of Adolf Hitler's mind?
HOPKINS: I enjoyed doing it. When I was playing Hitler, I thought there must be a clue. What is his personal tragedy, his grief and his great loss? And I went back and looked at movies and the Olympic Games and the days of the Third Reich, seeing him standing there speaking, "Sieg Hell." What a dream that must have been for him and for those corrupt men around him. And for the 70 million German people on their feet saying that their savior had come. That's what they believed. I read Mein Kampf closely--the genocide policy, it was there, it was self-evident. With the Russian tanks moving in and with Germany's falling into rubble, he must have felt a tremendous sense of betrayal, that the people had let him down. I knew so much about Hitler, and I also knew the old man in him. He's sort of a Lear figure: the decrepit old man in the bunker with the loss of his dream; the greatest dictator in the world ruling over a million square miles of rubble and ruin. Extraordinary. I understood his need for sweet cakes and his tea parties. I styled Hitler after my own grandfather on my father's side, who was a bit of a tyrant. He was self-educated and full of all kinds of extraordinary opinions and philosophical insights. He was Victorian and had a hard life. But he was hard as nails, confused, frustrated, powerful and a sentimental ogre. Which Hitler was, as well. But my grandfather didn't kill anyone. He wasn't responsible for the death of millions of people.
PLAYBOY: You have also played other frighteningly evil men, onstage in Pravda and on-screen as Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs. Why the fascination with the dark side?
HOPKINS: I've played bright people and monstrous people. In Pravda I played a man called Lambert Le Roux who was a male version of Margaret Thatcher. He was like Jaws, in the way sharks move. This man knew exactly what price people had, and he knew that everyone had a price. I loved playing that part because he saw through all the bullshit. He knew that contained in each human being is the jungle. That's a pretty bleak look at life, but there is a part that is exciting. Lecter also sees the jungle inside each human being, he sees the dark side. It's a nihilistic truth and it's a Nietzschean view of the world.
PLAYBOY: Before you filmed The Silence of the Lambs, Jonathan Demme said he was initially repelled by the idea of doing a film about a serial killer. Did you feel that way as well?
HOPKINS: No. I didn't think it was an exploitation movie. It was a well-constructed thriller. I had no qualms about playing Lecter, because he's a piece of fiction, a product of the imagination. A bizarre, strange, intriguing character.
PLAYBOY: Were you concerned at all about the glorification of violence, that someone might see the film and be influenced by it?
HOPKINS: No, I didn't think it glorified violence. The cinemas are full of violent films. Like Rambo and Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Schwarzenegger movies. They are very violent and dehumanizing. Schwarzenegger's stuff is antihuman, antihumanity: The human being is turned into a machine state. They are entertaining, but there's something almost fascist, something odd, about them. But they are also very camp.
PLAYBOY: Did you see the film as strange kind of fairy tale?
HOPKINS: Yes. The story's about Clarice, it's not about me. It's some strange, Gothic fairy tale that she's sent out by the king to kill the monster. There's an evil scourge on the land and he says, "Slay the dragon. But you have to talk to the prime dark angel." She goes down into the bowels of hell and meets this dark angel. It's all very erotic. It's a romantic figure, the angel of death. He makes her strong and he opens her up. It's a primitive, archetypal fairy tale.
PLAYBOY: Why are evil men often sexy?
HOPKINS: Power. Evil has its own power. Power is erotic. Remember when Henry Kissinger was secretary of state and he had all those women and young girls around? Politicians are powerful and directors are powerful. People who run industries are powerful. They are erotic symbols. Power is sex. Richard III is sex. I don't think Hitler was sexy, but people used to have orgasms when he spoke.
PLAYBOY: Are we drawn to these people because we all have a darker side?
HOPKINS: We would all like to be machinelike and have no emotions. I long for it all the time. Have no emotions so that I could make no mistakes and be ice cold. I'd love to be like that, but I can't. I'm trapped in my own personality, which is constantly getting me into areas that I don't want to be in. I long to be somebody who is ice cold, brutal, tough and uncompromising. Of course, I'd probably hate myself.
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