Playboy Magazine Interview By Lawrence Grobel, March 1994

PLAYBOY: When will we see a sequel to The Silence of the Lambs?

HOPKINS: I asked Jonathan, "Is there any news?" And he said, "Well, Tom Harris is writing. He's a slow writer."

PLAYBOY: Who else would play a good Lecter?

HOPKINS: Jack Nicholson. When I got the part, I wondered why they gave it to me.

PLAYBOY: The film's success had to have affected you in some way.

HOPKINS: Yes, it broke box-office records in the West End. I went with a friend and we sat in the car across the road. I looked at the lines of people and I saw my name up there and he said, "What do you think?" I said, "The weird thing is I don't feel anything." Nothing changes. I look in the mirror, and the same boring face is looking back.

PLAYBOY: Yet that boring face has been transformed into the face of monsters, madmen and tyrants. Have these roles given you insights into other levels of humanity?

HOPKINS: Yes. It's interesting watching people in power. Like watching Saddam Hussein, watching his whole body movement when somebody goes to meet him. When he went to the hospital after the Iraqis were bombed in that hotel, you saw a soldier's reaction. It was as if he were standing before some colossus, some monster figure, some bogeyman. Watch people with Hitler, watch people with powerful people, it's the same thing. When Saddam Hussein is talking, he doesn't actually look at the people he's with. He makes the other people around him invisible. Olivier had that quality and Francis Coppola has a bit of it. Powerful people have a way of making other people feel invisible. They have the power to ignore people--that's the way they rule.

PLAYBOY: John Huston was like that.

HOPKINS: I'm sure he was. A lot of directors are, a lot of moguls are. It's a dangerous area when directors start to feel their power: keeping people waiting, not answering their phones, turning up late. Gandhi said that being late is an act of violence, an act of terrorism, because it unnerves people. I think rudeness is a real spit in the face. There's a lot of rudeness in this business. It's one of the most insufferable parts of it. So when I direct, I go the other way to be kind to people, because to make people feel they're anonymous--to reduce them to numbers, to unimportance--is unspeakable. I've watched it happen. Actors and directors are fucking horrible. It puts me in an intolerant rage.

PLAYBOY: You've accused such British directors as Peter Brook, Tony Richardson and Ken Russell of using actors as puppets. Is that how you still feel?

HOPKINS: Yeah. I have no love for them at all. Richardson was one of the worst. Those directors, I hate them. I don't understand why actors don't stand up for themselves when they're being abused by some directors. Why not stand up and fight against maniacs? I fight it, I don't put up with it. I won't work. I hate directors who interfere, pass notes. If you have monsters, I don't care how great they are, it's not worth getting out of bed in the morning. I've walked out of two films. One was with some British jerk director who was crying in rage because I dared challenge him. Because I don't give a shit about my career. I don't like anyone bullying other people. On Dracula an assistant director shouted at the cameraman and I stopped and said, "Is this a concentration camp you're running here? Don't shout in front of me, just go fuck yourself, keep out of my way." I don't want to be a hero, I don't want to be everyone's champion, but if I see it, I'll stop it. I won't put up with it. I'm glad my anger is alive and healthy, because I don't want to become too docile.

PLAYBOY: When you now have to portray anger, do you just think of a few directors and it comes back?

HOPKINS: Yeah. I must say that 90 percent of the film directors I've worked with have been terrific. The theater is a different story. That's the breeding ground of such fabulous bullshit. Intellectual bullshit. These directors come straight out of Cambridge University with new innovations about Shakespeare. Hamlet dressed up as a Nazi. It's wanking, you know.

PLAYBOY: Don't some actors see the director as a father figure?

HOPKINS: Oh, I can't stand it. Think of the history of the human species. Think of the knowledge that has been brought forward about people's rights not to be controlled by other people. From national histories, the Holocaust, brutality, war, to the shop floor. Nobody can have power over you. I don't understand why we still put up with this bullshit. If you let these sharks get at you, they'll tear your innards out. They'll destroy you. Why bother with these people?

PLAYBOY: You mentioned the power of Francis Coppola. What kind of tyrant was he when you were filming Dracula?

HOPKINS: Francis is an enormous personality. He's charismatic, a controller, a dictator and a tyrant in his way. I say all these things with a positive feeling. The Godfather was one of the greatest films made and Apocalypse Now is a big, sprawling film of epic proportions. I watched him in that documentary about the making of Apocalypse. There he was in the swamps, up to his chest in water, directing the helicopter. This isn't a man covered in Gucci leather sitting in an office in Burbank. This man puts his money where his mouth is.

PLAYBOY: Were you pleased with the way Dracula turned out?

HOPKINS: It was a big, bold film. I've never seen anything like it. The only criticism I would have is, if I were Francis, I wouldn't do so much. He threw too much on the screen. I'd just say, "Right, we don't need all these shots." But that's the way he works. When he makes pasta, he puts everything in it. He's an excessive person with huge appetites.

PLAYBOY: Was it Winona Ryder who suggested you for the part?

HOPKINS: Yes, she did. Coppola told me that Winona had brought the Dracula script to him, and she wanted me. She's amazing. At 22 years of age, she has an extraordinary brain. She's extremely well read and knows herself.

PLAYBOY: Is it true that you are very uncomfortable in the presence of young and accomplished actresses?

HOPKINS: I can never really relax, especially with actresses. I met Meryl Streep in London and she paid me great compliments and I didn't know what to do or say. So when I get frightened, I give them a hug and I get physical. With Winona Ryder, I could never quite relax. The same thing with Jodie Foster--Jodie and I were slightly nervous around each other.

PLAYBOY: And what about young actors, such as Dracula's Gary Oldman?

HOPKINS: Gary Oldman is an exciting actor. He reminds me of the way I was some years ago. He's obsessive, which is good so long as it doesn't destroy him. I hope I've grown out of that obsession, because it's so uncomfortable living with that. He has that thing that O'Toole had, that wonderful quality of sheer bloody madness. Gary doesn't stop. He may be a bit of a pain in the ass to some people, but at least he's there, he's functioning, he's alive. If anything, Gary has to calm down a bit.

PLAYBOY: Your own madness and obsessions coincided with your drinking years. How big a drinker were you?

HOPKINS: I was a problem drinker. I drank for 15 years, which is not long. I had done severe damage to myself, I'd put on weight. I had done more damage to my emotional equipment. I was just very shaky and thought I was going mad. I felt it was hopeless and I wanted to end it all. My life was beginning to fall to pieces. I was a damn nuisance to be around.

PLAYBOY: Did you drink while you were acting?

HOPKINS: No, but I may as well have been drinking, because I was so hung over and intoxicated. You can function well while drinking. I did it quite successfully.

PLAYBOY: How long has it been since you last had a drink?

HOPKINS: Seventeen years.

PLAYBOY: Did you ever worry that you would lose your edge if you were to give up booze?

HOPKINS: Yeah, initially. But I didn't care, I just wanted to get that monkey off my back.

PLAYBOY: Is that when you found Alcoholics Anonymous?

HOPKINS: You can't print that name, you know.

PLAYBOY: Why not?

HOPKINS: You have to respect the anonymity of the tradition. So you mustn't print that. I would be very angry if you were to print that.

PLAYBOY: This won't be the first time that name has seen print. The more important issue is why it works for you.

HOPKINS: I found there were people who were just like me, and their job is to help people who suffer just like themselves. A network is there night and day if you want it and it saved my life. I'm so indebted to them that I try to observe the rules and traditions.

PLAYBOY: Didn't you once drive from Los Angeles to Phoenix without realizing that you'd done it?

HOPKINS: I remember doing it, but I had fallen asleep at the wheel. I was intoxicated and I came back to Los Angeles and just reached my wit's end. I could have killed somebody with my car.

PLAYBOY: You could have died as well.

HOPKINS: That was horrifying. All of my problems from when I was a little kid come back to this inability to fit in and live peacefully in the world, to this feeling of being an outsider. When you take drugs or booze it makes you fit in for a while. That's why it's so attractive. Booze is just narcotics in a bottle. It's a depressant. And anything you can get to fix you is an addiction. Whether it's sex or food or work or success, if it becomes a fixation then it's an addiction and you become dependent on that addiction. It can ruin your life.

PLAYBOY: What about other drugs, such as marijuana or acid?

HOPKINS: No, I never messed with that stuff. But I have had enough tequila in me to know what an acid trip is like.

PLAYBOY: Was your drinking part of the cause of the failure of your first marriage?

HOPKINS: I don't want to talk about that.

PLAYBOY: At all?

HOPKINS: Nope. It's over. It was my problem. My fault. We produced one child from that and got divorced.

PLAYBOY: We don't know much about it.

HOPKINS: I don't want you to know anything. It's over.

PLAYBOY: Can we talk at all about your daughter?

HOPKINS: No. Because she's changed her name. She wants to get on with her career.

PLAYBOY: Are you friends with her?

HOPKINS: Oh, yeah. I saw her just recently, but that's over as well. You're not going to get anything out of me. I'm keeping to myself the personal parts of my life that would be painful to my exwife and daughter. I accept full responsibility. It was something that didn't work. It's over.

PLAYBOY: Didn't you once play a character in The Good Father who had to vent his rage against his wife?

HOPKINS: Yes, I did. The director, Mike Newell, was a complex man. He wanted to talk about the part and degrees of rage and anger. I said, "Listen, let's just shoot it. I know all about anger." He said, "Yeah, but let's talk about it." And I said, "No, look, I bring the child back, I dump him on the mother. She slams the door in my face and I kick the door, that's it. There's nothing about degrees of anger. I know this man inside out and backward; he's me. I've done all these things, I've been through a marriage, I've been through a disastrous divorce. I have all that violence in me, so let's just do it." So we did.
During one scene in that movie I broke down, which I had never done before. I've always been in charge of my emotions, but I broke down. I had walked out of my first marriage, which was a disaster, and I left my child, Abigail. I felt ashamed and angry with myself. It's the first time I acknowledged that anything had any ties on me, because I've always tried to deny emotion. It shook me.

PLAYBOY: So your personal life intruded on your life of make-believe?

HOPKINS: Yes. I'm stunned by the hurt the children go through over divorces, with their innocence and with adult stupidity. It hurt me that I'd been irresponsible. But I wasn't fit for marriage or to bring up a family.

PLAYBOY: How old was your child when you were playing this role?

HOPKINS: About 15, 16 maybe. She has a small part in The Remains of the Day. She's a good actress.

PLAYBOY: Did she ask you to get her a part?

HOPKINS: No, I just went to the producer and said, "I'd like my daughter to do this. What do you think?"

PLAYBOY: Did she have any problem with that?

HOPKINS: No, she loved it.

PLAYBOY: Do you give her advice?

HOPKINS: No. When we were on the set together I stayed away. She changed her name so they didn't know who she was. We were in a scene together. She's one of the housemaids and she's with my father as he's dying and she wakes him up when I come into the room. She said, "I was nervous." And I put my arm around her and said, "You looked terrific, it was great."

PLAYBOY: You've said seeing her was like seeing yourself in drag.

HOPKINS: We do look a little alike, but she has all the burning questions I had. She's much smarter than I am. She's very determined.

PLAYBOY: How long did it take for you to become friends? Was that a difficult process?

HOPKINS: We got close a few years ago and she came and stayed with us. She was doing her own numbers, playing some sorts of scenes for herself, trying to impress me or being manipulative. I said, forget it. I just withdrew. I always withdraw from people. I try not to let people absorb too much of my energy. Once people start latching on to me and try to draw things out of me and control me, I wave them goodbye, sometimes forever, and I won't go back. I don't like being controlled by anyone.

PLAYBOY: But when it comes to your own daughter, don't you make certain allowances? Clearly you two have had a reconciliation.

HOPKINS: I was quite prepared to go into the wilderness without her. I was prepared not to see her again. It doesn't matter to me, you see. We have to be tough and callous about it all, live our lives. It's a selfish way of looking at it, but I don't have a conscience. I suppose it's a bit indifferent.

PLAYBOY: Do you have contact with her mother as well?

HOPKINS: No. After our scene together I wrote to her mother and her grandmother and said, "She did really well at this and I'm so pleased for her." But that's it.

PLAYBOY: Your second marriage has lasted for 20 years. How did you meet Jennifer Lynton?

HOPKINS: I was up in Scotland for a film called When Eight Bells Toll and she was working for the production company. I arrived at the airport worse for wear, having had a few drinks on a late plane--I'd missed the other one--and her boss said, "One of our actors is missing and he's probably going to turn up on the next flight; could you go down and meet him and give him his call sheets for tomorrow morning? He's a bit of a nuisance. His name is Tony Hopkins." And as I got off the plane she was there and as soon as she saw me she thought, That's him. I'm going to marry him. And then she took an instant dislike to me. I was rude, like lots of actors.

PLAYBOY: Did you even notice her?

HOPKINS: Nope. And a few weeks later I was at a party and I asked her out. She wrote to a friend of hers and said, "I met an actor named Anthony Hopkins and he was quite offensive, but I feel drawn to him in some strange way.

PLAYBOY: Are you uncomfortable with your former intensity?

HOPKINS: Yes, I am. I want to forget it. It was a stage in my life when I was very unattractive, very tiresome. It sounds weird, but everything to do with acting--the intensity of acting, the meaning, the importance of this to me now is incomprehensible. My whole attitude about it has changed drastically in the past couple of years. The whole acting business has changed. It's work, it's a job, it's something I do quite well and I enjoy it. It doesn't consume my brain, it doesn't eat me up. I show up and do what's in front of me. It's the only way I can function.

PLAYBOY: Are you a changed man?

HOPKINS: It's like having slipped off the edge. I feel a sort of emptiness; there's no resistance for me. I've done a few television interviews lately, and I was looking at myself. If I were someone else watching this man, I would have thought, What an extraordinary attitude to his work. Because I feel detached from it. It's as if all my ambition is gone. I'm not comfortable talking about this. It leaves me puzzled, as if to say, "What importance is any of this?" It's of no consequence at all to me.

PLAYBOY: Still, to get an insight into who you are, we have to look at who you were.

HOPKINS: The only negative or violent emotion I feel is that I get scared when I get cornered by the intensity of this business, by people who say, "You have to do this, this is an important career move." I don't give a shit about anything. Because I don't care about it anymore, something else has come into my life, which is a real profound enjoyment of it.

PLAYBOY: Lao-tzu said, "How do you clear muddy water? You don't stir it, you let it settle to the bottom."

HOPKINS: That's it, it's a feeling of settling. The funny thing is that everything is coming to me.

PLAYBOY: Were you surprised by the critical acclaim of Howards End?

HOPKINS: I wasn't. I thought it was going to be a good film. It was received well in England, and that surprised me, because the English don't like anything. They knock everything. They always have a go at Ken Branagh--and he's the only filmmaker we have in England.

PLAYBOY: Is there much of a film industry in England these days?

HOPKINS: No film industry at all in England. I don't think people care, they don't give a damn about it. The British are television addicts. And yet the cinemas are beginning to fill up, but it's all American movies. We don't have any British movies much to speak of. I think the first British actor who really worked well in cinema was Albert Finney. He was a back-street Marlon Brando. He brought a great wittiness and power to the screen. The best actor we've had. Burton had it as well. The problems with the British film industry started in the Sixties when directors made films for their friends, not for the public. They were making films about washing lines and brass bands in North Country towns. So what? Who cares?

PLAYBOY: You've expressed your admiration for Finney. Who else have you found extraordinary?

HOPKINS: I suppose Olivier was, in his way. He represented something.

PLAYBOY: What about Mick Jagger, who acted with you in Freejack?

HOPKINS: I was only with him for a few days. He's just an ordinary guy, very pleasant, easygoing.

PLAYBOY: If Jagger is ordinary, what does that make Elvis and Madonna?

HOPKINS: Madonna and Elvis are self-creations. That's their genius, they invented themselves. I don't know if they're human. I'd like to have met Orson Welles. He was a mess at the end of his life. It's not worth it, is it? Loneliness, sheer loneliness. And I'd like to meet Brando, though I know nothing about him except what one reads in the news.

PLAYBOY: Do you have an opinion about Brando and George C. Scott rejecting their Oscars?

HOPKINS: It's insulting. It's criminal. It's fucking pompous of them. Who the hell do they think they are? People in a good industry that has been very good to them and they make a lot of money, they're very rich in a luxury business. People who get the Oscar and use it as a doorstop for the toilet door--what are they trying to prove? It's like somebody who gets up to get the Oscar in an evening suit, a tux, and wears tennis shoes. So, big deal, you're making a gesture, you're showing us what a rebel you are? You're showing us what a conservative arsehole you are. They are assholes. I admire Scott and Brando, they are terrific, great actors. Why do they demean themselves? Why do that? Why insult people who want to see them? Why turn on them and piss in people's faces? That's what they're doing. They are turning around and farting in people's faces.

PLAYBOY: What actors do you most admire?

HOPKINS: Faye Dunaway, she's one of the best American actresses. I like Pacino very much. De Niro. Michelle Pfeiffer, Jodie Foster, Johnny Depp, Winona Ryder. My favorite actors are American actors.

PLAYBOY: You're leaving out last year's Oscar winner and your fellow countryman, Emma Thompson.

HOPKINS: She's a really great actress. I don't know what it is about her. She's one of the most intelligent actors I've worked with because she keeps it all simple, direct and clear.

PLAYBOY: Does she work at all the way you work?

HOPKINS: We work in exactly the same way. I've done two films now with her. There's no bullshit with her. That's a compliment to myself, isn't it? We get on so well together because we seem to keep it light. You get into the character and then you do it. She asked James Ivory, "How should I age?" Then she came up with something brilliant. All she did, she wore brighter lipstick, had long, very varnished nails, and smoked a cigarette. It was a hardness and it was extraordinary. That was her contribution.

PLAYBOY: Actors like Pacino and De Niro seem to spend a lot more time than you do getting into their roles.

HOPKINS: Pacino and Dustin Hoffman and De Niro work very intensely, and they produce wonderful performances. I can't do that. For example, on The Remains of the Day I thought I had better go and study some butlers. A friend of mine introduced me to a butler at the Palace. I expected to meet a dummy. He was a very nice young fellow, didn't speak with a kind of upper-class accent, not vain. Just an ordinary, straightforward guy. And he was one of the top butlers. So I thought, well, that's the way it is. This butler I'm playing, Stevens, is a unique butler. He's so intent on being the perfect butler he just waves goodbye to his whole life. He's a bit of a fanatic, a perfectionist. He's over the top, he tries to do everything so precisely. His tragedy is he can't forgive himself and he begins to slip as he's getting older. He has longings, yearnings, and he can't understand them, because he's so closed. And that's his problem. He's so lacking in self-knowledge, it's heartbreaking. When I read the script for Remains of the Day I started looking at scenes and putting them together. Once you've learned the dance steps you're free. I don't go along with the idea that you have to wait for the lines to come. I don't think they come to you, you have to learn them. Maybe that's why a lot of American actors say all English actors are facile. Maybe they have a point, but for me, I have to learn the text. That's the most important thing, because in the text lies all the essence.

PLAYBOY: What tricks do you use to help you learn your lines?

HOPKINS: I take sections of the script and write it all out in longhand. Then I tape it to the washbasin and I learn it in parrot fashion. Say it out loud 20 times. I have little marks in different colored pencils that look like cartwheels--a fourstroke asterisk surrounded by a circle, which means "five." I put them in my notebook. They're the number of times I've gone over them. It's an obsession, really. I know that if I've done it 150 times I really know it well. Sometimes I learn the end of the play first.
I also do old magic tricks, like knock myself on the head three times in order to remember something. I know the text so well that I don't have to act it, and when the other actors have it you start playing tennis with it, hitting the ball back to one another. Everything starts to flow and your body responds because what you've done is concretize your thoughts.

PLAYBOY: It certainly seems that your life has been like a game of racquetball, bouncing off four walls and the ceiling.

HOPKINS: I love the bizarre arrangement of life, the choreography of life, where you don't know what's going to happen next. And my life has been a choreography. It's been such a series of dreamlike events.

PLAYBOY: Is that the wisdom of Anthony Hopkins: Life is choreography, expect nothing?

HOPKINS: Ask nothing, expect nothing and accept everything. That's it. I say to myself every day, like a meditation: "It's none of my business what people say of me or think of me. I am what I am and I do what I do for fun and it's all in the game. The wonderful game, the play of life on life itself. Nothing to win, nothing to lose, nothing to win, nothing to prove. No sweat, no big deal. Because of myself I am nothing, and of myself I've been nothing.

PLAYBOY: Where is that from?

HOPKINS: I made it up--it came to me at a moment of severe depression ten years ago, sitting in a hotel in Rome. I was having an ego problem because I hadn't got what I wanted. I was sitting in a garden with a notepad, trying to write a book, and I wrote that down. It became clear to me. I repeated that to myself like a mantra. Ever since, a lot of extraordinary things have happened in my life.

PLAYBOY: And you haven't been depressed since?

HOPKINS: Well, I suffered through a sort of clinical depression about six years ago, and Jenni said, "Maybe you're always depressed. You're Welsh, you're an actor, maybe you ought to accept that's what you are." And I said, "No, I can't accept that. This is a role I'm playing. We play roles in our behavior, emotional games with ourselves. If we act as if we're depressed, then we'll be depressed. If we act as if we're troubled, then we'll be troubled. Too much thinking can wreck you. I can sit in the sun and think my way through the universe and just make myself miserable. People have too much time on their hands, too much time in order to get bored. All my problems come from arguments with myself. And recently I stopped fighting with myself.

PLAYBOY: Did you go into a depression when your father died in 1981? Were you at peace with him? Or were there things left unsaid?

HOPKINS: I was never very demonstrative emotionally or affectionate with my dad. I didn't trust emotions or feelings at all. I gave his hand a squeeze before he died, and said "I love you." That's the first time I'd ever said that in my life and I kind of muttered it and he gave my hand a squeeze and then he died. It was funny going to the hospital to see him and I thought, Well, that's the end of that. Kind of a sobering thought. It does slow you down for a moment.

PLAYBOY: Did you ever kiss your dad?

HOPKINS: When he was dead.

PLAYBOY: Do you have any fears about your own death?

HOPKINS: I don't. I know that in the end there's a peace, a real peace, and maybe darkness and nothing. I don't have morbid thoughts about it. I'm in a state of grace, I suppose. Maybe it's Zen. My epitaph, if I ever have one, will be, "What was that all about?"

Photo by Lori Stoll


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