- Born December 31, 1937
- Grew up a loner
- Getting to know his father
- Early acting days
- First film role
- BAFTA-nominated big break
- The ups (and downs) of acting
- ‘The Elephant Man’ (1980)
- ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ (1991)
- Working with Russell Crowe
- ‘The Remains of the Day’ (1993)
- Directorial debut
- ‘Hannibal’ (2001) and ‘Red Dragon’ (2002) regrets
- ‘Transformers: The Last Knight’ (2017)
- ‘The Two Popes’ (2019)
- Hopkins and his cats
- ‘Westworld’ (2016-2018)
- ‘The Father’ (2020)
- Favourite role
- Hopkins, Anthony Hopkins
- Finding happiness later in life
- Wife Stella Hopkins
- Hopkins the artist
- ‘Armageddon Time’ (2022)
No discussion of the best actors of all time is complete without mentioning the legendary Sir Anthony Hopkins. At the very least, Richard Attenborough, who directed Hopkins in five films, described him as “unquestionably the greatest actor of his generation.”
In a career spanning more than six decades, the Welsh-born actor has appeared in more than 100 movies and earned countless accolades, including two Academy Awards, five BAFTAs, and the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award for “outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment.”
Let’s take a look back at the life and career of Anthony Hopkins, in pictures.
Born December 31, 1937
Philip Anthony Hopkins was born in Margam, a district of Port Talbot, Wales, on December 31, 1937. His parents, Muriel Anne (Yeats) and Richard Arthur Hopkins, “led a hardscrabble life running a bakery.” He credits his working-class upbringing with helping him stay grounded in a profession where it’s all too easy to take yourself too seriously. “Anyone who complains to me about anything, I say, ‘You know nothing. Wake up, smell the coffee, because you know nothing,’” he told The Washington Post about his outlook on show business.
Grew up a loner
You may be surprised to learn that Hopkins was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum. Rather than seeing it as a disadvantage, however, he credits it with helping him to become the man he is today. “I was a bit slow as a school kid, and so I made up for it by working hard, and I became, you know, a successful actor. Obsessiveness about the details,” he told CBC in 2020. He has said that he was “a bit of a loner” growing up, and would often spend time wandering through the fields and mountains on his own. Hopkins keeps a photo of himself as a young child as his screensaver to remind himself of how far he’s come as an actor.
Getting to know his father
While talking to his former co-star Jodie Foster for Variety’s Actors on Actors series, Hopkins said that he was reminded of his own father while playing the role of an elderly man with dementia in The Father (2020). Commenting on a scene in which his character repeatedly nags his daughter, the actor said, “My father was like that as he was dying, because he was frightened. He was afraid. Not mean, just irascible, scared.” He added that it gave him newfound sympathy for what his father went through near the end of his life.
Early acting days
Hopkins took up acting at the age of 18 when he joined the YMCA’s dramatic club. From there, he earned a scholarship to the Cardiff College of Music and Drama. After graduating, he trained at London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where he was discovered by Laurence Olivier and offered a spot in his prestigious Royal National Theatre.
First film role
Hopkins made his professional acting debut in 1960 in a production of Have a Cigarette at Palace Theatre, Swansea. His first big-screen role came seven years later in the Lindsay Anderson short subject The White Bus (pictured), playing a Brechtian character.
BAFTA-nominated big break
Not long after breaking into film, Hopkins landed his breakout role as Richard the Lionheart (pictured) in 1968’s The Lion in Winter, co-starring Peter O’Toole and Katharine Hepburn. For his part, Hopkins was nominated for a BAFTA for Best Supporting Actor. More importantly, it notified audiences and casting directors that he was a talent to look out for.
The ups (and downs) of acting
Believe it or not, in addition to his many accolades, Hopkins has also received a pair of Golden Raspberry (or “Razzie”) nominations, including one for his performance as New England professor Adam Evans in the 1980 comedy-drama A Change of Seasons (pictured). Hopkins famously clashed with co-star Shirley MacLaine on set, calling her “the most obnoxious actress I have ever worked with.”
‘The Elephant Man’ (1980)
Despite being one of his most critically acclaimed films, The Elephant Man wasn’t the smoothest experience for Hopkins. The actor had such a tough time working with director David Lynch that he called up producer Mel Brooks in a rage, saying that he didn’t think the filmmaker, whose only other feature at the time was the surrealist horror Eraserhead (1977), was prepared for a major production. Nevertheless, the film earned rave reviews and was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director.
‘The Silence of the Lambs’ (1991)
The actor’s most notable role came in the 1991 Jonathan Demme thriller The Silence of the Lambs, considered by many to be one of the greatest, most influential films of all time. Hopkins won an Oscar for his chilling performance as cannibalistic serial killer Dr. Hannibal Lecter. The American Film Institute named Lecter the best movie villain ever.
Working with Russell Crowe
Having worked with some of the biggest names in the industry, Hopkins developed a keen eye for spotting talent. He knew right away working with Russell Crowe on the set of the 1991 comedy Spotswood that the New Zealand-born Australian actor was bound for greatness, telling The Daily Telegraph: “You could tell that he knew it; he could smell it. You knew what he was going to be. He wasn’t difficult, but he just had a quiet aggression. You didn’t mess with Russell. He had his eye on the target.” The two later reunited in the 2014 biblical drama Noah.
‘The Remains of the Day’ (1993)
Hopkins earned his second Oscar nomination for his role in the critically acclaimed adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Booker Prize-winning novel The Remains of the Day. Asked what makes him such a good actor, co-star Emma Thompson said, “He watches and listens and he’s completely without defences or any internal systems that might get in the way. […] You know that you can do anything and what will come back from him has nothing to do with the actor and everything to do with the part.”
“As Richard Nixon, Anthony Hopkins—who skids expertly to a halt just this side of easy caricature—is subtly magnificent,” wrote The Washington Post of the actor’s portrayal of the 37th President, adding that “[he] brings all the public interpretations of Nixon into one entertaining, touching composite.” In order to prepare for the role, Hopkins watched countless hours of archival footage of Nixon, going so far as to fall asleep with it on so that it would enter his subconscious. His efforts paid off, earning him his third Oscar nomination in a span of five years.
Hopkins made his directorial debut in 1990 with Dylan Thomas: Return Journey, a recording of a stage performance given by actor Bob Kingdom impersonating the fellow Welsh poet. Six years later (pictured), he tried a bigger venture by directing August, an adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s 1899 play Uncle Vanya, where he also played the lead role and composed the score (alongside George Fenton) for the film.
Hopkins earned his second Oscar nomination in a row for playing a U.S. President, this time portraying an aging John Quincy Adams in the Steven Spielberg historical drama Amistad. Roger Ebert called the actor “the heart of the film,” saying that he gives one of the great courtroom speeches in movie history.
Directed by Julie Taymor, this stylish adaptation of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus was perfectly suited for Hopkins with his National Theatre training. “Hopkins is a delight—a strange word to use in regard to a performance that involves cutting throats and baking heads in pies—but it’s hard not to smile when he is onscreen,” wrote the San Francisco Chronicle’s Mick LaSalle of the actor’s performance as the ruthless Roman general, considered by many to be one of his finest.
‘Hannibal’ (2001) and ‘Red Dragon’ (2002) regrets
Although he’s no doubt happy with his body of work, Hopkins did admit that he regrets reprising his role as Dr. Hannibal Lecter in a pair of Silence of the Lambs sequels. “I did it once. Made the mistake of doing it twice—three times,” he told The Wrap. Hannibal (2001) and Red Dragon (2002) have scores of 39% and 69% on Rotten Tomatoes, respectively.
Hopkins wrote, directed, starred in, and composed the music for 2007’s Slipstream, about an aging Hollywood screenwriter who begins to question his sanity after his fictional characters begin to show up in his real life. The film was largely panned by critics, with the exception of Roger Ebert, who awarded it three out of four stars and commended the actor for his “attempt to do something tricky and difficult.”
Hopkins joined the MCU in 2011, playing Odin, the king or “Allfather” of Asgard, in Thor, a role he reprised in 2013’s Thor: The Dark World and 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok. He later revealed that he was considering retiring from acting before Kenneth Branagh approached him with the part. “Working with Ken was quite an injection of new energy into my life,” he’s quoted as saying in the book The Story of Marvel Studios.
In addition to his work in front of the camera, Hopkins is also an accomplished musician. In 2012, he released an album of classical music, entitled Composer, that consists of nine original works. The music was performed by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. “I just wanted to be a composer; I became an actor by default, really,” he told NPR.
‘Transformers: The Last Knight’ (2017)
In contrast to many of the more intimate projects he did at the start of his career, in recent years Hopkins has taken on lighter roles, including playing Sir Edmund Burton, 12th Earl of Folgan, an astronomer and historian well versed in the history of Transformers in Michael Bay’s Transformers: The Last Knight. Hopkins called it “one of the biggest [movies] I’ve ever done,” and praised his castmates Mark Wahlberg (“He’s really terrific, an excellent actor”) and Jerrod Carmichael, who gave him the nickname “T-Hop.”
‘The Two Popes’ (2019)
Hopkins had to wait over two decades to earn another Oscar nomination after 1997’s Amistad, doing so for his understated performance as Pope Benedict XVI opposite Jonathan Pryce in The Two Popes. Pryce was reluctant to do the film at first, calling the script “quite a dry read.” However, he felt more confident joining the project when he heard that Fernando Meirelles (City of God) would be directing, and that Hopkins would be his co-star.
Hopkins and his cats
A noted animal lover, Hopkins seems to have adopted an adorable feline friend named Amore from the Turks and Caicos SPCA in 2021. He previously had a grey tabby cat named Niblo (pictured), who kept the actor company during COVID-19 lockdowns. Sadly, Hopkins announced the passing of Niblo in late September 2022.
After conquering the stage and the silver screen, it was time for Hopkins to conquer the small screen, playing Dr. Robert Ford in the first two seasons of the critically acclaimed HBO sci-fi series Westworld. He told The National about playing the part, which he described as someone who’s both “mad” and in control “on a massive scale”: “I had a good time with it. I was very relaxed during it. I had to learn a lot of dialogue, a lot of text, but I enjoy that. It keeps my brain cells active. I don’t want to overdo it, but I love learning long text—I just love it.”
‘The Father’ (2020)
At 83 years old, Hopkins became the oldest person in Oscar history to win an award in a competitive-acting category for his performance as a man living with dementia in Florian Zeller’s The Father. Co-star Olivia Colman, who played his daughter in the film, said that working with Hopkins “was one of the easiest jobs ever. […] He’s so good, you only have to react to him. It makes my job very easy.”
Hopkins has had many notable roles throughout his lengthy career, but he said that his favourite was in The Father. His reasoning? Because “it was so easy to play.” He said that the strong script and the film’s theatrical structure, taking place mostly in a series of apartments, made it practically effortless for him to do his job.
Hopkins, Anthony Hopkins
On August 1, 2021, the actor posted a photo of himself with Pierce Brosnan on Instagram with the caption, “Being championed to be the next James Bond.” Joking aside, Hopkins was in fact one of the many actors considered for the role of 007 following the departure of Sean Connery. Hopkins, however, turned it down because he felt that he wasn’t right for the part.
Finding happiness later in life
Speaking with GQ in 2021, Hopkins equated happiness with freedom: “Free from worrying about this, that and the other.” He said that he’s found happiness later in life through the knowledge that “there’s finally nothing to win, nothing to prove, nothing to win, nothing to lose, no sweat, no big deal. And that’s my philosophy. Ask nothing, expect nothing and accept everything. That’s it.”
Wife Stella Hopkins
Hopkins has been married three times. He wed his current wife, Stella Hopkins (born Arroyave), on March 1, 2003. She directed her first feature film in 2020, a psychological drama called Elyse. The film, which has a 43% Rotten Tomatoes rating, is about a catatonic woman institutionalized in a state hospital. She is pictured here with her lead actress, Lisa Pepper.
Hopkins the artist
One of Hopkins’ favourite ways to unwind is by doing a bit of painting. “I don’t think there’s any meaning in it,” he says on his artist website. “I just paint. I discover as I go along and I don’t analyze, I just go for it.” Many of his works, which he describes as “childish” and “primitive,” focus on the “power and vibrancy hidden behind the eyes.”
‘Armageddon Time’ (2022)
Showing no signs of slowing down, Hopkins’ latest project is the 2022 coming-of-age drama Armageddon Time. Directed by James Gray, the film is about a young boy who gets caught smoking marijuana and is sent to a private school run by Maryanne Trump, where he’s soon met with prejudice. Reviews have been positive, with critics especially praising the performances. “The terrific Hopkins shows how it is done, with kindness and compassion,” writes Shubhra Gupta of The Indian Express.