Tea With Sir Anthony as He Revives
an Old Friend -- Hannibal Lecter
NEW YORK (Zap2it) -- It takes a lot to excite cynical New
Yorkers - they've been there and done that - twice. So it takes
even more to whip them into a frenzy. But when Sir Anthony Hopkins
unexpectedly showed up at Manhattan's Ziegfeld Theatre for a
screening of "Red Dragon,"
in which he reprises his
Oscar-award winning role of Hannibal Lecter, absolute mayhem ensued.
It was a rare New York moment.
Dragon" screenwriter Ted Tally sets the scene: "We were having
dinner across the street - Tony Hopkins, [director] Brett Ratner,
Harvey Keitel [Jack Crawford] - and Brett suggested that we go over
and watch the last five minutes. [When the movie was over], we were
racing through the street and Tony couldn't get to the car before he
was mobbed. It was a weird scene. It was like he was a rock star.
People were shouting and trying to touch him, cheering and
applauding and blocking traffic. It was like Mick Jagger was there
or something. It was amazing."
And Hopkins was good spirited about the attention. "He never
turns anybody away," Tally continues. "He never refuses to give an
autograph. He's infinitely charming. I guess that happens everywhere
he goes, but I had never seen anything like it."
There's no doubt about it, Wales native Hopkins, 64, is an
international superstar. But, you won't hear him say that. In fact,
he'll be the first person to tell you that his occupation is,
simply, no big deal ("it's only a movie after all; it's not life or
Putting to rest the rumors that Hopkins has turned into Hannibal
Lecter (see below), the actor arrives for this interview casually
dressed in blue jeans, a white shirt and a black leather jacket.
(Can you imagine Italian-suit loving, prison-blues wearing, Hannibal
His beverage of choice isn't Chianti, it's tea, and he fiddles
with the cup as he talks. In fact, the only similarity between the
men are Hopkins' piercing blue eyes, which glisten brightly in the
morning light that streams through the windows of Manhattan's Rihga
Over tea, Hopkins spills his thoughts on "having an old friend"
ZAP2IT: You met your public last night.
HOPKINS: We were out for dinner and Dino [De Laurentiis,
producer] said (imitating his De Laurentiis' Italian accent),
"Let's a go to dee theater to see dee end of the film." So we went.
I was astounded by the audience's reaction. Dino, Brett and Ralph
[Fiennes, Francis Dolarhyde] had seen it the night before, but that
was my first experience with an audience.
ZAP2IT: At this point you need to be good-natured about
the attention you receive for portraying Hannibal. The jokes about
Chianti, fava beans?
HOPKINS: Oh, yea. (nods) I've
been living with it now for about 12 years. I sometimes remind them
that I have done other films besides this.
ZAP2IT: Was there any reluctance on your part to do this
HOPKINS: I did wonder who would play Hannibal
if I didn't. (laughs) But, no, I didn't have any terrible
reservations about it. I just had a few questions. The biggest:
Why make another one? That was all.
ZAP2IT: What did you think about working with Brett
Ratner, who is known for his Jackie Chan movies (the "Rush
HOPKINS: After I found out that Ted
Tally was writing the script, I asked who would be directing. I was
thinking maybe Ridley Scott, Joel Schumacher or a few others. Then I
was told that Brett Ratner was going to do it. I don't know who
suggested Brett, maybe the studio, but Dino went to Brett and said,
(imitating De Laurentiis) "Why does everyone like you so
much? You're too young." (laughs)
ZAP2IT: Had you seen any of the "Rush Hour" movies?
HOPKINS: No, I hadn't seen "Rush Hour," but I went
to see it. I thought: How is Brett Ratner going to do this one
because that one was such a spoof? Though Jackie Chan was very
enjoyable. Then, last year I met Brett in New York. We talked and he
was trying to sell me on the movie. I didn't need much persuading,
but I wanted to ask a few questions.
ZAP2IT: Such as?
HOPKINS: I wasn't too happy
with the opening of the script. It was a bit grisly, and I thought
it was unnecessary. They said that they would cut down on that. Then
I said, "I'd love to do it, but I'd like to play him differently
this time. I don't want to play him with that cutesy charm." I
didn't want to do a parody, which I'm afraid Hannibal was in the
last one ("Hannibal"). Brett asked how I'd like to play him
and I said, "More dangerous and much more menacing." I wanted to
play him with blazing anger and rage. So I'm grateful to Brett
because he helped me do that.
ZAP2IT: Do you think it's risky to play the same character
HOPKINS: I do. But it's only a movie after
all; it's not life or death. Is it risky? No, nothing's risky. But
it costs a lot of money to make a movie, so you have to be sure that
you want to do it. There is a franchise in Hannibal Lecter, I guess.
But I'm really quite detached from it all. I always have been.
ZAP2IT: In what way?
HOPKINS: I remember when
"Silence of the Lambs" came out. It was about to be released,
and there was a big buzz about it. Somebody phoned me and told me
that there was a huge billboard of me on Sunset Boulevard [in Los
Angeles]. So I drove over and looked at it. As I sat there in the
car, I thought: Well, there I am. How does it feel? No different
from anything else. You get on your with your life.
I've always been detached from this. People talk about this film?
I don't know if it's going to be a success, but it seems to be going
that way. It's a fine movie and I'm glad. I'm very glad for Brett
Ratner. I'm glad for all of it. But I'm still removed from it.
Because I'm not Hannibal Lecter, I'm just an actor who plays him.
ZAP2IT: I've read that when you're traveling across the
country you're often recognized as "Hannibal Lecter." Is it strange
to be associated with such an evil character?
wouldn't stop everyone. People wouldn't have me arrested or anything
like that. (laughs) Sometimes I'm prepared to answer to, "Oh,
my God! You're Hannibal Lecter." I say, "No, I'm Anthony Hopkins."
But that doesn't happen too much. It's a bit of an exaggeration that
people blow out of proportion. I just live my life normally. It was
printed in some British tabloid that I have become Hannibal Lecter.
(laughs) I live my life; I live a very quiet life. I'm not a
connoisseur of wine. I'm nothing like this character. But I'm
nothing like any of the characters I play.
ZAP2IT: There are large gaps of time in between Thomas
Harris' books: 1981, 1988 and 1999. Do you feel a sadness that we
may never see Hannibal again?
HOPKINS: I don't think Tom
would write another one, though he has seen this movie and really
liked it. He may be tempted to do another one, but I don't think it
can take four.
ZAP2IT: What was it like working with Dino? He's a hold
HOPKINS: --another era. He's an interesting
man. He's unstoppable. His willpower toward making a movie. He's
very direct, and he's always on the set every day keeping an eye on
everyone. Everyone likes him. Everyone respects him. I've
known him for many years actually. He's part of the old school, and
it shows because he's tenacious. He's a big-hearted man as well as a
ZAP2IT: Playing a younger Hannibal did you do anything
special to prepare yourself physically for the role?
HOPKINS: I worked out a lot. I had a trainer. I worked
out very hard on the Stairmaster and treadmill -- about an hour,
sometimes an hour and a half, every day. And this trainer would come
to me three times a week. I would do weights and all that. Then I
was on a carbohydrate diet. I'd have a terrible diet of pretzels for
lunch, maybe half a grapefruit. Then I would be allowed to have
something really great: I could have turkey sandwich on Wednesday. I
longed for Wednesday. Then I'd work out in the night. I was a little
bit obsessive about it. I still work out.
ZAP2IT: Did you watch the original screen adaptation of
"Red Dragon," "Manhunter"?
HOPKINS: A long
time ago before I even knew about "Silence of the Lambs," I
saw "Manhunter" in London. I thought it was a good movie. I
remember the chair, the wheelchair burning. That was really scary.
Then, I read the book, but I had no idea about "The Silence of
the Lambs" at that time. So when my agent phoned me about "
Silence of the Lambs," I didn't put the two together.
ZAP2IT: Are you a fan of scary movies?
I am. I enjoyed "Psycho." I enjoy those slow-burners like
"Rear Window." I like Hitchcock. I like a lot of movies. I'm
not a great movie buff though. I used to be with all the old movies,
but I got a bit lazy.
ZAP2IT: What can you tell us about "The Human
HOPKINS: I don't really want to talk about it
because I don't know too much about it. We did finish it, and I'm
told that it's a good movie. It was certainly pleasant working with
Nicole Kidman. Robert Benton was a good director. Gary Sinise is in
it and Ed Harris. It's a good cast.
ZAP2IT: There's been talk about a "Mask of Zorro"
remake. Are you interested?
HOPKINS: Yes, I'm told that
they're talking about a sequel. I don't know how they're going to
get me back into that. I was asked, "Would you like to do it?" I
said, "Well, Zorro is killed in the movie. How can I do another
one?" They said, "We'll bring you back as a ghost." I said, "Oh,
no." Maybe I'll come back as his twin brother. (laughs)
ZAP2IT: Are there any films that you regret doing?
HOPKINS: Oh, a few.
ZAP2IT: How do you deal with that?
don't regret them. Could I have avoided them? Yes. But I
don't regret them because you just pick yourself up after them and
move on. There are a number of them.
ZAP2IT: So, you've played Hannibal three times. Can you
tell us what makes him tick?
HOPKINS: I have no idea. I
can't even get into that; I don't have the time. I just have an
instinct about the characters I play. That's all I can go on. I'm
not an intellect by any stretch of the imagination. But I sensed
that Lecter would become this sort of phenomenon. I don't mean
phenomenon in a big way, but I thought that he would have this kind
of an effect on the audience way back when I did "Silence of the
Lambs." I can't explain why I knew that.
ZAP2IT: Are you a man of faith?
believe in some power. I have to because my life certainly has been
an extraordinary life. I haven't been able to figure any of it out.
I'm fortunate and blessed. I started off as a child with nothing
very much. I was the only child of my parents, they were good
parents, but at school I just didn't know what time of day it was. I
was very driven by anger I suppose. I was a child and maybe dyslexic
or suffering from some educational disability. You feel lonely and
you feel angry. So I got very ambitious to be in this profession. I
came to the acting business by sheer accident. And so the years have
gone by and I always have that shadowy fear of being a fraudulent.
But I have no regrets about it. This is life.