Hello Magazine - March 2001:

Sir Anthony Hopkins is on the deck of his airy two-bedroom home in LA's Pacific Palisades. The view: miles of curving coastline and Catalina Island rising in the distant Pacific shimmer. Inside, incense burns while soothing flute music floats over the growl of a distant leafblower. There's a piano, two bronze Buddhas and a wall of books reflecting his love of art, literature and history. But the place bears almost no trace of his prodigious career of his "special genius", as Steven Spielberg calls it - the gift that has Julia Roberts cooing: "I would pay to work with Tony".

(The actor has only just asked wife Jenni to send the Oscar out to him to LA (for "Silence of the Lambs")

In fact it was only weeks ago that Hopkins, 63, sent for his Oscar - the one given for his role as Dr. Hannibal Lecter in 1991's "Silence of the Lambs". The statuette had been in the London home he once shared with Jenni, his wife of 28 years. "He felt it was time to have it", she says. (Still married, they've lived mostly apart, amicably, since 1995).

A shape-shifting presence for 35 years, in roles from Quasimodo to John Quincy Adams, Lear to Lecter, Hopkins shakes off the fuss made over his craft. "Acting's entertainment", he says simply. "It's not brain surgery".

But who better to combine a US citizen last year, but his slow-blinking, flesh-craving Lecter will forever enjoy resident alien status in the spooked memories of a generation of filmgoers. "That eye contact with the audience", says Spielberg, "is probably the scariest thing any of us had ever witnessed from a character without prosthetic make-up, scary pointed teeth and contact lenses".

True to form, Hannibal the Cannibal performs his grisly neurosurgery in an elegant dining room with sizzling skillet and white wine at hand. Jodie Foster and director Jonathan Demme, who shared in "Silence's" five-Oscar sweep, declined to come to the table, leaving Ridley Scott to direct and Julianne Moore to play FBI agent Clarice Starling. "People have their reasons. I didn't ask why", Hopkins says. "As long as it's a nice location and the script is good, I don't wonder why if it's a good career move. Point me to the camera, that's it".

Hopkins began preparing for his life's work early on. He was born in Port Talbot on New Year's Eve, 1937. His parents, Dick and Muriel, owned a bakery and "sacrificed", he says, to send him to boarding school. As only child, Hopkins was a poor student. "I didn't know what time of day it was", he says. "I was an idiot".

For relief, he studied piano and lost himself in films like "Key Largo", "The African Queen" and Chaplin's "Limelight", which he saw 15 times. "I identified with that loner".

(With Jenni, his wife for 28 years)

But it was local boy Richard Burton who showed Hopkins a way out. When Burton visited his sister, 15 years-old Tony stopped by for an autograph. "There he was, shaving with an electric razor. I'd never seen one. I couldn't believe it was the same I'd seen in "The Robe". I knew I wanted to get out of Wales. I wanted to be famous".

Hopkins spent two years at Cardiff College of Music and Drama and, after a stint with the Royal Artillery (he clerked at a base), he performed on-stage in Wales, Manchester and Nottingham. In 1963 he graduated from RADA and was mentored by Laurence Olivier, who ran the National Theatre. "He was a grand guy, a great autocrat but not an elitist. He looked out for everyone".

Hopkins' toughest act was looking out for himself as the enfant terrible of London's stage scene. He drank ("there were performances I don't remember"), chafed at theatre snobs ("the dashling brigade") and railed at directors ("I was a damned nuisance"). When he met Jenni Lynton in 1969, he was married to actress Petronella Barker and daughter Abigail was 14 months old. Within three months he was living with Jenni. They married in 1973.

(With his former girl-friend, LA screenwriter Francine Kay, in Rome, in 1998)

"Tony was then as he is today", Jenni says. "A seething mass of contradictions - almost impossible to understand, very easy love".

Hopkins had been seduced by LA on his first visit in 1974. "I'd never seen anything like California - all these long-legged girls. I'd go to Dean Martin's restaurant every night, shoot back tequila and see all the lights come on in my head".

The following year the lights nearly went out: he awoke in Phoenix and couldn't recall driving there. "I thought, "This is crazy". "I simply stopped drinking. It took three minutes". (He has, however, been in sobriety programmes ever since).

For nearly a decade he and Jenni lived in LA, through an uneven string of films and TV dramas. They returned to London in 1984 and Hopkins resumed his stage career. By 1987 he was burned out on the Bard. During a run of "Antony and Cleopatra" at the National, he says, "I used to hear Judi Dench speaking that verse and think, "What the hell am I doing here? I am a baker's son. I'm out of my depth. TO me, hell would be a wet Wednesday afternoon in the Old Vic for the rest of eternity, standing on stage in wrinkled tights doing Shakespeare. I hated every minute of it. Loathed it".

(In "Hannibal")

Not long afterwards, "Silence" turned golden for Hopkins. Since then he's made 23 films, including "The Remains of the Day", "Howard's End", "Nixon" and "Mission Impossible 2". But in 1998, hounded by the British press over a relationship (since ended) with LA screenwriter Francine Kay, he said, he was quitting the business. He says he was misquoted: "I wanted a rest". For several years he has also wanted a change in his marriage, a union that now spans eight time zones. It's a situation Lady Hopkins bears with far more grace than bitterness. Jenni is "too Engligh" to uproot - least of all to LA. "I love to visit, but couldn't make my life there", she says. They are in "constant contact", she says, and plan up to six visits together a year. "It's comfortable", she says, "like we've never been apart". Jenni says she'd "still be inclined to be, if he wants it, the still point in (his) turning world". And, she says, "I miss him very much - all the time, really. But I don't think - and I say this with great love - it's in Tony's nature to live with somebody".

Hopkins agrees. "I'm a good provider but was never much of a husband. I did the best I could to live a domestic life. I simply cannot do it". But, he adds, "I don't want to sound like a damaged man. I'm in very good shape".

Jenni concedes he is "quite honest" about his other women. He was linked with Joyce Ingalls in the mid-1990s and two years ago his friendship with Kay turned into what he calls "a brief romance", but Hopkins backed off last year.

(In his home in LA)

"When I get too close to someone I want to move on. Jenni says, "You're strange. You don't seem to need anything. I don't". Notes Hopkins: "I don't feel ready - or any desire - for any commitment. I've hurt enought other people". One of them, of course, being Jenni. "I don't find it an easy state", she admits, "But I suppose the years speak for themselves". Hopkins won't discuss their future, but Jenni is empathic. "If I've got any coice, I don't want to divorce". What sustains the marriage? "Some sort of golden thread. It's durable, sometimes slack in the middle, but it's there".

Hopkins' ties to daughter Abigail, 32, an actress who has been living in LA, have been more tenuous (she played a nurse in "Shadowlands" and a maid in "The Remains of a Day"). A reconciliation years ago "faded away", he says. "She had her reasons. Resentment, whatever. We are both very unneedy. I'm the one who's pulled back from everyone". What he doesn't pull back from are the performances he puts on the screen. Fiercely disciplined, Hopkins may read a script 300 times, keeping score in the margins with tiny asterisks and a surrounding circle. Spielberg, who directed him as a stooped, shuffling John Quincy Adams in "Amistad", says, "We never went over three takes".

Julia Roberts is an admiring friend. "If he thinks the thoughts of Picasso or Nixon, his face transforms into Picasso or Nixon", she says. "It's the best party trick I've ever seen".

Certainly, Hopkins' mastery of the material pays off. "It gives me a feeling of such calm and self-confidence I can go have a coffe or watch TV instead of slaving over it". Says Jenni: "Tony is inclined to make light of the work. But it's completely consuming - the roles take him over".

Once immersed, Hopkins expects nothing but the best from those round him. As for pretentious colleagues, "I can't stand that", he says. "Nobody's allowed to talk or joke because they're doing great art". "The fact he hasn't  got an ego", says his "Mask of Zorro"co-star Catherine Zeta Jones, "is the sexiest thing in the world".

On or off the set, Hopkins' impish humour and dead-on mimicry keep the mood light. As cameras rolled for the surgery scene in "Hannibal", he broke into a squemish Woody Allen riff. Says Julia Roberts: "Watching Anthony Hopkins do Jack Nicholson at dinner? It's like, "Okay, I'm done. I've seen it all". At a White House dinner he did Brando from "The Godfather", says close friend and location stand-in Terry Rowley. "Clinton just rolled up, he thought it was so funny".

(His knighthood in 1993)

His humour will soon come in handy: Harvard's Hasty Pudding Theatricals recently named him Man of the Year and are toasting him this week. After all, he muses, "Life's all one big jest, a game. You learn to play it and have fun with it. That's what I do". Hopkins is currently having fun in his latest role as Citizen Tony, the freshly minted American. He loves the Yank spirit: "Americans like success. They never apologise for trying hard". Last April, videotaped by Spielberg, Hopkins took the oath of citizenship in a US federal court. (Knighted in 1993, he has dual citizenship and still qualifies as a Sir - "if you want to bow and grovel").

The news of his defection triggered some ugly headlines in the UK ("Hannibal Traitor", "Hannibal Defector"). "The press called me a turncoat. I didn't realise we were at war with America". But he knew he wasn't at peace with Jenni, whom he hadn't told in advance. "It came as a shock", she admits. "He wanted to avoid my disapproval". Hopkins apologised for the "brutish way" he handled it, he says. "I wanted to make up my own mind. I didn't want to get opinions. I think Jenni would have been despondent. And she was. She knows I'm not going back".

(In his home in LA)

Hopkins' LA life is about electic pleasures and a craving for solitude. "When I'm here on my own, I feel very peaceful, very strong". He reads Victorian poetry, Jungian psychololgy and history; listens to Waylon Jennings and Dolly Parton; plays Chopin and composes; and watches "any old junk" on TV at dawn during his 70-minute treadmill run-walk. He's happy dining out alone with a book and frequently breakfasts with the same friends (Terry Rowley, and filmmaker Gavin Grazer). He hikes in Temescal Canyon, vanishes for long trips in his BMW and has a mercurial streak that keeps even close friends at bay. "Tony can get very cool", says Rowley. "People find it confusing that he gives off great warmth, love and understanding", says Jenni. "They meet him days later and it's back to arm's length". Says Hopkins: "Suddenly I say, "That's it. I'm not cruel. I outgrow things".

(Solitary but serene. Sir Anthony relaxes on the sundeck of his two-bedroom home, which boasts stunning views of the Pacific coastline.)

There is one bond that Hopkins still cherishes and nurtures: that with his mother Muriel, 87. His father died in 1981 and Hopkins bought her a home near his own a few years ago. "I check in on her, she sits on the deck. She loves parties, visiting, the movies. She loves the good life". She got a taste of it last December when he took her to the wedding of Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones. "Muriel is inspirational", says Cahterine. "She danced with anybody - everybody".

Hopkins' life remains a restless whirl. The Vietnam drama "Hearts in Atlantis" is due to open later this year and he is filming "The Devil and Daniel Webster" with Alec Baldwin. Then it's an action-comedy, maybe a drama in Prague, and visits with Jenni, possibly in Prague or LA. "Wherever it suits us", she says.

(With his mother Muriel)

"I don't feel any tension", Hopkins says. "It's peace of mind, senility, whatever - a coming to terms with life". It feels, he says, "like a wonderful emptiness".

(Sir Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster had plenty to chew over when they won Oscars in 1992 for "Silence of the Lambs")


This article from Hello magazine was part of Stezi's Anthony Hopkins Page - thank you so much !