Interview w/ Sir Anthony Hopkins – Jan. 21, 2011

 Interview by Dennis Brown


Considered one the greatest living actors, Sir Anthony Hopkins is perhaps best known for his role as Hannibal Lecter, in the film ‘The Silence of the Lambs,’ for which he received the Academy Award for Best Actor. Other prominent film credits include A Bridge Too Far, The Elephant Man, The Bounty, The Remains of the Day, The Road to Wellville, Legends of the Fall, Nixon, Amistad, The Mask of Zorro, Meet Joe Black, Titus, Hannibal, Red Dragon and The World’s Fastest Indian, to name a few.

Hopkins newest film, “The Rite,” is a supernatural thriller that explores the mysteries of exorcism through the eyes of an expert and a novice. It uncovers the Devil’s reach into one of the holiest places on Earth. Although “The Rite” is related to the 1973 film The Exorcist, it is by no means a prequel, sequel, remake or in any sense a direct offspring of that film. “The Rite” is a unique film unto itself and does not rely on typical horror film tricks, such as excessive blood, guts, gore and computer generated special effects. What makes this film truly scary is the story itself, the direction, and of course, the acting.

Inspired by true events, the film follows seminary student Michael Kovak (Colin O’Donoghue), who is sent to study exorcism at the Vatican in spite of his own doubts about the controversial practice and even his own faith. Wearing his deep skepticism like armor, Michael challenges his superiors to look to psychiatry, rather than demons, in treating the possessed.

Only when he’s sent to apprentice with the unorthodox Father Lucas (Anthony Hopkins)—a legendary priest who has performed thousands of exorcisms—does Michael’s armor begin to fall. As he is drawn into a troubling case that seems to transcend even Father Lucas’s skill, he begins to glimpse a phenomenon science can’t explain or control…and an evil so violent and terrifying that it forces him to question everything he believes.

I had a chance to sit down with Sir Anthony Hopkins this past weekend and ask him about his most recent film, and this is what he had to say:

db – When you can pick and choose any project you wish to work on, why did you choose this role?

SAH – “This role was perhaps the most interesting I’ve been involved with since ‘Silence of the Lambs.’ I play a wide range within this one movie. It stretched me as an actor. I had a wonderful time making it. I look back on the time spent on this movie with great nostalgia. It’s the best time I’ve had in a long, long time.”

db – How long did it take you to prepare for this role and how did you do it?

SAH – “About two minutes. I don’t get into character. I learn the lines and I make sure I get the text and the script.  I work very hard at memorizing my lines. Whatever is called for in a particular scene or day of filming, I’ll mark it off (that part of the script) and I go over and over and over that speech or that scene until I know it so well, that I can relax and go on to the next scene the next day. So, I work very hard, but it’s not hard work. But I just go over and over it.”

“And then I had to learn Latin and Italian, so I took the same process, I go over it, and sometimes I feel a bit crazy. Then after awhile, I think, ‘…okay, I know it.’ Then I show up on location and talk to the director, and he says ‘OK, are you ready?,’ and then we go (film the scene) and that’s it. That’s what I do.”

“It becomes real (to me), it becomes fluent. With acting the part of the priest, I learned the lines, showed up on set and then I feel free to improvise.

Before we started the movie, I was really interested in this guy, Father Lucas. He was very close to me in a way, not that I’m a priest, but he reminded me of my father. He was always rather impatient…and that’s me, very much like me. I’ve got a lot of energy. “

db – Do you believe that demons really exist?

SAH – “There’s a scene where I tell (young seminary student Michael Kovak) about my loss of faith. That, some days I don’t know if I believe in God, Santa Claus or Tinkerbell. And I say I’m a weak man, I have no power. That is what I believe in my own personal life, because I’m not an atheist. I’m not an agnostic, although I used to be when I was much younger, because I thought I was clever.”

“But time goes by, you look around, and I’ve been through crises in my own life and there is something that runs my life and it’s a power greater than myself and I call it God. It is the power of life. It’s a total mystery. Human consciousness is a mystery. So I keep an open mind about it. I don’t argue, I don’t judge anybody and that’s it. Who knows? I don’t know! When people become so obsessed with something, they can become possessed by it, whatever it is, such as depression, negative or positive thinking”

“We had a priest with us, Father Gary Thomas, who is Jesuit and performs exorcisms himself in America. I asked him if he really believes that the Devil is a physical creature? He believes It is real. It is an entity that can get into people.”

db – During filming and production, were there any instances of unexplained phenomenon or unusual precautions taken that you either witnessed or were made aware of?

SAH – “To be honest, when you’re making something like this that is so mysterious, we’d say there’s something numinous about it. Anything that is spiritual and mysterious is called numinous. Something deep and impenetrable. We had Father Gary Thomas, who served as a consultant on the film. He said there was nothing to worry about. I asked if he ever got scared and he said ‘No.’  I asked him if he knew what the Devil was and he said ‘No, but you should say a lot of prayers.’ Aside from that, I’m not aware of anything in particular one way or another.”

db – What do you think or hope that audiences will take away with them after seeing this film?

SAH – “The director and myself, both think that perhaps the best film ever made in this genre is ‘Rosemary’s Baby.’ A wonderful movie with wonderful performances. It’s takes place here in New York. It’s very real and really scary.

The world is a very scary place. The director wanted to keep this film very real and I think his style of filming lent itself to that. To do otherwise would have cheapened it.

Is it the devil or is it mental disturbance? That’s the debate that’s in film and probably in the world. Because nobody knows, it gives a semblance of humanity to someone who says they don’t know.”

“The truth? Look at the trouble that got us into over the last thousand years. Hitler knew the truth. So did Stalin. So did a lot of people. They all knew the truth, and that caused such horror. Certainty is the enemy. It’s like anyone saying, ‘The debate is over.’ Who says it’s over? Human beings? We know nothing.”







1 Comment

  1. Anthony hopkins is still one of the best actors these days eventhough he is very old. ”

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