The Good, The Bad and the Badass: Anthony Hopkins
Last week, we took a look at the career of master director John Carpenter, a true legend of modern horror. This week we take a look at the career of a legendary actor who’s also made his mark on the genre...
It's ironic that “Sir” Anthony Hopkins is so identified with the character of Hannibal Lecter in THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, in that it's a character he played a full twenty-five years into an already outstanding career. Nevertheless, he was so iconic as the cannibal doctor, who he played well into middle-age, that his career prior to that film is almost always overlooked in career retrospectives.
Hopkins had a long career on the English stage before he ever made his first film, which just so happened to be THE LION IN WINTER as Peter O'Toole and Katherine Hepburn's evil, throne-coveting son (opposite an impossibly young Timothy Dalton as his lover- heady stuff for 1968). From there, Hopkins' never really made the A-list as a big-screen actor, although he did several interesting films, including a spy gem called THE LOOKING GLASS WAR, JUGGERNAUGHT, and a strange little movie called MAGIC, where he played an insane ventriloquist. His biggest pre-SILENCE movie was David Lynch's masterful THE ELEPHANT MAN, although John Hurt as the disfigured John Merrick walked away with most of the plaudits (although he was brilliant). He did, however, win an Emmy for playing Hitler in a TV movie called THE BUNKER.
Post-SILENCE, his career has been a virtual non-stop series of triumphs. Even when the movies weren't great (INSTINCT, MEET JOE BLACK, BOBBY) Hopkins was always reliably excellent. At seventy-five, Hopkins has aged into a beloved actor, who's still a big enough star to anchor major films (such as HITCHCOCK and THE RITE) while also stealing-scenes as a supporting player in movies ranging from this week's THOR 2 to RED 2 and more). Also- his recent BREAKING BAD fan letter to Bryan Cranston was an incredibly endearing example of the man's humility and devotion to his craft.
Without a doubt, Hopkins will always be remembered as Hannibal Lecter. Jonathan Demme's THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS is a masterpiece and despite his limited screen-time (only sixteen minutes) Hopkins walked away with the Academy Award for Best Actor. Watching him on-screen, it's hard not to be affected by his ice-cold turn as Lecter, possibly one of the most compelling villains in cinematic history. While the role was diluted by all the unnecessary follow-ups (both with and without Hopkins) SILENCE will likely be remembered as his greatest role.
As good as SILENCE OF THE LAMBS is, the other films in the Lecter series just can't measure up. Ridley Scott's HANNIBAL turned him into a bit of a cartoon, but at least is was fun and stylish. On the other hand, Brett Ratner's RED DRAGON was an absolute disaster. The biggest problem is that Thomas Harris' Red Dragon was already filmed- brilliantly- by Michael Mann as MANHUNTER, which also featured an intriguing, pre-Hopkins take on the character by Brian Cox. RED DRAGON feels familiar and half-assed. Hopkins tries, but he's stranded by a rather uninspired, and unnecessary film.
Hopkins has done loads of movies that were initially underrated, including a great adventure movie from the mid-nineties called THE EDGE, which featured Hopkins fighting (and beating) a bear, opposite Alec Baldwin, to a punchy script by David Mamet. However, I think his most underrated film is Roger Donaldson's take on MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY, portraying Hopkins' Captain Bligh in a balanced way that doesn't glamorize the role of iconic mutineer Fletcher Christian (played by a young Mel Gibson). With a score by Vangelis and a supporting cast that includes Liam Neeson and Daniel Day-Lewis, this is a film that's ripe for rediscovery.
For Hopkins' most memorable scene, what else could I possibly choose other than the famous “fava beans” scene from THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS ? It's been parodied many times, but it's still chilling.
Next up for Hopkins is the role of Methuselah in Darren Aronofsky's biblical epic NOAH , as well as a part in another serial killer thriller called SOLACE , the twist being that here Hopkins plays the good guy. Presumably he'll also keep showing up in the THOR franchise.
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