It’s surprising that no savvy producer has cast Anthony Hopkins, who turns 73 on Friday, for the dual lead role in a new adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” because few actors have been able to alternate between stately intellect and brutal villainy with the sort of flair that the Welsh star has brought to cinema.
There’s the proper side of Hopkins who has appeared in veddy British films such as the Merchant/Ivory classics “Howards End” in 1992 and “Remains of the Day” in 1993 or as American president John Quincy Adams in Steven Spielberg’s 1997 epic “Amistad.” But he’s enjoyed perhaps more acclaim playing monsters, whether they be real – Adolf Hitler in the 1981 CBS movie “The Bunker” — or imagined, such as the brilliant cannibal Dr. Hannibal Lecter, a role that won him the lead actor Oscar for 1991’s “The Silence of the Lambs.”
Long before he enjoyed fava beans and a little Chianti as Lecter, Hopkins took a dip into the horror realm with Richard Attenborough’s “Magic” (1978), in which he plays a ventriloquist whose dummy gets jealous about his owner’s affair with a former flame. The film — like the supernatural puppet — is rather wooden but Hopkins is fun to watch as the dark deeds unfold.
Hopkins really sank his teeth into horror with the role of the serial killer Lecter in “Silence of the Lambs,” which also won Oscars for best film, lead actress for Jodie Foster, director for Jonathan Demme and adapted screenplay for Ted Tally. With his thinning hair slicked back, his hypnotic blue eyes and his leering brogue, Hopkins was both terrifying and mesmerizing. Because the performance remains such a dominant image in contemporary horror, it’s hard to believe his screen time was under 30 minutes. Hopkins was voted the No. 1 movie villain of all time by the American Film Institute. He reprised the role two more times in the less successful 2001 “Hannibal” and in 2002’s “Red Dragon,” and then put a cork in the Chianti by pledging that he would never play the role again.
He’s also been the go-to guy in new adaptations of classic horror films, playing Abraham Van Helsing in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 box-office hit “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” and Sir John Talbot, the loony (and lunar-loving) daddy of the cursed Lawrence Talbot (Benecio Del Toro) earlier this year in the gory (and widely panned) remake “The Wolfman.”
Hopkins swashed and buckled with great panache as Don Diego de la Vega in director Martin Campbell’s 1998 hit “The Mask of Zorro,” which was one of the more satisfying masked-men adventures of that decade. Hopkins has so much affinity for the genre-film sector that he starred in, wrote, directed and composed the score to “Slipstream, ” the enigmatic 2007 experimental sci-fi project. The film was not well-received by critics or audiences, though, and Hopkins didn’t help clarify much when he explained: “[It's] about a man, who’s caught in the slipstream of time falling back on itself and he remembers his own future. My own interpretation is if there’s a God, that God is actually time. I’m fascinated by the fact the older I get every moment just slips past.”
Sir Anthony is going back to horror and heroes in the new year. Hopkins is dancing with the devil in “The Rite,” which opens Jan. 28, in which he plays an unorthodox priest in Rome who introduces a seminary student to the darker side of his faith. And on May 6, he’ll venture into Marvel Comics territory with the summer blockbuster “Thor,” as Odin, the one-eyed father of the superhero and the ruler of mystical Asgard. The actor who began with “The Lion in Winter” has become just that himself. You can see the “Thor” trailer right here…
– Susan King
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