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Sir Anthony Hopkins: Go west

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The Silence of the Lambs star talks about his hit new series, Westworld, why he thinks the news is bad for you, and confounding people’s expectations 

At 78 years old, the Oscar-winning Welsh thespian Sir Anthony Hopkins might be considered a little old to starring in a TV series. But the Silence of the Lambs, Nixon and Thor actor is currently gracing screens in the latest hit HBO drama series, Westworld. 

Hopkins plays Dr Robert Ford, the enigmatic manager of Westworld, a Wild West theme park populated by artificial human beings, in the adaptation of Michael Crichton’s 1973 film of the same name. The visitors to 'Westworld' are in search of an authentic Wild West - does Sir Anthony feel like we have become detached and are missing authenticity in our own lives?

“I don't have enough knowledge except for little Mickey Mouse theories that we have alienated ourselves and the world,” he says. 

“Watching television all the time, getting all your information from it – I stopped watching. Not because I want to be ignorant, but I know that I will have no control and it’s  that box that feeds fear to the masses.” 

Sir Anthony says he thinks information overload is “like obesity”. 

“It's like being told if you eat all this junk food, you are gonna get fat, die from diabetes or heart disease – all of that. You turn on the TV, you watch all of that and you’re going to poison your brain, your psychology and your outlook in life. You'll become a cynic, miserable, nihilist. Forget it! I don't need to watch it.” 

"Know your lines, show up, don't take stuff so seriously!"Filming Westword, actors are intentionally left in the dark about the show’s plot-lines and where their characters are going. 

“I'm looking forward for the next batch of scripts, but I have no idea where it's going. When I asked Jonathan [Nolan - Westworld's co-creator and executive producer, who also wrote screenplays to The Prestige, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, and Interstellar] what was happening to my character, he said he didn't want to tell me.” 

Sir Anthony says this degree of secrecy is “the thing now” in TV, with people taking the endeavour “so seriously”, but he says this gives him and his fellow actors the chance to “be mischievous” with the show’s production team. “I tease them. I say, ‘No, I don't want to do it that way, if you want to do it you are gonna have to get another actor’. But they take it in good spirit.” 

But try as he might, Sir Anthony is – and will probably always be – most closely associated with the role of psychopath and psychiatrist Dr Hannibal Lecter in the 1991 hit movie The Silence of the Lambs. And because of this, he thinks people often get the wrong impression of him. 

“I play piano, I paint. See that’s unexpected!” he says. “I use to draw but my wife suggested that I started painting when we got married. She made me paint 75 gifts for our guests and then she organized a company of fine art and I have shown in Aspen, Maui, Palm Springs and I’m a big deal in Las Vegas. I'll get one in Silicon Valley next year so I'm going to get busy again painting.” 

Sir Anthony says his paintings are improvisational pieces, across a variety of media, including acrylic, ink, photographic paper and ‘big canvases’, but he admits he doesn’t “have a clue” about technique. 

“I'm not good at perspective, I'm not a draftsman, I have no training but I have an instinct. Same thing with music, I improvise. I break the rules constantly, I don't over-examine.  Unlike the actors who want to talk about the arc of the part, the narrative or the objectives, I say, ‘Just know your lines, show up, don't take stuff so seriously, it's just a movie!’”  

And not taking things too seriously is how Sir Anthony leads his life. “I don't see my career as special, I'm just an actor who is alive and lucky to still be working. If they don't want to employ me next year, that’s fine, but I enjoy it.” 

Retiresavvy is brought to you by Skipton Building Society. The interview in this article was supplied by InterviewHub. This article has been commissioned by retiresavvy and any opinions voiced are the author's own.

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