by Jack Tewksbury
For forty years the HFPA has recorded interviews with famous and celebrated actors, actresses and filmmakers. The world’s largest collection of its kind — over 10,000 interviews — is now in the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences Library. The audios are fascinating. Below is an excerpt, recorded in 1991 when Sir Anthony Hopkins was promoting Jonathan Demme’s Silence of the Lambs, which went on to create one of the most iconic screen vilains of all time , receive four Golden Globe nominations and win one, for actress Jodie Foster.
“I simply learn the lines, put on the clothes, and do it. I let audience work it out for themselves. Americans analyse too much. I’ve been asked by American journalists:”What is the arc of the part?” I don’t know what they’re talking about.
There’s no big deal about acting. You learn your lines, and you do it. I don’t know why I do it, I don’t know how I do it. It’s all about pretending. I look at my contract : “Anthony Hopkins to play the butler Stevens.” So I get a technical adviser and ask him, “How do I serve?” And he shows me, and I do it. That’s all. It’s that simple. I don’t have to dig up emotions that are already there.
As I was going over the lines in Silence of the Lambs, I realized Jodie Foster’s character, Clarice , was from West Virginia and Jodie’s accent was pretentious — she was trying to make an impression on me. So I thought about needling her accent. I said to her in the actual scene, ”Agent Starling, you think you can da – sect me.” Jonathan Demme, the director seemed to like it, but then he asked me if I wanted to keep that insulting accent. I said, “Well, what do you think?”
Obviously Jodie was hurt by it. As an actress she was suddenly thrown because I was imitating her accent, but I knew she was not from West Virginia, that she was in fact from California.”