From The Archives: Anthony Hopkins And The Simple Craft Of Acting

by Jack Tewksbury October 8, 2012
Actor ANthony Hopkins

hfpa archives

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 The 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.”