An in depth look at the film career of Anthony Hopkins

Biography of Sir Anthony Hopkins


Sir Anthony Hopkins, born Philip Anthony Hopkins on 31st December 1937, is one of the most legendary and versatile British actors of all time, his award-winning film career spanning over 40 years, with some of his best movies being in the last decade.

Born in Margam, near Port Talbot in Wales, not far from another very famous Welsh actor Richard Burton, he was the only son of Richard and Muriel Hopkins.  Tony – as he likes to be called – was brought up living above the family bakery business, his bedroom overlooking the bright lights of the local cinema.  He went to school locally, apart

charcoal illustration of Anthony Hopkins

charcoal illustration of Anthony Hopkins

from a few years in boarding school.  The young Anthony Hopkins was not academic, by his own admission ‘I was lousy in school.  Real screwed- up.  A moron.  I was antisocial and didn’t bother with the other kids. A really bad student.  I didn’t have any brains.  I didn’t know what I was doing there.  That’s why I became an actor.’  Anthony  Hopkins is dyslexic and preferred art and music at school to the more academic subjects and so the shy, sensitive boy immersed himself in these subjects instead of paying attention to studying.  Hopkins, being a common surname in Wales was nicknamed ‘Mad Hopkins’ at school to distinguish him from the others.  Tony left school with one ‘O’ level in English.

Young Anthony Hopkins

Young Anthony Hopkins

Anthony Hopkins’other interest was the cinema, he often went twice a week in the school holidays, his early hero being Humphrey Bogart.  By the late 1950’s, Richard Burton was already a Hollywood star and when Burton returned home to Wales once, Anthony Hopkins went to get his autograph and admired his fancy sports car, parked outside an ordinary house in this small Welsh village.  This was a turning point for Hopkins, seeing how Richard Burton had got himself up and out of this little Welsh village and Hopkins aspired to follow in his footsteps in search of fame and fortune in America, in Hollywood.

In 1957 Anthony Hopkins graduated from Cardiff College of Music and Drama and took a job with the Arts Council until he was called up for National Service in 1958.  He served in the Royal Artillery, going in as a Gunner and leaving with Bombadier rank.  Hopkins returned home to Wales, joined a drama group and appeared on the stage locally.  Hopkins won a place at RADA and graduated in 1963.  The next few years he spent in rep until 1965 when he was invited to join Olivier’s prestigious National Theatre.  In 1967 he was understudy for Olivier in ‘Dance of Death’ until Olivier was taken ill suddenly and Anthony Hopkins took the lead for himself, giving a very well reviewed performance which was quickly followed by a string of successful roles.

The first tv film for Anthony Hopkins was the comedy ‘A flea in her Ear’, in 1967.  Actress  Petronella Barker, whom Hopkins married that year, also had a part in this film.  Hopkins’ proper movie debut followed in 1968 in the ‘Lion in Winter’ which stars Katherine Hepburn (Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine) and Peter O’Toole (King Henry II), a magnificent historical film set amidst the grandeur of the medieval court with an intricate plot of deception and intrigue within this most royal family.  Anthony  Hopkins plays the eldest son and heir, Richard, known as the ‘lion-hearted’, outwardly brave and fierce, belying underneath a heart considered far too tender for that of a future king.  Embodying these complex qualities perfectly, Hopkins gave a well-casted performance and was nominated for a Bafta as best supporting actor.

However, 1967 was not to be all success.  Having been a loner all his life, Anthony Hopkins did not take easily to the limelight into which success had thrust him and did not mix well with the circle at the National Theatre.  He started drinking heavily, although dedicated obsessively to his work at the same time.  At this time he was touring up and down the country.  The following year he and Petronella had a baby daughter, Abigail but the relationship soon began to falter and by 1972 they were divorced.  Anthony Hopkins was separated from his daughter, which pained him deeply for many years.

In 1971 he had his first lead role as Philip Calvert in Alistair MacLean’s ‘When Eight Bells Toll’.  His drinking and behaviour were getting progressively worse and 1973 saw him walk-out on the National Theatre during ‘Macbeth’.  His fame grew nationwide when in 1973 he played the memorable Pierre in the tv epic ‘War and Peace’, for which he won a Bafta award.

In 1973 Hopkins married Jennifer Lynton, who looked after him and supported him in his struggle against alcohol abuse.  On 29th of December 1975 he gave up drink for good.

By the mid 1980’s Anthony Hopkins had a string of films and tv films to his credit, the best of which were  ‘A Bridge Too Far’, ‘Elephant Man’, ‘Magic’, ‘The Bounty’, ‘The Bunker’, ‘Victory at Entebbe’, and  ‘The Lindbergh Kidnapping Case’.  The American dream had come true.  Hopkins’ versatility as an actor is immense and his ability to totally immerse himself in the diverse character roles is truly amazing.  Hopkins’ is a total professional where his work is concerned, he re-reads scripts hundreds of times if necessary and always knows his lines backwards, often to the annoyance of certain directors who suddenly deviate from the script.  Hopkins was not known for tolerating retakes.  Numerous Bafta, Emmy and Golden Globe nominations were showered upon Anthony Hopkins, however working in America, making so many films began to take its’ toll – Jenni, his wife could not see the attraction of the States, preferring to remain at home in England and so Hopkins calmed down the pace of work and tried to concentrate on his UK career from the mid 1980’s onwards, returning to the National Theatre as King Lear.  More splendid film performances followed such as ‘The Tenth Man’, ‘A Chorus of Disapproval’ and ’84 Charing Cross Road’.

Anthony Hopkins is best known the world over for the role that catapulted his stardom to Oscar status in 1991 – Hannibal the Cannibal, Dr Hannibal Lecter in ‘Silence of the Lambs’ alongside Jodie Foster.  His American career had once again taken off, but this time on a grand scale.  Hopkins finally had his Best Actor Oscar and the American Film Institute rated him as number 1 film villain as Hannibal, in one of his best movies.

There were 2 more Lecter films for Hopkins, ‘Hannibal’ (2001) and ‘Red Dragon’ (2002).  The continuity of character in the three films is consistently brilliant and addictive but Hopkins claims to have hung up his Hannibal mask, who knows ?  Talking of his most infamous character, Hannibal Lecter, Anthony Hopkins said ‘I think he might be a very interesting person to have lunch with, provided that YOU weren’t the lunch’.

In 1993 Anthony Hopkins was rewarded with a knighthood.

The Hollywood career just kept getting better, with ‘Howards End’, ‘Remains of the Day’, ‘Shadowlands’, ‘Nixon’, ‘The Edge’ and ‘Amistad’ being notable, some attracting Oscar nominations.

In 2000 Sir Anthony Hopkins gained U.S. citizenship and therefore dual nationality.  In 2002 his almost 30 year marriage to Jenni was officially terminated, and America played her part in that.

In 2003 Hopkins took his third wife Stella Arroyave, an antiques dealer who is some years his junior, born in 1956 in Columbia.  Stella was quickly introduced to acting roles by her new husband and played a small part in ‘The Human Stain‘ (2003) and then the role of Gina in the Anthony Hopkins Movie ‘Slipstream‘ 2007, which he wrote, directed and performed in.

In 2009 Sir Anthony Hopkins reunited with his daughter Abigail, who also is an actress with whom he had only intermittent contact over the previous 20 years – he was said to be ‘overjoyed’.

The credits just kept rolling, with films such as ‘The Human Stain’, ‘The World’s Fastest Indian’, ‘Fracture’ and ‘Beowolf’ amongst the best Anthony Hopkins movies.  In 2010 he paired up for the first time with director Woody Allen to play Alfie, in ‘You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger‘.  The quality performances are very much still there, as the quantity of films accepted by Hopkins now has dwindled down to what he really wants to do, although some would question why Anthony Hopkins became involved in movies like ‘The Wolfman’!.  Anthony Hopkins latest movie, ‘The Rite’ 2011 is another monster box-office success.

Today, his home being in Santa Monica, California, Hopkins spends his time composing music, painting and playing the piano – he is an accomplished pianist (virtuoso) and has exhibited his landscape paintings in San Antonio, Texas.  In February 2010, Anthony Hopkins exhibitted his works in London and Edinburgh which was well-attended.

Sir Anthony Hopkins

Sir Anthony Hopkins

A man of many talents, a true film star and icon, a film director and composer of film scores, an accomplished pianist and artist.  Not bad for a boyo from Wales.  Wales is very proud of  Tony.

If you are ever visiting Wales, you can go on an Anthony Hopkins Tour which lasts for a day and visits Margam, his place of birth and other pretty areas in South Wales such as the Rhondda Valley.

Read about Anthony Hopkins autobiography which he is currently writing – it promises to reveal interesting new insights into this great actor’s life, however he has claimed to have abandonned this project now, saying he didn’t think people would be interested!  How wrong!

There are treats in store however, as there are abundant rumours of various films about to be released soon.

Visit our Amazon Anthony Hopkins movie store, where you can buy DVDs of all Anthony Hopkins movies, biograhies and books of films.
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