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Like his fellow Welshman Richard Burton, Anthony Hopkins left England and a celebrated stage career to enjoy the life of an A-list Hollywood actor. The restless thespian made an auspicious film debut in "The Lion in Winter" (1968) as the scheming Richard the Lionheart, as well as won Emmys for his TV movie performances in "The Lindbergh Kidnapping Case" (NBC, 1976), as accused kidnapper Bruno Hauptmann, and "The Bunker" (CBS, 1981), as Adolph Hitler. But it was his Oscar-winning turn as Dr. Hannibal 'The Cannibal' Lecter in "The Silence of the Lambs" (1991) that brought the years of struggle and second-rate parts to an end, elevating him to full-fledged movie star status. With his stature elevated to that of a rarified performer, Hopkins turned in one exquisite performance after another in films as varied as "Howards End" (1992), "The Remains of the Day" (1993), "Legends of the Fall" (1994) and "Nixon" (1995), in which he aptly portrayed the disgraced U.S. president. He went on to further acclaim playing John Quincy Adams in "Amistad" (1997) and the titular "Titus" (1999) while having a bit of fun in "The Mask of Zorro" (1998). Of course, he reprised Lecter for the less well-received "Hannibal"...
Like his fellow Welshman Richard Burton, Anthony Hopkins left England and a celebrated stage career to enjoy the life of an A-list Hollywood actor. The restless thespian made an auspicious film debut in "The Lion in Winter" (1968) as the scheming Richard the Lionheart, as well as won Emmys for his TV movie performances in "The Lindbergh Kidnapping Case" (NBC, 1976), as accused kidnapper Bruno Hauptmann, and "The Bunker" (CBS, 1981), as Adolph Hitler. But it was his Oscar-winning turn as Dr. Hannibal 'The Cannibal' Lecter in "The Silence of the Lambs" (1991) that brought the years of struggle and second-rate parts to an end, elevating him to full-fledged movie star status. With his stature elevated to that of a rarified performer, Hopkins turned in one exquisite performance after another in films as varied as "Howards End" (1992), "The Remains of the Day" (1993), "Legends of the Fall" (1994) and "Nixon" (1995), in which he aptly portrayed the disgraced U.S. president. He went on to further acclaim playing John Quincy Adams in "Amistad" (1997) and the titular "Titus" (1999) while having a bit of fun in "The Mask of Zorro" (1998). Of course, he reprised Lecter for the less well-received "Hannibal" (2001) and "Red Dragon" (2002), before appearing in a supporting capacity in the likes of "Alexander" (2004), "All the King's Men" (2006), "Beowulf" (2007) and "Thor" (2011). Whether mannered costume dramas, historical epics or serial killer thrillers, Hopkins proved years ago that he was one of the greatest living actors of his time.
Born on Dec. 31, 1937 in the steel mining town of Port Talbot, South Wales, Hopkins grew up convinced he would amount to nothing. But at 17, he discovered acting at the YMCA and quickly found himself with a scholarship to the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, a stint that was briefly interrupted by service with the Royal Artillery. After studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and making his London debut as Metellus Cimber in "Julius Caesar," he joined the National Theatre in 1965 when Laurence Olivier served as artistic director. When Olivier fell prey to appendicitis, Hopkins took over in "Dance of Death" (1966), then went on to play Lear, Antony and others at the famed Old Vic. While his stage career was on the rise, however, his personal life was in rapid decline. Hopkins was a an alcoholic, walked out on his first wife, Petronella Barker, in 1969 and later abandoned a production of Macbeth. Moving to Los Angeles in 1974, Hopkins quit drinking two days before his 38th birthday and became a lifelong member of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Though he eschewed the stage later in his career, it was his theatrical training that enabled him to change shape and transform himself to a dazzling array of characters. As Lloyd George in "Young Winston" (1972), Hopkins initiated a five picture association with director Richard Attenborough which would see him segue from Lieutenant Colonel John Frost in "A Bridge Too Far" (1977) to the volatile, obsessed ventriloquist in "Magic" (1978) to the quiet, scholarly C S Lewis in "Shadowlands" (1993). He exhibited similar range in his work with the Merchant-Ivory team, beginning with his chillingly understated upper crust nasty in "Howards End" (1992) and proceeding through the mild-mannered all-too-perfect butler in "The Remains of the Day" (1993) to the ferocious energy and relentless sexuality of Pablo Picasso in "Surviving Picasso" (1996).
Hopkins' indelible portrayal of Hannibal Lecter, the brilliant, cultivated serial killer at the center of Jonathan Demme's "The Silence of the Lambs," paved the way for a succession of meaty and challenging roles, including an enjoyable turn as Dr. Van Helsing in Francis Ford Coppola's adaptation of "Bram Stoker's Dracula" (1992) and a barnstorming performance as the stricken father in the Western epic, "Legends of the Fall" (1994). Immersing himself in countless hours of film and videotape for his title role in Oliver Stone's "Nixon" (1995), Hopkins fashioned a riveting performance that was as much an internal product of his own remembered inadequacies as a Welsh schoolboy as it was external mimicry of the 37th President of the USA. He directed and starred in "August" (1996), an adaptation of Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya" (for which he also composed its melancholy, lyrical score), and then played bookish billionaire Charles Morse who devises many of the best survival strategies after a plane crash in the Alaskan wilderness pits Alec Baldwin and him against nature in Lee Tamahori's "The Edge (1997). Hopkins followed quickly with another portrayal of an American president, this time as John Quincy Adams in Steven Spielberg's "Amistad" (1997).
In 1998, Hopkins starred in a pair of remakes, playing William Parrish in "Meet Joe Black," and the aged, original swashbuckler Don Diego, who trains a thief (Antonio Banderas) as his successor in "The Mask of Zorro." Later in the year, he was cast as Dr Ethan Powell in "Instinct," a film loosely based on a novel by Daniel Quinn. As an anthropologist who lived for three years in the wilds with a family of gorillas, Powell discovered a secret which can not be revealed until a psychiatrist uncovers the truth behind a homicidal attack for which the doctor stands accused. In 1999, Hopkins took on the mighty title role in Julie Taymor's adaptation of "Titus." He briefly considered retiring after this role but found himself unable to give up his desire to perform. In both 2001 and 2002, he again played his most well-known role of Hannibal Lecter in "Hannibal" and "Red Dragon." Hopkins made the rather unfortunate choice, however, of starring with Chris Rock in the abominable "Bad Company." Directed by Joel Schumacher, the action comedy boasted two talented stars and a well-respected director, but came off as a by-the-numbers action flick that came and went with little notice in the theaters.
Although Hopkins seemed to take a slightly lazy delight in revisiting the famous Lecter character (and fattening his bank account), he also accepted the challenging, racially charged role of Coleman Silk in director Robert Benton's film adaptation of author Philip Roth's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel "The Human Stain" (2003). Hopkins went toe-to-toe with acting heavyweights Nicole Kidman, Gary Sinise and Ed Harris in playing Coleman Silk, a man of mixed race passing as white who embarks on an affair with an uneducated woman. Despite his well-established ability to stretch and excel in unlikely roles, Hopkins faced some criticism for seeming so physically disparate from the character depicted in the novel, although his performance was considered a bright spot in an otherwise hum-drum film. He reunited with Oliver Stone to play famed ancient geographer Ptolemy in the writer-director's epic historical drama "Alexander" (2004), then delivered an effective, heart-wrenching and occasionally ferocious performance as a brilliant but schizophrenic mathematician whose death leaves his troubled daughter and caretaker (Gwyneth Paltrow) wondering if she's inherited his genius or his madness in director John Madden's deft adaptation of the acclaimed stage play, "Proof" (2005).
In "The World's Fastest Indian" (2005), Hopkins gave a charming and light-hearted performance as the real-life Burt Munro, an Australian motorcycle enthusiast whose dream to break the under-1000cc land speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah came true when he was 67 years old. Meanwhile, Hopkins was honored by the Hollywood Foreign Press at the 2006 Golden Globe Awards with the Cecile B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement. Always riveting, Hopkins has had the uncanny ability to enthrall despite an otherwise poorly made film, as was the case with "All the King's Men" (2006) where he played a powerful Louisiana judge - albeit one with a British accent - who represents the corrupted political system that ensnares an idealistic man-of-the-people (Sean Penn) running for governor.
Hopkins joined the all-star ensemble cast in "Bobby" (2006), Emilio Estevez's long-developed drama about the assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy, playing a retired doorman at the famous Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles who, along with several other hotel staff, witness the shocking murder. The acclaimed actor then gave a pleasingly sadistic performance in "Fracture" (2007), playing the confessed murderer of his much younger wife (Embeth Davidtz) who was having an affair with a police hostage negotiator (Billy Burke). Hopkins matched wits with the Deputy D.A. for Los Angeles (Ryan Gosling), gleefully watching the prosecutor's case unravel as pieces of evidence from a seemingly open-and-shut case systematically fall to pieces. From there, Hopkins appeared as King Hrothgar to Ray Winstone's titular "Beowulf" (2007), before writing, directing and starring in the mind-bending fantasy "Slipstream" (2007), which premiered at that year's Sundance Film Festival. He went on to play Benicio del Toro's estranged father in the classic take on the werewolf movie, "The Wolfman" (2010), and was the father of Chris Hemsworth's Nordic superhero, "Thor" (2011). Hopkins was in the limelight once again when he was cast to play the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, in the highly anticipated behind-the-scenes drama, "Hitchcock" (2012), which focused on the director's struggle to make "Psycho" (1960) while focusing on his complex relationship with wife Alma Reville (Helen Mirren). Hopkins followed this with a number of supporting roles, in films ranging from the action comedy "RED 2" (2013) to the blockbusters "Thor: The Dark World" (2013) and "Noah" (2014) before returning to a starring role in the true-life crime drama "Kidnapping Mr. Heineken" (2015).
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