Anthony Hopkins’ wife would like him to lie more. Specifically, she would like him to stop telling the truth when curious people ask him to reveal the secret to his extraordinary acting ability.
She wants him to stop insisting that acting is not that difficult, and to start making up stories about how he creates memorable characters, such as serial killer Hannibal Lecter in “The Silence of the Lambs,” for which he won an Oscar, and the brilliant and diabolical murderer Ted Crawford in “Fracture,” which opens today.
“When I tell people that I just learn my lines and that’s all there is to it, my wife thinks that I’m putting down the craft of acting,” the 69-year-old actor explains.
“But I’m not putting it down. I have nothing but respect for the craft. And I could come up with all sorts of fancy theories about playing these characters but, basically, it’s just a matter of learning the lines. I’m sure that Robert De Niro and all the other Method guys would not approve of that.
“I admire them, but I’m just as Method as those guys. But I believe that the text is all the information you need.”
In “Fracture” he plays a structural engineer who strongly suspects that his younger wife is having an affair. He decides to shoot her in the head.
Ryan Gosling plays an ambitious assistant district attorney who is faced with the unenviable task of trying to convict the clever engineer.
“When I read the script, I knew I wanted to do it by page 35,” says Hopkins. “It was good, intelligent writing with great description and dialogue. I liked the smell of it. I could tell that the writer knew what he was doing.”
Hopkins acknowledges that atmosphere on the set and time spent in rehearsal play a role in getting him into character.
“Making a movie is a fascinating process, and I have always loved the process,” he says. “The way it works is that I show up at the location in the morning and grab a cup of coffee. I go to hair and makeup, and put on the character’s clothes. I talk to the director and the other actors. The camera crew comes in and marks the set. We go through some rehearsals.
“By the time I get through with all that preparation on the set, and the reading of the script over and over again, I’m into the character. And I have been doing the same preparation for roles my entire career. It works for me. It’s as exciting to me now as it was 30 years ago.”
The Welsh actor has said he was inspired to get into acting by a chance meeting at age 15 with countryman Richard Burton.
He began his film career on a high note, appearing in the 1968 classic “The Lion in Winter.” Most longtime fans probably remember his breakthrough role in “Magic,” the 1978 film in which he played a hapless ventriloquist who is controlled by his dummy.
But it was in the 1990s that Hopkins’ career soared, with roles in “The Remains of the Day,” “Nixon” and “Amistad.” Earlier, he played “Hannibal the Cannibal” in “The Silence of the Lambs.” The character was named by the American Film Institute as the greatest screen villain of all time.
There have been many in Hollywood who did not take full advantage of a big break when it came their way, but Hopkins is not among them.
“I believe that I have made the most of that Oscar,” he says. “I have a wonderful life, and I have worked as much as I wanted or needed to work.
“When you’re approaching 70 (he will turn 70 on Dec. 31), you’re lucky to still be working. It’s always a wonderful surprise whenever people send me scripts to read. And I’m always surprised when people want to work with me.
“I know this is going to sound incredibly silly, but I get thrilled when I get to work with a Brad Pitt, a Jodie Foster or a Ryan Gosling. I feel great pride that not only do these young actors invite me along to work with them, but I am able to hold my own with them.”
Read Tribune movie critic Craig Outhier’s review of “Fracture.”