Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Untold Truth Of Anthony Hopkins

Throughout his decades-long acting career, Anthony Hopkins has played a straight-laced English butler in The Remains of the Day, a crooked yet complicated president in Nixon, Pope Benedict XVI in The Two Popes, and Thor's dad himself, Odin. But it was his bone-chilling portrayal of the imprisoned cannibal Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs that cemented his reputation as one of the most talented actors of his generation. 

However, Hopkins' path to stardom wasn't straight and narrow, and it wasn't all full of fava beans and nice Chiantis. Even dedicated fans of the actor might be surprised to learn about what he was like back in school. They might also be shocked to learn about the star's true feelings on horror films. So if you want to know more about the Oscar-winning legend, here's the untold truth of Anthony Hopkins, from what inspired him to become an actor to how he spends his spare time.

Anthony Hopkins became an American citizen in 2000

Anthony Hopkins was born in Margam, South Wales, and he grew up in the small town of Port Talbot. According to The Guardian, his father owned a bakery, and his family lived above the shop. Although Hopkins has said that he isn't necessarily tied to Wales, he definitely cares about preserving the natural beauty of his country. In 1998, he donated £1 million to the preservation of Snowdonia National Park, which is home to the highest mountain in Wales — Mount Snowdon. 

However, in 2000, Hopkins became an American citizen. He retained his British citizenship, but his decision sparked some negative reactions back home, with one tabloid referring to him as "Hannibal Defector." When Hopkins was asked by the reactions to his new American passport, he couldn't help but throw his hands in the air and brush it off. ”I am a simple man from a meat-and-potatoes background,” Hopkins told The New York Times. ”I moved to La-La Land because, at heart, I am a beach bum.”

He struggled as a student

Like many children with creative tendencies, Anthony Hopkins struggled in school. ”I was a poor learner, which left me open to ridicule and gave me an inferiority complex,” he said in an interview with The New York Times. ”I grew up absolutely convinced I was stupid.” Despite his poor grades, he did find a way to stand out in the classroom. The future star was known for his odd habit of drinking India ink, which his classmates found hilarious.

Eventually, his parents got tired of hearing about his antics at school, and they decided to try a different tactic. They shipped him off to a fancy boarding school, hoping that he would learn to follow the rules and change his behavior. But things didn't work out as well as they'd hoped. The headmaster reportedly called Hopkins "hopeless" and said that he had a "sheer contempt for authority." He didn't really learn to apply himself until he began acting at a local YMCA at the age of 17.

Anthony Hopkins didn't like horror movies as a child

When Hopkins looks back on his childhood, it seems almost obvious that he was destined to become one of the creepiest horror film stars of all time. "I don't know why, but I've always known what scares people," Hopkins told The Radio Times (via Wales Online). He continued, "When I was a kid, I'd tell the girls around the street the story about Dracula and I'd go 'th-th-th.' As a result, they'd run away screaming." 

Hopkins would use that same noise to great effect in The Silence of the Lambs, after dropping his famous line about pairing a census taker's liver with a nice Chianti. And when his mom watched the horror classic for the first time, she told Hopkins, "I always knew you were strange."

Despite Hopkins' unorthodox talents, he wasn't a huge fan of horror movies. In fact, as a child, he remembered finding revered horror stars like Bela Lugosi to be "more entertaining than frightening." He even recalled laughing at 1933's King Kong. Although Hopkins wasn't drawn to horror at first, he turned out to be a natural in this genre, as his portrayal of Hannibal Lecter earned him an Academy Award for Best Actor.

Richard Burton inspired him to act

Growing up in small-town Wales, Hopkins wasn't exactly bumping into celebrities on street corners. But it was an encounter with the accomplished Welsh actor Richard Burton (Cleopatra, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) that inspired Hopkins to pursue acting. 

Burton had grown up in the nearby town of Tai Bach, and when Hopkins was a young boy in Port Talbot, Burton's sister was still living in the area. So one day, Hopkins decided to drop by and ask Burton himself for an autograph. After watching the star drive away in a fancy sports car, Hopkins realized that he could do something bigger with his own life if he made an effort to work hard at it. 

Hopkins told The Guardian that he remembered Burton as "a very impressive figure." He said, "In a way he was a magical personality because he was the local kid from Tai Bach. I remember thinking, I've got to get out of this place. I've got to get out of this inner sanctum of my own inadequacy and do something with my life."

Anthony Hopkins got sober in 1975

As a young actor, Anthony Hopkins struggled with alcoholism. In fact, it got so bad that one night in 1975, he arrived in Arizona ... but he had no idea how he'd gotten there. He realized that his reliance on alcohol had spiraled out of control, and he needed to address his addiction. So Hopkins decided to quit drinking cold turkey, and he joined Alcoholics Anonymous. He still attends AA meetings today.

Hopkins felt that drinking heavily exacerbated his anger management issues, and in turn, this heavily influenced his early stage performances. "The addiction to chaos! The addiction to drama! Never. I never want to go back to that life again," Hopkins told The Guardian. "But then I wouldn't have missed it. I wouldn't have missed the crazy years, I wouldn't have missed any of it. It's all part and parcel of growing up, I guess." Hopkins looks back on this time in his life as a period of necessary growth, but after he quit drinking, he had no desire to return to his old lifestyle.

He was officially knighted in 1993

Anthony Hopkins belongs to a pretty exclusive club, one that includes the likes of Ben Kingsley, Michael Caine, Ian McKellen, and Sean Connery. In 1993, the actor was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his service to the arts, which came about a year after winning his Best Actor Oscar for The Silence of the Lambs.

Being knighted is a great honor, but the title is largely ceremonial today. The one major privilege? Being referred to as "Sir" or "Dame." Since Hopkins lives in America today, his title may not seem like such a big deal. But occasionally, a director does take it quite seriously when he's on set. For instance, when Hopkins was working on the film Amistad with director Steven Spielberg, Spielberg was in such awe of Hopkins' acting abilities that he insisted on calling him "Sir Anthony" rather than "Tony" during filming.

Anthony Hopkins felt like an outsider in Hollywood

Despite Hopkins' undeniable success, he never felt like he truly belonged in the theater world or Hollywood. "I didn't have the discipline. I had a Welsh temperament and didn't have that 'fitting in' mechanism," he told The Guardian. He continued, "I would fight, I would rebel. I thought, 'Well, I don't belong here.' ... I don't have any friends who are actors at all." 

Perhaps he felt like an outsider because he was from a working class family in a small town. Maybe it was because he didn't want to conform just to please casting directors and audiences. Or perhaps it was because if he didn't want to commit to something, he would simply quit. After all, he once walked out on a production of Macbeth

Although Hopkins lives in Los Angeles now, he felt like an outsider in Hollywood, too. In fact, he eventually packed up and went back to London, saving goodbye to ten years in Los Angeles. Hopkins recalls that it wasn't until he worked on a production of The Dresser with Ian McKellen that he finally found a sense of belonging as an actor. This experience helped him see that he did have a home in the industry.

He almost turned down Red Dragon

Hannibal Lecter will always be Hopkins' most iconic role. He's played the infamous cannibal in The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal, and Red Dragon. But before he signed on to the third film, Hopkins hesitated.

”I seriously considered turning Red Dragon down,” Hopkins told The New York Times. ”I'd done the cutesy stuff twice, and the jokes had worn thin. I wanted to move on. I had no desire to be Fava Bean Man again.” Simply put, Hopkins was worried that he was wearing out his welcome as Hannibal Lecter. And although he would always be proud of The Silence of the Lambs, he didn't want his entire career to be defined by a singular role.

So, what changed Hopkins' mind? The producer, Dino de Laurentiis, gave him a call and told him that director Brett Ratner probably wouldn't go forward with the film unless Hopkins committed to playing Hannibal again. Ratner told Hopkins, "I love that I'm afraid of you," which won him over in the end.

His sharp memory impresses directors

Anthony Hopkins has a truly impressive memory. Even among his fellow actors, his memorization skills stand out. Perhaps his talent comes from the many years he spent working in theater. After all, he couldn't simply end things in the middle of the scene so that he could run backstage and check his script. Instead, he had to commit every line of dialogue to memory before the curtains came up, and if he happened to forget something, he simply needed to improvise. But maybe he just has a certain natural aptitude for memorization.

Hopkins himself says that he's "astonished" by his own memory, and on his own time, he goes out of his way to practice memorizing poetry and Shakespeare plays to keep it sharp. Clearly, Hopkins takes this aspect of his craft very seriously, and even famous directors are often shocked by his memorization skills. While working on Spielberg's film Amistad, he left the crew and director speechless by memorizing and delivering a seven-page courtroom speech in one take.

Anthony Hopkins has an intricate method for memorizing lines

According to an interview with The Guardian, Hopkins has a rather interesting technique for memorizing his lines. He doesn't simply read his script over and over again and recite his dialogue out loud. Instead, he takes a more intense approach. When he begins reading a script, he draws an "X" next to each line. On his second read-through, he scribbles a star next to each "X." And on his third reading, he draws a circle around the star. 

He continues this pattern through each reading ... but Hopkins tends to read his scripts over 300 times! Naturally, each page is covered in his doodles by the time he's done. He notes how many times he's read each line with a specific number so that he can easily keep track.

On loose pages and blank pages, he draws his own unique doodles. He tries to visualize different scenes and draw pictures that will help him picture each important moment in his mind. He also breaks out highlighters to denote what's going on. Dialogue gets highlighted in green, yellow, and blue, unless it's a violent scene, which gets highlighted in red and orange.

He composes classical music

When Hopkins isn't acting, he loves playing the piano. He has two grand pianos in his home, and he enjoys tickling the ivories in his spare time. But Hopkins isn't just a amateur piano player who practices music as a hobby. In addition to being an Academy Award-winning actor, he's also a classical composer. In fact, in 2011, he released an album of his own classical compositions, titled Composer.

Hopkins has also written music for films that he's directed. For example, he contributed compositions to the soundtrack for August and Slipstream. And he also loves sharing music with the world, whether he wrote or not. In 2011, he presented his own original music with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, as well as songs from his films like Silence of the Lambs and The Remains of the Day. "There are themes and passages in these pieces that have been several decades in the making and to bring them all vividly to life with one of the great symphony orchestras of the world is absolutely thrilling," Hopkins told BBC News.

How Anthony Hopkins spends his spare time

As you might expect from such a prestigious actor, Anthony Hopkins has always had an artistic streak. After all, when he's not working on set, he's often doodling in his scripts. Interestingly, his wife, Stella Arroyave, encouraged him to start painting when she came across the drawings in his scripts. She told him to paint some pictures that she could have framed and give out as wedding gifts. With his wife's encouragement, he decided to give painting a try. Now, he has his own studio set up in their home, and he says that he can spend all day painting and getting lost in his art.

"People say, 'What's your vision?'" I say, 'I don't have any vision. I go in, look at the canvas, and just plop paint on it,'" Hopkins said in an exchange with Brad Pitt for Interview. Hopkins has never had any training as a painter, so he doesn't get too particular about his technique. He simply paints whatever enters his imagination.