Anthony Hopkins has won just about every acting award under the sun, including an Oscar for his legendarily creepy turn as Hannibal Lecter in "Silence of the Lambs." He's also memorably played Richard Nixon, John Quincy Adams, and Thor's dad. He has his pick of movie parts. So why did he agree to play a small part in the upcoming indie film "360"?
Director Fernando Meirelles know the answer. "Anthony Hopkins was drawn to the story because his character in the film is really similar to his own personal story."
Based loosely on "La Ronde" and written by "The Queen" screenwriter Peter Morgan, "360" is a series of interlocking stories about love and sex that span the globe from Slovakia to the American west. Hopkins' character, John, is a recovering alcoholic who flies from London to Phoenix to search for his estranged daughter. A snowstorm waylaids him in Denver along with the beautiful, heartbroken Brazilian girl who sat next to him on the plane. Their brief encounter changes his life. Later in the movie, Hopkins delivers a spellbinding soliloquy at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting where he talks about the Brazilian girl and a priest named Joe Riley. Check out the scene here.
As Meirelles notes, Hopkins made much of that speech up on the spot. "He used some of Peter Morgan's lines, but most of the lines are his own lines. He just improvised, and I asked him to just go for it because when he tells the story of the priest, Father Riley and all of that, that's Anthony Hopkins talking about himself. … It was so beautiful because he started the scene saying the lines from the script then moved on to his personal experience and then went back to the script. It was like jazz, you know."
Even though he has been sober for 32 years, Hopkins still goes to AA meetings because, as Meirelles says, "he feels at home in these places."
Hopkins first shot to fame while understudying for Laurence Olivier for a performance of Strindberg's "The Dance of Death" in 1967. When the famed actor had suddenly taken ill, the young Hopkins stepped in and, by all accounts, delivered a spectacular performance.
Dubbed the next Richard Burton, he soon started to develop a reputation as a brilliant, if erratic, actor, brimming with a ferocious vitality on the stage. He also was, even by the standards of British actors, a notorious drunk. Hopkins himself admitted that he was "not playing with a full deck of cards" during that period of his life.
He hit bottom on December 29, 1975, when he found himself waking up in a hotel room in Arizona with no idea how he got there. He joined AA not long afterward. Since then, he has been very vocal about his struggles. Decades later, Hopkins continues to feel an addict's ambivalence about his illness.
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During an AA fundraiser in Malibu in 2002, Hopkins told the audience, "I'm glad I'm an alcoholic. I wouldn't have missed it for the world. Of course, I'm sorry for the hurt I caused people ... but being an alcoholic was an amazing and powerful experience. There were some days when I'd drink a bottle of tequila and I didn't care if I died. I loved tequila."
"360," which also stars Jude Law and Rachel Weisz opens in selected cities August 3.