Hopkins' devastating turn in the drama may win him another Oscar. He takes EW inside his performance.

By James Hibberd
October 22, 2020 at 12:00 PM EDT
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He’s won an Oscar for playing a sadistic cannibal in The Silence of the Lambs, masterminded a killer-robot theme park on HBO’s Westworld, and was the mighty Thor’s dad in a trio of Marvel epics. Yet of his more than 80 film and TV roles, Anthony Hopkins says his all-time favorite is one you haven’t seen yet — and it’s perhaps his least cinematic performance.

In The Father (in select theaters Dec. 18), Hopkins plays an ordinary man suffering from dementia in his London home. Co-written and directed by Florian Zeller, and based on his 2012 play, the film is largely set in a series of apartments, as Hopkins’ character is tended to by his loving yet increasingly distressed daughter (Olivia Colman).

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This setup might sound like an unremarkable domestic drama (perhaps even a dull one), yet the film unwinds like a surreal thriller, with the viewer experiencing the ailing patriarch’s unreliable perspective on the world around him — and, in doing so, begins to feel unmoored as well.

Asked about his nuanced and emotional performance, Hopkins, who’s getting major Oscar buzz, says exactly what you don’t expect: “I shouldn’t say this, I know it sounds really conceited, but it was so easy to play.”

The actor suggests the film’s theatrical-like structure and strong script gave him a clear path, while delivering emotional complexity just comes naturally. “I also make sure it’s going to be easy — I don’t storm around and despair and all that,” he adds. “It’s not my cup of tea to be intense and forbidding on set.”

The 82-year-old actor says he’s endured more than 170 days in quarantine during the pandemic (“I think I’m still sane,” he posted on Instagram, along with a manic-looking selfie) and assures that his own memory is particularly sharp, which also aided his performance. “I have a way of remembering, very clearly, feelings and emotions, and they are ready at the surface,” he says.

To some extent, Hopkins says getting older himself helped too. “I’m not willfully living in the past, but the past is becoming more present — that’s the process of long-term memory,” he says. “And I’ve had a long life and a surprising life. My God, I’m so lucky to have come this far with it.”

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