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Anthony Hopkins' tricks to acting are really quite simple

LONDON (AP) — Now that he's been doing it for well over half a century, Anthony Hopkins believes acting is much “easier” now.

“As you get older, you have a little more knowledge of life. When you’re young, you think you know a thing or two, but you don’t. When you get to my age, you know a couple of tricks for a living,” the 86-year-old, who stars as real-life hero Nicholas Winton in “One Life,” said in a recent interview with The Associated Press.

His “tricks” to acting are very simple: “Just learn the lines, show up and try to be real.”

To play Winton in the movie out March 15, a stockbroker responsible for saving more than 600 children during World War II, Hopkins studied the way he walked and talked, watching his interviews and docuseries appearance. His performance was given the seal of approval by Winton’s son.

“It was easy because I didn’t have to act old, I am old,” Hopkins said, smiling.

Nevertheless, “One Life” director James Hawes highlights Hopkins’ “young spirit,” adding that the knight of the realm “bloody loves what he does,” and has a continued passion for movies.

“He would sit on an apple box on the edge of set and watch people rigging lights and rigging track because he has a joy for the world he’s in,” Hawes explained, adding, “he just wants to be there and part of the process.”

“One Life” is told in two parts as the young Winton, played by Johnny Flynn, spearheads the extraordinary feat of arranging trains to transport children out of Prague. Hopkins plays the older Winton, looking back on his life but still haunted by images of children he couldn’t rescue — specifically aboard the final train that didn’t make it out of Prague.

One poignant moment recreated in the film is Winton’s appearance on the British TV show “That’s Life,” where he was surprised by a studio audience made up of descendants of the children he’d saved. The extras surrounding Hopkins in the recreated scene were also related to the Kindertransport children, with Hopkins calling it a “pretty moving moment.”

Hopkins says playing Winton is one of the highlights of his career, but playing Hannibal Lecter in “Silence of the Lambs,” which won him his first Academy Award in 1991, “gave him a profound change in the direction of my life.”

“That was a favorite because it was easy to play, doesn’t speak well of my character,” he said.

“I know that I can take no credit for anything, because I couldn’t have figured out my life," he added. "I don’t even know how I became an actor. It beats working for a living.”

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In this story published March 7, 2024, The Associated Press erroneously reported the name of the director. The director of “One Life” is James Hawes, not James Dawes.