Anthony Hopkins may very well be regarded as one of our greatest living actors, but that doesn't mean he's all that different from you and me. The 74-year-old, who insists you call him "Tony," is, as it turns out, insecure about his day job. This, despite the fact that Queen Elizabeth II knighted him in 1993 following his Oscar-win for playing everyone's favorite cannibal in Jonathan Demme's "The Silence of the Lambs."
But really, considering his latest role, who can blame him? In Sacha Gervasi's narrative feature debut "Hitchcock," Hopkins embodies none other than Alfred Hitchcock, one of the most revered and scrutinized filmmakers of all time. And unlike most directors, Hitchcock spent just as much time in front of the camera as he did behind it -- leaving not much room, on Hopkins' part, for 'interpretation.'
Taking place during the filming of one of Hitchcock's most troubled productions "Psycho," "Hitchcock" forgoes the standard biopic format to shed light on a side of the legendary director seldom heard about: his relationship to wife Alma Reville (Helen Mirren).
Hopkins called in to Indiewire last weekend from London to discuss playing the icon, and dished a little on his role in Darren Aronofsky's upcoming epic "Noah." Fox Searchlight opens "Hitchcock" in select theaters this Friday.
"I was so paranoid about the movie after it was finished, I thought, 'Oh, I’d better go live in the Antarctic.'"
The casting gods struck gold with this one.
Oh good, I’m so glad. I really am. I mean that with all sincerity; I was so paranoid about the movie after it was finished, I thought, “Oh, I’d better go live in the Antarctic.” I wasn’t sure what happened, you know. I saw it for the first time about three or four weeks ago -- I hadn’t seen it with an audience, but I thought it was quite good. My insecurities were lifted. I’m glad, thank you.
You’ve played everyone from Picasso to Titus to Hitchcock -- does any role scare or intimidate you in any way, prior to taking it on?
Nixon was one, though I was in Oliver Stone’s very capable hands.
I wouldn’t use the word ‘scared’ for my role as Hitchcock, but it was my most insecure. Taking on such a formidable, giant personality such as Hitchcock; he was one of the great geniuses of world cinema. Sheer genius. And I really appreciate him now. I was offered the part eight years ago -- I didn’t want to put on weight and all that -- but then I met with Sacha Gervasi. I was told that he’d never made a movie before that, except he’d made “Anvil,” and I’d liked his enthusiasm and I thought it was his lack of experience that made it worthwhile. But then we had to do the makeup and the wardrobe and all that, and we got a great a designer, Julie Weiss, and Howard Berger, and I thought “Well, the thing is… Now I hand my body over to those two makeup guys, Peter [Montagna] and Howard, and designer Julie Weiss." She designed the fat suit and they designed the prosthetic. The trick was not to put too much prosthetic on, because it would hide me -- I’m no Alfred Hitchcock, I’m Anthony Hopkins playing Hitchcock. The balance had to work and I think they sort of got it right.
I never looked at the screen or the playback once I’d finished a shot; I wouldn’t watch it, and Sacha would say, “Why don’t you watch it?” and I’d say, “No, I don’t want to.” I didn’t want to be scared off. I developed the voice by watching a lot of Hitchcock’s interviews and “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.” I’d watch it over and over, so I’d say [in Hitchcock voice]: “Good evening. The story you’re about to hear is going to be the most terrifying story you’ve ever experienced in your life.”
I’m smiling ear-to-ear right now.
Ha! The thing is, to get the technique -- I’ve got a different chest and a different skull than Hitchcock, so you can’t really produce a mimicry. The thing is to just approximate it. I watched the way he enunciated his lines, I could also hear his East London accent under that; he was a Cockney. When he arrives in Hollywood, Hitchcock put on that very pompous, upper-class voice -- but I could hear the London underneath, the way he would enunciate to cover his own sound. It made for an interesting combination. Once I got that tic, I thought, “Well, I think I’m secure now. I feel okay about it.”