Thursday, May 17, 2018

Anthony Hopkins

Anthony Hopkins, Toronto, Sept. 10, 2005

I WAS TERRIBLY INTIMIDATED BEFORE THIS SHOOT. Anthony Hopkins had a reputation for mercurial behaviour and an impatience with the banalities of his obligations off stage and off screen. The thing is that I could completely understand this attitude, and while I could flatter myself that I wasn't the sort of media irritant that had inspired this reputation, at the end of a long day of press I suppose that all buzzing flies look and sound the same to a tired horse.

Which is why I prepared myself for a disaster ahead of this shoot - beginning with the publicist simply calling it off completely at the behest of the star. When Chris Atchison and I found ourselves waiting outside the press suite to be called in, I shifted gears and imagined Hopkins impatient and distracted and unwilling to sit for more than a few frames. And then the door opened and we were called into the room.

Anthony Hopkins, Toronto, Sept. 10, 2005

Hopkins was a familiar face for me long before Silence of the Lambs made him a huge star, mostly because the 1978 film Magic, with Hopkins playing a ventriloquist possessed by his dummy, seemed to be on TV all the time when I was in high school. He'd ascended through films like The Elephant Man, The Bounty and 84 Charing Cross Road as an impressive combination of talent, charisma and the discipline of the English theatre to the role of Hannibal Lecter, after which he seemed to be first choice for any role that required authority, gravitas, reflection or menace, in any possible combination.

Hopkins was at the film festival promoting The World's Fastest Indian, which wasn't about a Native American sprinter but a record-breaking motorcycle racer from New Zealand. Hopkins portrayal of Burt Munro required him to be charming, guileless, eccentric and driven, and no one was surprised that the actor could manage all of that with a typical lack of apparent effort.

Anthony Hopkins, Toronto, Sept. 10, 2005

Perhaps it was the work required to embody Munro that made him so unexpectedly accommodating when my turn came to take his portrait. Just last year, Hopkins told an interviewer that he'd been diagnosed as having a high-functioning case of Asperger's Syndrome. In hindsight, this made me wonder if that was why he looked so unguarded through the viewfinder of my camera, and quite unlike the wary, impatient man that I'd expected.

The brooding and menace and candour that Hopkins draws upon for so many of his roles could be glimpsed from frame to fame over the dozen or so shots I managed to take in my scant minute with him in that hotel suite. I knew I was getting much better than I expected so I didn't press him to the point where his patience might have run out, though he was still remarkably friendly to Chris and I when we ran into him again in the hotel elevator later that afternoon. And of course that made me wonder if I'd been too polite, and should have pushed Hopkins just that little bit further, since I'm still not certain if these shots are as good as I think they are, or simply much better than I was expecting.

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