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Beowulf - Anthony Hopkins interview

Beowulf

Interview by Rob Carnevale

SIR Anthony Hopkins talks about working with performance capture in the Robert Zemeckis blockbuster Beowulf and how he finds time to juggle acting with composing and painting…

How was working in performance capture format?
Sir Anthony Hopkins: I’ve been asked by various interviewers whether it was difficult or more of a challenge and I don’t think it was. You don’t have a costume, or a beard or scenery but it’s just like being in rehearsals for the theatre or going into a normal film you’re rehearsing for. Robert Zemeckis did maybe a couple of rehearsals and then they’d shoot it all. The only thing is that you’re not really aware of the camera. It’s such a long time ago that we did it – two years ago – and it was 240 cameras or something and you’re not really aware of what’s going on but you’re confident that some guys know what’s happening.

Three or four years ago you were quoted as saying that you were finished with movies and would like to retire. So what made you change that opinion?
Sir Anthony Hopkins: [Laughs] I didn’t actually say that but they put that in the paper – but then papers will say what they want. I just took a rest, that’s all. But the reason I did this was that my agent phoned and said that Robert Zemeckis would like me to read the script. I thought that was very good because he’s a great director.

The word genius is thrown around rather a lot but I think it really applies to him because he has a vision that really is quite unique. So I said “OK” and when they sent me the script I saw that Ray [Winstone] was in it, and Angelina Jolie and then I went and met him and there was a real excitement to work with him. He’s a really gentle, nice guy and he explained something about it and the way he was going to use computers, but I didn’t really understand what he was talking about, but I thought it was going to be something new.

This is really a director’s movie and the geniuses that work behind the scenes on the computers. The actors were guests at this big party. I hadn’t seen anything of it at the time we filmed, which was two years ago, and the first time I saw it was on Monday night at the premiere in Los Angeles and I was astonished by it. I don’t even begin to know how they put it together.

How do you connect to these characters when you’re not in uniform or anything?
Sir Anthony Hopkins: Well, once you get over the feeling of looking like an idiot you just get on with it. It takes about three minutes. I remember the first scene I had was coming in on the throne. You don’t have any props but I had a metal throne. It was written in the script that I was drunk when I come on, so I asked Robert: “How drunk shall I be?” And he said: “As drunk as you like!” So I came in and rolled around, said sorry to the guys that had to carry me, and then he said: “How about we shoot another take?” So I asked: “Do you want me any more drunker?” And he said “yes”. But because you don’t have any fear of what you look like, because you look like an idiot anyway, you’re free to play around a bit. Bob isn’t one of those [directors] who wants you to do 15 takes. Two or three will do. So, it’s pretty easy stuff. Not that it’s not hard work but people like Ray [Winstone] and Crispin [Glover] had to do much more than me. It’s pretty straight-forward, like any rehearsal – you just jump in at the deep end but you have a feeling that it’s going to work out OK.

How do you juggle making movies with the increasing demands on your other disciplines as a composer and painter?
Sir Anthony Hopkins: I don’t know. I wanted to be a musician originally and I kind of side tracked into this profession by default really. So, principally I wanted to become a musician before I became an actor. So, in the past four or five years I’ve started writing music again. It keeps me out of trouble, it keeps me occupied and I like that. I enjoy working as an actor but I’ve become much more laidback about it now, so that when something comes along like this, with Robert Zemeckis, it’s a pleasant trip. Painting is something that came to me very easily.

b>Read our review of Beowulf

b>Read our interview with Crispin Glover (the voice of Grendel)