"I'm on a bit of a roll,” says Anthony Hopkins, who won a Best Actor Oscar in 1992 for playing Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs and this year's AARP Movies for Grownups Award for Best Actor in The Father, about a man who resists the help of his anguished daughter (Olivia Colman) as he slips into Alzheimer's disease. Even more effectively than previous acclaimed movies about the debilitating illness — such as Still Alice with Julianne Moore and Away From Her with Julie Christie — The Father brings viewers inside the mind of the patient, finding cinematic ways to make the audience share the hero's Alzheimer's experience, a bewildering world of shifting memories and moments.
SEE ALL THE 2021 WINNERS: Complete List of AARP's Movies for Grownups Winners
Born: Margam, Wales, U.K.
First break: Laurence Olivier hired him as his understudy in 1967’s The Dance of Death, got appendicitis, and said Hopkins “walked away with the part of Edgar like a cat with a mouse between its teeth.”
Greatest hits: The Elephant Man, Howards End, The Remains of the Day, The Silence of the Lambs, Nixon, The Father
Education: Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, Royal Academy of Dramatic Art
Accolades: 5 Oscar nominations, one win, 5 Emmy nominations, two wins, knighted by Queen Elizabeth
The Father adds to Hopkins's latest streak of great roles (and awards to match). “I've done The Dresser with Ian McKellen (2015), King Lear (2018) and The Two Popes with Jonathan Pryce (2019). I'm fortunate to be in work."
Why getting older makes him a better actor
Hopkins thinks he's also fortunate to be grown up enough at 83 to handle such roles. “The Father has been compared to the story of King Lear [who goes mad] and his daughter [who, like Colman's character, tries to save him]. I played Lear many years ago, in my 40s, and I was too young to do it. I didn't have that life experience. When I did it again at 79 for the film, I thought I've got enough life experience now to understand the nature of this old man.
"And for me to play The Father was easy, because he's my age — no acting required! I tell this to young actors: Just relax. Don't do too much. Because everyone wants to make a moment of it. Just keep it simple. It's like martial arts — Bruce Lee said, ‘Be water,’ give in to gravity to throw your opponent over your shoulder. If you're playing a big tragic moment, don't play it intensely. Once you tense up, you're stumped, because there's no flow to it."