Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Two Questions about Anthony Hopkins

 

On this Saturday morning, a couple of questions of the kind that come to mind after you’ve spent a little too much time on Netflix on Friday night. Are you listening, @garymcvey or @titustechera?

Q: Can we agree that Anthony Hopkins is the finest actor ever to appear in so many rubbish movies? Last night I watched the first half of “The Dresser,” in which Hopkins is marvelous. But I also used the search function to look at a list of his other movies. Aside from a single-digit number of remarkable pictures–“Silence of the Lambs,” “Remains of the Day”–the list was pretty dreary. Why? Did Hopkins make a decision at some point to give up stage work and vacuum up as much cash in Hollywood as he could? Does anyone know much about his career?
 
Q: On a plane recently, I watched one of those rubbish movies, “The Edge.” Preposterous premise. Wooden script. Such lousy acting from Elle Macpherson that even her looks fail to compensate for it. Alec Baldwin? Is he demonstrating his contempt for the project? The man overacts in every scene, mugging so badly you’d almost have thought he was in a high school production. But Hopkins–oh, Hopkins. Cool, understated, economic in every word and gesture. And he utterly dominates every scene. So good that his performance alone almost–almost–redeems the picture.
 
How does he do it?
Published in General
Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s growing community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

There are 56 comments.

  1. Brian Watt Inactive

    Many really fine actors aren’t the best judge of material or they need the money. Peter O’Toole was a first rate actor who chose some genuinely awful roles. On the other hand, Claude Raines seems to have been more selective and I would hazard to guess that about 75-80% of the films he was in are quite good. A lot of seasoned actors try to at least rise above the material. And sometimes the material is so bad that even a wonderful actor can’t do a thing with it. To wit:

    • #1
    • November 23, 2019, at 9:29 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  2. MACHO GRANDE' (aka - Chri… Coolidge

    Brian Watt (View Comment):

    Many really fine actors aren’t the best judge of material or they need the money. Peter O’Toole was a first rate actor who chose some genuinely awful roles. On the other hand, Claude Raines seems to have been more selective and I would hazard to guess that about 75-80% of the films he was in are quite good. A lot of seasoned actors try to at least rise above the material. And sometimes the material is so bad that even a wonderful actor can’t do a thing with it. To wit:

    Are you telling Fa does *not* love Pa?

    • #2
    • November 23, 2019, at 9:33 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  3. Spin Coolidge

    First, let me start with something I heard Michael Caine say while accepting some award, and I paraphrase: “I’ve been in a lot of movies…which means I’ve done a lot of crap.” IMDB tells us that Caine has 175 acting credits to his name, while Hopkins has just 138. I think the Caine takes the top spot for a great actor who had been in a lot of bad movies. And he is always the delight in every one of them. Who can forget Ms. Congeniality? All of us, if it hadn’t been for Michael Caine.

    Second, you sell him a little short for good movies. To your list I add Legends of the Fall, Amistad, The Bounty and A Bridge Too Far. I include in my list The Mask of Zorro and The World’s Fastest Indian, though others might not. We are still in the single digits, but that’s twice the number as you’ve given him credit for. And of course we can add to this list his fantastic performance in the HBO series Westworld.

    Finally, I contend that Mr. Hopkins isn’t really a great actor. He has won a billion awards, so clearly he is considered great by society’s standards. But here is my problem with him, and many other actors, frankly: he is the same guy in every movie he is in. When he played John Quincy Adams in Amistad, he was indistinguishable from the guy who played Odin in Thor. To be a great actor, you have to make me believe you are someone different in each of your roles. Don’t get me wrong, a great many actors I really enjoy have this same issue. In fact, most of them do. Robert De Niro, Michael Caine, Harrison Ford, and Morgan Freeman are all actors I love to watch but are the same person in every role they play. Every once in a while you see them in something where they are just different. For example, Harrison Ford in Regarding Henry, Robert De Niro in The Mission.

    Only a few actors consistently become someone different. Dustin Hoffman is one. Gary Oldman is another. Cillian Murphy is another.

    • #3
    • November 23, 2019, at 9:42 AM PST
    • 11 likes
  4. MACHO GRANDE' (aka - Chri… Coolidge

    I have a friend who lives in Anchorage, Alaska (to avoid confusion, I added “Alaska” there, for all you flyover rubes). He’s got what he calls a “camp” about 45 minutes out of town, but it’s really a small house near a pond, with a bunch of other small houses around the pond. A couple of other friends and I visited him, spent a week, traveled around, etc.

    The number of times we cited Hopkins’ “kill the bear” speech cannot be calculated with existing technology. Prior to us heading north, he sent us what he described as motion-activated pictures of the “camp”, which included shots of several bears roaming around it, at night, turning things over, etc.

    These pictures turned out to not be, well, actual pictures taken from his camp, but ones he found online, to further terrify us with potential bear encounters, and solidified the images of Hopkins and Baldwin bear-fighting in our minds.

    But Hopkins in that movie is a cut above everything around him. His performances have weight to them, in any setting. Baldwin? He’s good, but not so much in terms of elevating the material. It really depends on the material and what’s done with it.

     

    • #4
    • November 23, 2019, at 9:44 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  5. Aaron Miller Member

    Peter Robinson: Alec Baldwin? Is he demonstrating his contempt for the project? The man overacts in every scene, mugging so badly you’d almost have thought he was in a high school production.

    I liked The Edge. Baldwin wasn’t overacting. He was playing a melodramatic character; a man who lets his passions guide his every decision. Hopkins does a great job in the picture. But I think you admire the character more than the acting.

    Many fine actors have chosen to star in a lot of mediocre and bad films. Morgan Freeman is another. In many cases, I think it shows that acting skill is unrelated to aesthetic sensibilities. Like a painter of impressive skill might prefer to paint obscene or frivolous art, a talented actor might care more about a story’s quirky or avant garde nature than its quality.

    • #5
    • November 23, 2019, at 9:46 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  6. EJHill Podcaster

    I think it was William Shatner that pointed out that everyone’s goal in that profession should be this: to be known as “a working actor.” 

    Movies and stage work are so fundamentally different. Sir Alec Guinness used to say that they only paid him to work in the theater. For movies the acting was free but they paid him to sit around a lot. 

    • #6
    • November 23, 2019, at 9:53 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  7. Brian Watt Inactive

    Spin (View Comment):

    Only a few actors consistently become someone different. Dustin Hoffman is one. Gary Oldman is another. Cillian Murphy is another.

    Great overall comment about Michael Caine.

    Hopkins for me is more fascinating to watch in his quieter, more subdued performances – The Elephant Man, Remains of the Day, Shadowlands. But he was quite good in Bounty and, of course, Silence of the Lambs.

    I would only add Daniel Day Lewis to the list of actors who is different in every role. Sadly he has gone into retirement. The other actor who is displaying this talent for versatility is Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina), though he needs to get off of doing so many comic book roles and explore some more serious material.

     

    • #7
    • November 23, 2019, at 9:53 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  8. Spin Coolidge

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):
    In many cases, I think it shows that acting skill is unrelated to aesthetic sensibilities.

    Your comment here makes me re-think my previous statement about great actors. I am thinking here about the actor Dean Norris. This guy is one of those B actors that you see in stuff and recognize his face, but don’t know who he is. He’s got 171 acting credits on IMDB, but it’s mostly TV, which makes the quantity comparison apples to oranges against someone who is primarily known for movies (such as Hopkins, Freeman, etc.). Anyway, I’ve seen Mr. Norris in two series’: Breaking Bad, as Walter’s brother in law, and Under the Dome, as some guy. He was fantastic in Breaking Bad, and was as unmemorable in Under the Dome as that show is terrible. But…I’m thinking…were Hopkins to have played that role, he’d have brought the level of the show up a few notches.

    • #8
    • November 23, 2019, at 9:57 AM PST
    • Like
  9. Spin Coolidge

    Brian Watt (View Comment):

    Spin (View Comment):

    Only a few actors consistently become someone different. Dustin Hoffman is one. Gary Oldman is another. Cillian Murphy is another.

    Great overall comment about Michael Caine.

    Hopkins for me is more fascinating to watch in his quieter, more subdued performances – The Elephant Man, Remains of the Day, Shadowlands. But he was quite good in Bounty and, of course, Silence of the Lambs.

    I would only add Daniel Day Lewis to the list of actors who is different in every role. Sadly he has gone into retirement. The other actor who is displaying this talent for versatility is Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina), though he needs to get off of doing so many comic book roles and explore some more serious material.

     

    Oscar Isaac is a name I would never have pulled up in my mind, and I’ve only recognized his face as “that guy from the new Star Wars movies.” You are right about Ex Machina, that was a wonderful film. And I didn’t realize that the role of Nathan was played by “that guy from the new Star Wars movies”, and even going and looking at stills from the film I’m thinking “oh wow”. I’ll have to watch something else of his.

    Daniel Day Lewis is a great addition to Spin’s List of Great actors. I mean, he was already on it…I’d just forgotten to list him.

    • #9
    • November 23, 2019, at 10:03 AM PST
    • 1 like
  10. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… Thatcher

    And then there are the actors who are only good when they have a great role and are lousy the rest of the time. Kate Hudson was remarkable in Almost Famous, and because it was her first (or one of her first) roles I was deluded into thinking she was a good actress. Turns out Penny Lane was the perfect role for her but she’s been terrible in everything else I’ve seen her in. Another is Tim Robbins. With his weird affect he was terrific in Bull Durham and Shawshank but in anything requiring further acting chops he’s not so good.

    • #10
    • November 23, 2019, at 10:04 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  11. Slow on the uptake Thatcher

    Another Brit, Sean Connery, I always liked. As I did James Cagney and E.G. Robinson. I suppose they each played a part where they did poorly, I don’t know: But they were all pretty much the same in every part and I appreciated them every time I saw them.

    • #11
    • November 23, 2019, at 10:14 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  12. Aaron Miller Member

    Budding authors are encouraged to “Write what you know.” I think that’s why actors of the Sean Connery / Harrison Ford / Morgan Freeman variety are so good. It’s easier to develop the nuances if you are basically playing yourself. 

    I respect both kinds of actors — the stalwarts and the character actors. When the latter choose bad films, the results are particularly embarrassing because their characters are often over-the-top.

    It’s particularly impressive when character actors show they can play both eccentric and plain characters. Not every role requires a grand and innovative display. Geoffrey Rush, Johnny Depp, and Gary Oldman are examples. 

    • #12
    • November 23, 2019, at 10:14 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  13. Brian Watt Inactive

    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… (View Comment):

    And then there are the actors who are only good when they have a great role and are lousy the rest of the time. Kate Hudson was remarkable in Almost Famous, and because it was her first (or one of her first) roles I was deluded into thinking she was a good actress. Turns out Penny Lane was the perfect role for her but she’s been terrible in everything else I’ve seen her in. Another is Tim Robbins. With his weird affect he was terrific in Bull Durham and Shawshank but in anything requiring further acting chops he’s not so good.

    Well, FWIW, Robbins was pretty good in Mystic River and The Player, as well. And sufficiently creepy and untrustworthy in War of the Worlds

    • #13
    • November 23, 2019, at 10:15 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  14. Brian Watt Inactive

    Slow on the uptake (View Comment):

    Another Brit, Sean Connery, I always liked. As I did James Cagney and E.G. Robinson. I suppose they each played a part where they did poorly, I don’t know: But they were all pretty much the same in every part and I appreciated them every time I saw them.

    For atypical Edward G. Robinson roles, watch Double Indemnity which is quite different than his role in Key Largo, and then both Scarlett Street and The Woman in the Window…where he’s not the little tough gangster but a naive and more pathetic character. I think Claude Rains draws a bit from Robinson’s performance in Scarlett Street when he performs the clerk’s role in The Man Who Watched Trains Go By one of his better roles.

    • #14
    • November 23, 2019, at 10:22 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  15. Cow Girl Thatcher

    Spin (View Comment):
    Only a few actors consistently become someone different. Dustin Hoffman is one. Gary Oldman is another. Cillian Murphy is another.

    Christian Bale is another actor who can become the role so thoroughly that I am amazed it is actually him.

    • #15
    • November 23, 2019, at 10:24 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  16. Spin Coolidge

    Cow Girl (View Comment):

    Spin (View Comment):
    Only a few actors consistently become someone different. Dustin Hoffman is one. Gary Oldman is another. Cillian Murphy is another.

    Christian Bale is another actor who can become the role so thoroughly that I am amazed it is actually him.

    And the subjectivity sets in. I like Bale in most of what I’ve seen him in. But he’s always the same guy. To me. Maybe you can contrast two roles where he isn’t? I can’t think of any…but you might job my memory…

    • #16
    • November 23, 2019, at 10:27 AM PST
    • 1 like
  17. DrewInWisconsin, Type Monkey Member

    My goodness! I can’t believe all these responses and nobody’s mentioned the apex of Anthony Hopkins’ stellar career. Thor, Thor: The Dark World, and Thor: Ragnarok!

    Peasants!

    • #17
    • November 23, 2019, at 10:30 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  18. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… Thatcher

    Spin (View Comment):

    Cow Girl (View Comment):

    Spin (View Comment):
    Only a few actors consistently become someone different. Dustin Hoffman is one. Gary Oldman is another. Cillian Murphy is another.

    Christian Bale is another actor who can become the role so thoroughly that I am amazed it is actually him.

    And the subjectivity sets in. I like Bale in most of what I’ve seen him in. But he’s always the same guy. To me. Maybe you can contrast two roles where he isn’t? I can’t think of any…but you might job my memory…

    The Fighter, The Dark Knight, 3:10 To Yuma.

    • #18
    • November 23, 2019, at 10:36 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  19. Spin Coolidge

    DrewInWisconsin, Type Monkey (View Comment):

    My goodness! I can’t believe all these responses and nobody’s mentioned the apex of Anthony Hopkins’ stellar career. Thor, Thor: The Dark World, and Thor: Ragnarok!

    Peasants!

    Remember that line from Bono, something about “I can’t tell the difference between ABC News, Hill Street Blues, and the preacher on the Old Time Gospel Hour”? Well, I can’t tell the difference between any of the Marvel movies, Hopkins’ involvement not withstanding.

    • #19
    • November 23, 2019, at 10:38 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  20. DrewInWisconsin, Type Monkey Member

    Spin (View Comment):

    DrewInWisconsin, Type Monkey (View Comment):

    My goodness! I can’t believe all these responses and nobody’s mentioned the apex of Anthony Hopkins’ stellar career. Thor, Thor: The Dark World, and Thor: Ragnarok!

    Peasants!

    Remember that line from Bono, something about “I can’t tell the difference between ABC News, Hill Street Blues, and the preacher on the Old Time Gospel Hour”? Well, I can’t tell the difference between any of the Marvel movies, Hopkins’ involvement not withstanding.

    Bono would make a good supervillain.

    • #20
    • November 23, 2019, at 10:40 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  21. Stad Thatcher

    Peter Robinson: Can we agree that Anthony Hopkins is the finest actor ever to appear in so many rubbish movies?

    Maybe he wants more on-screen time. After all, he was only in Silence of the Lambs for 16 minutes, but won an Oscar.

    • #21
    • November 23, 2019, at 10:48 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  22. Slow on the uptake Thatcher

    Brian Watt (View Comment):

    Slow on the uptake (View Comment):

    Another Brit, Sean Connery, I always liked. As I did James Cagney and E.G. Robinson. I suppose they each played a part where they did poorly, I don’t know: But they were all pretty much the same in every part and I appreciated them every time I saw them.

    For atypical Edward G. Robinson roles, watch Double Indemnity which is quite different than his role in Key Largo, and then both Scarlett Street and The Woman in the Window…where he’s not the little tough gangster but a naive and more pathetic character. I think Claude Rains draws a bit from Robinson’s performance in Scarlett Street when he performs the clerk’s role in The Man Who Watched Trains Go By one of his better roles.

    Shall have to watch the latter two Robinsons.

    • #22
    • November 23, 2019, at 10:49 AM PST
    • 1 like
  23. DrewInWisconsin, Type Monkey Member

    Stad (View Comment):

    Peter Robinson: Can we agree that Anthony Hopkins is the finest actor ever to appear in so many rubbish movies?

    Maybe he wants more on-screen time. After all, he was only in Silence of the Lambs for 16 minutes, but won an Oscar.

    And it was a terrible movie. Torture porn for budding sadists. I hate that movie so much.

    • #23
    • November 23, 2019, at 10:51 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  24. Brian Watt Inactive

    Slow on the uptake (View Comment):

    Brian Watt (View Comment):

    Slow on the uptake (View Comment):

    Another Brit, Sean Connery, I always liked. As I did James Cagney and E.G. Robinson. I suppose they each played a part where they did poorly, I don’t know: But they were all pretty much the same in every part and I appreciated them every time I saw them.

    For atypical Edward G. Robinson roles, watch Double Indemnity which is quite different than his role in Key Largo, and then both Scarlett Street and The Woman in the Window…where he’s not the little tough gangster but a naive and more pathetic character. I think Claude Rains draws a bit from Robinson’s performance in Scarlett Street when he performs the clerk’s role in The Man Who Watched Trains Go By one of his better roles.

    Shall have to watch the latter two Robinsons.

    You can find them on YouTube, as well as The Man Who Watched Trains Go By with Claude Rains.

    • #24
    • November 23, 2019, at 10:51 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  25. Titus Techera Contributor

    Hello, Mr. Robinson–you ask a ticklish question, since, on the one hand you are perfectly right, & on the other, I’ll have to write the actor’s obit not too far into the future, I expect…

    Yes, he never cared much about his career–it’s typical of theater actors who became celebrities, especially in his time. He rarely took movies seriously, had no understanding of plot or of America, the industry itself was going through shocks in the 70s…, but he cared a lot about interesting characters–keeps the actor interested, allows his vanity to show off endlessly… The thing to notice is how after John Wayne all the stars were actually already compromised by a compromise with character acting. Fighting off impostor syndrome by impersonating again & again & again. It led to nothing good either for stardom, which died to be replaced by a TV-dependent celebrity, & nothing good for the movies, which had to look elsewhere for commanding interest. The pictures really did get small… Had Hopkins desperately wanted to be remembered for long, if not forever, he might have chosen great directors, since actors are lousy judges of material, but that’s rare & unreliable. He did star–just in case you’re looking for odd recommendations–in this ’72 BBC 20-episode version of War & Peace!

    But he composed a pleasant, somewhat wistful waltz, & an entire classical album!

    P.S. I respectfully dissent in re The Edge, a David Mamet script, a little mangled in the directing, but a subtle study of varieties of manliness according to social class & generation. It’s about how America moved on from WASP elites to the new elites…

    • #25
    • November 23, 2019, at 11:07 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  26. Rodin Member

    One of my favorite roles for him was in Fracture. I can’t imagine anyone else in the role of the evil genius, Ted Crawford. Great story, great cast, great direction.

    • #26
    • November 23, 2019, at 11:22 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  27. Aaron Miller Member

    Hopkins plays a vicious madman in Titus Andronicus and the recent production of King Lear. It shows his acting chops well. 

    The other role he played well is the tired old man, even when he was younger.

    • #27
    • November 23, 2019, at 11:38 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  28. Samuel Block Member

    Nicholas Cage could probably give ole Tony Hopkins a run for his money in this category. And Michael Caine definitely came to mind for me as well.

    Spin (View Comment):

    Only a few actors consistently become someone different. Dustin Hoffman is one. Gary Oldman is another. Cillian Murphy is another.

    Jennifer Jason Leigh and Frances McDormand deserve more credit for this, too.

    • #28
    • November 23, 2019, at 11:40 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  29. Franz Drumlin Member

    Good to see there are other folks out there who like The Edge. It’s a shame Bart the Bear wasn’t nominated for an Oscar (even though he was one those actors who always played the same role.)

    • #29
    • November 23, 2019, at 12:16 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  30. Samuel Block Member

    DrewInWisconsin, Type Monkey (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):

    Peter Robinson: Can we agree that Anthony Hopkins is the finest actor ever to appear in so many rubbish movies?

    Maybe he wants more on-screen time. After all, he was only in Silence of the Lambs for 16 minutes, but won an Oscar.

    And it was a terrible movie. Torture porn for budding sadists. I hate that movie so much.

    Haha. I’d say it was one of the few solid feminist movies. 

    • #30
    • November 23, 2019, at 12:24 PM PST
    • Like