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Credit: Ryan Pfluger for The New York Times
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In the dementia drama “The Father,” the 82-year-old actor turns in a career-capping performance and yet claims, “No acting required.”
He says it’s pointless to pretend to suffer in creating a role.
Had I misheard Anthony Hopkins?
Perhaps there was some sort of glitch on our Zoom call, or maybe the actual word that Hopkins meant to use had been obscured by his Welsh lilt. But then I heard him say it again. Twice!
“It was easy,” he told me with a grin. “Just so easy.”
We had been talking about something that didn’t seem easy at all: his tour-de-force performance in the drama “The Father” (opening in theaters Dec. 18), in which Hopkins plays a London patriarch struggling with dementia. As the character finds himself unstuck in time and struggles to make sense of his surroundings, Hopkins flits back and forth from flinty to foggy with an astonishing grace that will almost certainly put him back in the Oscar race.
So how did this titan of stage and screen tackle such a weighty role? Hopkins shrugged his shoulders. “It was an easy part to play,” he said again, “because it was such a good script.” And it got even easier when Olivia Colman was cast as his put-upon daughter: “When you watch Olivia and that face crumbles and the tears come out, you think, ‘Oh, I don’t need to act anymore.’”
I should note that this is not the kind of thing a performer will typically tell you, since an actor with even the slightest bit of awards buzz tends to wear his hardship like a distressed leather jacket. With practiced reluctance, the actor will mumble that he never broke character on set, that the conditions were arduous and that he could have died, should have died and may die just because you’re forcing him to recount it.
Hopkins feels no such need to butch up the art of playing pretend: It’s pointless trying to suffer for the sake of creating a role, he told me. After all, if you’re an Oscar-winning actor with decades of expertise, and you’ve been handed a well-written script and an open-faced gem of a co-star … well, shouldn’t it be easy? And who is really being served when an actor is determined to make his job so difficult?
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Here is a link to the complete interview.
Kyle Buchanan is a pop culture reporter and serves as “The Carpetbagger, the awards season columnist for The New York Times. Prior to joining The Times in 2018, he was a senior editor at “Vulture,” New York Magazine‘s entertainment website, where he covered the movie industry. A native of Southern California, he lives in Los Angeles.