Sir Anthony Hopkins is no stranger to horror films or thrillers. Since THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, he has been a part of some of the most memorable big screen scares of the last two decades. His latest thriller THE RITE, which opens this Friday, is no exception.
The movie is based on true life occurrences with one of the Catholic Church’s top exorcist priests. In the film the young priest journeys to Rome to be instructed in exorcism rites, and encounters Hopkins’ character, a priest with thousands of exorcisms under his belt and decades of experience. Since it’s in the trailers, it’s no spoiler to let you know that Hopkins’ character becomes possessed himself, and has to be exorcised by the young priest.
While Hopkins doesn’t always play the bad guy, this film allowed him to play both good and bad in the same character. At recent press event, Hopkins takes five and talks about THE RITE, the art of film making, screen scares, his hobbies, and his next movie THOR.
On his interest in the script and his interest that grew out of the somewhat unique subject matter….
“There was hesitation at the beginning,” says Hopkins. “I was sent the script and I didn’t know much about it. I had to learn the Latin and the Italian which was a bit of a difficulty. There is also the debate in the film about ‘is there an anthropomorphic presence of the Devil?’ There is no certainty presented. I would hate to live in a world of such certainty of a closed-circuit, windowless world view. I play a man of God a priest, who is a good man, and then he becomes that which he fights against. So yeah, it presented some challenges.”
On his somewhat notorious past as Dr. Hannibal Lecter and his uncanny ability to terrify whole audiences of people with a single look…
“I’ve been asked that many times,” he admits. “Maybe I just have a knack for it, because I’m not a scary person. My wife certainly isn’t scared of me! I think women are more susceptible to this stuff. Sometimes I’ll give her a look and she’ll say, ‘No! Don’t look at me like that.’ I don’t know how to do it. It’s just something in the eyes. My father wasn’t a healthy man. He took me to see DRACULA, the old Bela Lugosi version, and I saw FRANKENSTEIN because that was before a ratings system. I think we all flirt with chaos, we all go to the movies to get a scare, but it’s all a trick, I guess. It’s only a look. You go dead in the eyes. I know what it does because I can sense it inside. So it’s something of a shadow part of myself, which is fun. I know what scares people – I know what’s scary because that’s what I do.”
On acting as an art form vs. acting as a commodity simply to get the paycheck and do the job, and what set him free in his own mind…
“I don’t mind being a commodity,” he laughs. “It’s given me a good life. Art? I don’t know about art. I’m not being cynical, but when you are doing a movie you have a number of choices as an actor, but you don’t have that much control. You have very little control actually. It’s up to the editor and the director as to what the final product looks like. To be realistic is a great freedom. I have no illusions about my position in this world as an actor, no illusions at all. My wife and I were in Graceland and we went to Multiplex outside of Memphis to see a movie, and we went there on a Saturday morning and you could smell popcorn and everyone was there to see whatever movies and that was it. All of this back here in Hollywood didn’t matter. It’s a great liberation thinking that none of it is important. It’s a great feeling that nothing matters anymore. It was quite a revelation!”
On what other creative outlets an Academy Award winning, Knighted actor does in his free time as a creative outlet…
“My wife started me painting,” he says. “I don’t have an academic background in painting, and I don’t have an academic background in music, so I’m free really. I just write sort of freestyle. I’ve got a concert coming up Birmingham soon. My paintings sell, but I don’t know what the hell I’m doing! I just do it like a kid. I get up in the morning and I don’t know what I’m going to do. I just sit down and start sketching, or I sit down at the piano and start composing some music. There’s a young musician named Steve Barton and he told me I was breaking all of the rules, and he told me to keep breaking them because once you know them you become sort of pressed down.”
On his next big movie Marvel Comics THOR and what it was like to be a God…
“Kenneth Branagh is a fantastic director,” Hopkins says with a grin. “He does many takes. He’s a superb actor, and he knows how to work with actors to get the best out of people. He’ll say, ‘That’s fantastic, just one more!’ He’ll ask you to do something and boom off you go. [Steven] Spielberg is the same. He always wants one more take. It’s a big movie. It’s extraordinary how Branagh put all of that together. I saw the designs of the sets and the stuff I was going to wear, and they dressed me up, and I thought, ‘OK I’m God now.’ It was difficult to move around because I was wearing about twenty-five to thirty pounds. It wasn’t tough to do though. You come on set, and put the armor on, and they point the camera, and you’re God.”
CLICK HERE for ASSIGNMENT X’s review of THE RITE
CLICK HERE for ASSIGNMENT X’s interview with FATHER GARY THOMAS whose life THE RITE is loosely based on