Soon to be 75 years old, working with 52 years of professional acting experience and gifted with a knighthood as well as an Oscar, Anthony Hopkins is a wily old vet. So the Welshman knew exactly what to do to play the legendary and corpulent filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock: He lost weight.
"I got fit because I didn't want it to affect my health," Hopkins tells QMI Agency in an exclusive one-on-one telephone interview from London to New York. Trimmer and robust, Hopkins played Hitch in a fat suit with a prosthetic chin and jowls. Because Hitch was such a public icon, it was impossible to play him without the extra fat, Hopkins tells me.
"It was quite a challenge because he was such a great figure, physically as well. He was such a well-known personality and one of the great directors of all time. An absolute genius!"
Later in the day, Hopkins expands on playing Hitch during a video press conference set up to promote the impending release of Hitchcock. Set during the production and debut of the now-acclaimed horror film Psycho in 1959-60, the biopic is set to open in limited release, before rolling out across Canada in December.
It is important to get to know Alfred Hitchcock as a human being -- with his flaws as well as his admirable attributes -- because he was one of the world's most influential filmmakers, Hopkins says. The new film gives the public insight into the private man.
"I think his great genius was that he was a psychologist. He understood human psychology so deeply. He was a very well-read man. He spoke a number of languages. He had a knowledge of human nature and the dark forces that are in every human being. He was a complex, probably very insecure man, an outsider. It must have really rankled him that he was never taken that seriously by the commercial side of Hollywood."
Indeed, Hollywood insiders "thought he was mad" when he tackled something as low-brow as Psycho, Hopkins says. Yet it became one of his greatest box office triumphs.
Hopkins was unable to get to New York to join director Sacha Gervasi and his co-stars -- among them Helen Mirren, Toni Collette, Jessica Biel, Danny Huston, Michael Stuhlbarg and James D'Arcy -- for a day of interviews. He had obligations. Hopkins is busy acting in Thor: The Dark World, portraying the Norse god Odin, and in another sequel, Red 2, opposite Bruce Willis.
"I play a crazy scientist and it's a lot of fun," he says of Red 2. "I'm having such a ball on that." Ditto for reprising his role in the Thor series, partly because he admires leading man Chris Hemsworth, "a terrific young actor!"
Breezing along with good health, Hopkins says he is in fine form, despite the profound insecurities he felt while doing Hitchcock. "I'm playing some pretty great parts at this time of my life and I've got some more work coming up in the New Year. So I'm very, very happy with this state of affairs. I love working. It keeps my brain active and my body active. You have to do that: Never retire!"
Hopkins intimidated by Hitchcock role
Despite his status as one of the world's finest actors, Anthony Hopkins felt profoundly insecure about playing Alfred Hitchcock in the biopic Hitchcock.
"I certainly was not at my most secure," Hopkins admits during interviews to promote the film, which opens in limited release before rolling out across Canada in December. "But that's very good because, if you get too secure, you get lazy. So my insecurity drove me on deeper and deeper to working hard and harder to become the guy."
Hopkins says he did his normal extensive research, "learned the script obsessively, as I tend to do," found the voice of Hitch and worked with effects artists on the fat suit and prosthetic chin. "Then it's up to the gods!"
But there is an art to working with prosthetics glued to your face, Hopkins says. "The trick I guess is to not get buried under the makeup."