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November 25, 2012
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Mirren, Hopkins sing each other's praises
By Bruce Kirkland, QMI Agency


Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren in 'Hitchcock.' (Handout)

NEW YORK -- Helen Mirren and Anthony Hopkins established a mutual admiration society while making the biopic Hitchcock, their first film together.

"I'm a big admirer of her," Hopkins says in a telephone interview from London, where he is working simultaneously on two new films. "I guessed she was going to get the Oscar before she got it for The Queen."

As for Mirren, who was free to attend the New York premiere of Hitchcock, she says she discovered how supportive and generous Hopkins was with her and the entire cast on set, "which was fantastic!" Hitchcock is now playing in limited release in the U.S. and Canada, before opening wide in December. Mirren says Hopkins is the focus: "I just think his performance is amazing."

Mirren and Hopkins, who both have one Oscar from four past Academy Awards nominations, engage one another in intensely dramatic scenes in Hitchcock. The story is set in Hollywood in 1959-60. Mirren plays screenwriter and film technician Alma Reville while Hopkins is her legendary husband, director Alfred Hitchcock.

Together, Alma and Alfred enjoyed a tumultuous six-decade love story, helped revolutionize filmmaking techniques and left behind a legacy of great work, including Vertigo, Rear Window, North by Northwest, The Birds, Suspicion and Psycho. The biopic chronicles how they triumphed with Psycho, despite resistance from studios and the media.

Mirren says her amazement with Hopkins is based on the way he risks all. "He is an absolute minimalist as an actor. You would never imagine he did so much stage, because his work is so tiny and so subtle."

Mirren adds that, with Hitchcock, it is even more amazing because Hopkins' face is covered with prosthetics from the nose down and he wears a fat suit to approximate Hitchcock's ample girth. "To act through all that he is carrying! I have to say, being on set with him, I was completely unaware of the fact that he was wearing anything. He 'became' my husband Hitch. He just was that man. When it all came off and he was Tony, it rather took me by surprise: 'My God, I completely forgot you were this person!' The makeup is so brilliant."

Mirren's keen powers of observation also picked up on Hopkins' insecurities. "I think Tony himself was very unsure because, when you do that sort of work, you have no idea if it's communicating or not, and you have no idea if your voice is working or not, and you have no idea if the makeup is working and if the whole thing is coming together. You just don't know.

"He would never watch himself on screen, I think because he was so frightened that, if he looked at it and found himself wanting on any of those levels, he would not be able to do the next scene. He would be so devastated and torn apart. The only way to maintain his confidence in what he was doing was never to review it, never to look at, never to check whether it was working or not."

For Mirren, it all worked brilliantly, even if her on-screen partner was unsure. And both actors are now part of the Oscar buzz for 2012.

bruce.kirkland@sunmedia.ca

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