Transforming with Anthony Hopkins

I got a chance to go one on one with Hollywood’s coolest cat.  Here’s what Sir Anthony taught me about instinct, evil, and being yourself.  Plus: he discusses future roles in Transformers, and Thor 3 with Larry King.

By Brandon Davis

The steady blue eyes of an acting legend stared back at me.Ah, God. Gorillas...”  He was going to take this deep, I thought receptively.  Something about being primal. Visceral. In touch with your inner animal…

“... Instinct the film, is that what you're talking about?”

To tell the truth, I hadn’t remembered that Oscar-winner Sir Anthony Hopkins had starred in a movie called Instinct. I was looking more for his secret weapon.

“No, just … instinct.  Your instinct.”   I responded.  “How do you define making your choices?”

“Oh – I made a film called ‘Instinct’ with Cuba Gooding,”  Hopkins replied pleasantly, getting the credit – and his co-star – on the record.  Then he pivoted to the heart of my inquiry and said: “Intuition.  Instinct.  A feeling.  A hunch.  Always follow your hunches.”

Hopkins and I were seated side-by-side on a wooden bench just outside the vine-covered Ora studios in Glendale, California.  He’d just given a wide-ranging interview with the big boss, Larry King, but was gracious enough to agree to answer a few more questions for me.

I get to see – sometimes meet – a lot of interesting people working for Larry King. It is always a pleasure witnessing the give-and-take of an interview unfolding live, in real time. It is especially fun hearing the stories that get shared – not for the public– during commercial breaks. I like watching the off-camera hustle.  The make-up teams.  The publicists.  The personal assistants.  So much energy and attention focused on the wants and needs of a single guest.

On this particular day, however, there had been more hush than hustle.  Hopkins had shown up accompanied by only a few people – hardly enough to qualify for an “entourage.”  He appeared ready for the interview chair the instant he stepped out of his car.  Pressed suit, clean white hair, and a crinkled face animated by the soul of a man who clearly doesn’t give a damn what people think about him.  By no means elitist or arrogantly indifferent.  No, this dude was wholesome, daunting, and individually artistic in his brand of authenticity.  A man ready to politely advise people to fuck off if they don’t like him.

In keeping with the usual pre-show routine, our producer walked into the room where Sir Anthony was awaiting his interview to review a few notes and resolve any last-minute concerns. When he’d returned to the control room, this man –who has produced Sir Ben Kingsley, McConaughey, Shirley MacLaine, and 50 Cent; a guy who has connected Larry King with astronauts in outer space – was noticeably stirred.  He explained this uncharacteristic mood as a reaction to Hopkins’ aura of authority – an authority the actor apparently had exercised with a simple, subtle touch to the producer’s shoulder.

Mr. Hopkins was shown to his seat on the interview set.  He settled in, coolly confident, and exchanged pleasantries with bossman King.  Then the red tally lights of the cameras went on and the official interview began.

Hopkins’ distinguished image played on the control room monitors.  Every word he spoke sounded cinematic in his instantly identifiable voice.

What is it that sets some people apart?  I wondered as I watched and listened.  If you didn’t know the name Hopkins, or had never seen any of the man’s film roles, I’m fairly certain you would still be pulled into the gravity of his demeanor. Everything he says, he believes 100 percent.  The power of his conviction is incredible.

The pair of icons sat and chatted for 30 minutes or so.  Talked about everything from insecurities, to health and wellness.  It was entertaining and personal, the kind of interview that’s second nature to Larry after nearly 60 years of conversations.

After they wrapped, Mr. Hopkins took a few photos with some of our excited staff, and then we went outside for an impromptu chat.

“Always follow your hunches,” he repeated, bottom-lining his response to my question about instinct.

“You know it when you feel it.” I confirmed.

“Yes, and if you are in a situation, which is uncomfortable – that's negative, and not going anywhere – and you have a hunch or an instinct to move on  …  never mind what fears or insecurities come up against you.  If I leave this job or this situation what's going to happen to me?  Maybe nothing.  But, you take that leap and something else will come in and help you on your way.”

I was sold on his ownership of the subject.  All I wanted to do was grab him by the shoulders and tell him about the fire in my own bones for all things creative. I resisted, instinctively.

We continued on and discussed whether he preferred to play evil or noble characters.  He nearly scoffed at the idea that it was a choice.

“I just enjoy acting,” he declared.  “I don't play evil.  No.”

“You don’t play evil.”  I echoed.

“No,” he repeated, suggesting that if you think he ‘plays evil’ then you’ve already missed the point of his darker characters. It’s a simple but insightful direction for any actor cast in a villainous role.  Don’t ‘play’ the character ‘evil.”  Why would you?

The sun reached out from behind some clouds, and lit up the tiles by our feet.  For my last question I went with an old favorite: “What would you tell the younger version of yourself if you could travel back in time?”  I asked.

“Don't take yourself so damn seriously.”  His answer was swift and certain.

I thanked him for his time.  He thanked me in return, and off he went.  Possibly to unleash his unique talent in the service of another great role (hint: Michael Bay is making another Transformers!) or he might just savor the privileges of being an international badass.  Then again, maybe he just went home and watched re-runs.  I don’t know.  But this I’m certain, whatever he did… he was following his instincts.


Special thanks to Anthony Hopkins for talking with me, and Carol Buckland for her creative eye.

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For more articles like this check out: Larry King Sent Me to Burning Man

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Watch the full interview with Larry King and Anthony Hopkins!

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC, its affiliates, or its employees.

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