'Silence' made Anthony Hopkins a hot property he's busier than ever


Anthony Hopkins is taking a few days off. That's almost an aberration in the career of the Academy Award-winning actor, who has been phenomenally busy in films, stage and television for a quarter century.

During the past year, he's enjoyed his greatest commercial success ("The Silence of the Lambs," for which he won an Oscar) and one of the artistic peaks of his career ("Howards End"). He's also worked with Mick Jagger (in "Freejack") and filmmakers John Schlesinger ("The Innocent") and Francis Ford Coppola (Mr. Hopkins plays Van Helsing to Gary Oldman's vampire count in a new version of "Dracula").

Between "Silence" and "Howards End," Mr. Hopkins also managed to squeeze in Mark Joffe's sweet little Australian comedy, "Spotswood." He chose the role of a bottled-up efficiency expert as a change of pace after playing the cannibalistic Hannibal Lecter.

"The character made me laugh, and it was a good time in Melbourne for a couple of months," said Mr. Hopkins by phone recently from London. "Like the British, the Australians have this self-deprecating humor. They're very funny when they're making light of the British and themselves -- and I was the only Brit on the set."

While on holiday, Mr. Hopkins is reading, taking walks, playing the piano and studying the script for "Remains of the Day,"

another project with his "Howards End" director, James Ivory. Filming begins in Ireland in September. He just finished working with Mr. Schlesinger, Campbell Scott and Isabella Rossellini in Berlin, and he'll be back in the United States to loop dialogue for "Dracula" in August.

"I've always wanted to do movies, more than anything else," he said. "People are always asking me to go back to the stage, but I've done my share of Shakespeare. I was an avid moviegoer in the 1940s and 1950s. I was brought up on them, and I feel very fortunate that I've had constant work because it's a tough business."

Just before he was offered his Oscar-winning role as Hannibal Lecter in "Silence," Mr. Hopkins' movie career was not going well. He had lived in Los Angeles in the 1970s and early 1980s, jTC appearing in a series of none-too-special movies ("Change of Seasons," "International Velvet," "Audrey Rose"). He was doing better on television, winning Emmys for his performances as Hitler in "The Bunker" and as Bruno Hauptmann in "The Lindbergh Kidnapping Case."

He moved back to London in 1984, appearing on stage at the National Theater, on television in "Blunt," and in such small-scale films as "The Good Father," "84 Charing Cross Road," "A Chorus of Disapproval" and "The Dawning," a 1988 IRA drama co-starring Jean Simmons and the late Trevor Howard that has never been seen here.

"My wife was anxious to come back to London," he said, "and I was thinking maybe I'd never be asked to work in the United States again." It was his appearance in an attention-getting 1989 production of the play, "M. Butterfly," that got him noticed again in Hollywood.

"I got this call to do 'Silence of the Lambs' out of the blue," he said. "It was a big surprise to get a part like that, because I knew that unless something goes awry, this could be a very big hit. The script was as close to the book as you can get, and I had a feeling while I was working in Pittsburgh with Jodie Foster and [director] Jonathan Demme that it was going to work.

"It was the happiest time I've ever had on a film. I remember it with great nostalgia."

He said it's also been a lark to do his other recent films, especially "Howards End," which he described as "a very relaxed set," and "Dracula," which "seemed chaotic but was very disciplined; Coppola works from a structure but he allows you to improvise."

Born in 1937 in Port Talbot, South Wales, Hopkins began his movie career by playing the gay Richard the Lionhearted in "The Lion in Winter" (1968).

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