Anthony Hopkins interview: The Human Stain (2003)

Promotional image from The Human Stain

Interview by Alana Lee; previously published on BBC Movies.

Last updated: 27 November 2008

Anthony Hopkins' CV is as broad as it is ever-expanding. As well as The Silence Of The Lambs, and its two sequels, it includes films such as crazy ventriloquist thriller Magic, the love letters story 84 Charing Cross Road, the gruesome Shakespearen tragi-comedy Titus, and Bram Stoker's Dracula.

His latest film, The Human Stain, casts him in perhaps his oddest role to date. To learn why it's so odd, though, you'll have to watch the film or read Philip Roth's novel...

The Human Stain is about American hypocrisy around the issues of political correctness and race, but do you think it also applies elsewhere?

It's about the whole world. We're all suffering from political correctness and self-righteousness. And ignorance and arrogance. But this has always been, this is not just a modern phenomenon. The media has heightened this for us, I think, but this has been part of human reality for centuries, throughout the whole of Europe. So it's not just an American phenomenon.

Political correctness comes under attack in the film, and it's a subject which you also have very strong opinions about. Has your own work ever been compromised by PC attitudes?

I don't know, I've never thought about that. I played Nixon once. Is that politically correct? He was certainly not politically correct; he was politically incorrect. I certainly didn't have any qualms about that. That was a great part to play.

Was it fun dancing with Gary Sinise in the film?

Oh, I dance all the time like that. I was a little nervous of it at the beginning, but we had a very good choreographer who worked with us for a couple of days. She was a modern dance choreographer and she choreographed the scene for us. She showed us what we could do and she said to me, "You're not supposed to be Fred Astaire, you're not supposed to be Gene Kelly. It doesn't matter if you're bad at it. Who cares?" So with that permission and openness, it was easy to relax into it and have fun.

Did the scene take long to shoot?

Well, we did the dance maybe 10 or 12 times. We would rehearse before each take or we'd just shoot it. We shot it all in one night. We started in the dark, at about 6.30pm, and we went on until 6.30 in the morning. We were pretty wiped out in the end, but it was a lot of fun.

What do you have coming up?

I am playing Ptolemy in Oliver Stone's Alexander, and then I'm doing a film called Proof. It's based on a play by David Auburn, with Gwyneth Paltrow, and John Madden's directing. It's one of those almost perfect scripts. It's a low-budget movie, and it feels so satisfying to read.

I was so glad when I got it because the texture of it is so good. That's what I enjoy doing, really. Because you can sometimes do a big, big blockbuster movie - I've done a couple of those - and they're awful, horrible things to do.


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