Sir Anthony Hopkins: Veteran actor known for the terrifying Hannibal Lecter

Alex Green and Keiran Southern, PA
·3-min read

Sir Anthony Hopkins has made history at the Oscars by becoming the oldest person to win an acting award, at 83.

His success comes after a six-decade career in which he has worked alongside greats such as Laurence Olivier, later Lord Olivier, and won praise for complex characters such as the terrifying Hannibal Lecter and the enigmatic Dr Robert Ford in Westworld.

Sir Anthony was born in Port Talbot, South Wales, in 1937, to Richard Arthur Hopkins, a baker, and Annie.

Sir Anthony Hopkins
Sir Anthony Hopkins playing Macbeth in 1972 (PA)

He left school at 16 and did his national service.

Thanks to a gift for mimicry, he won a scholarship to Cardiff College of Music and Drama and then went on to Rada.

He followed up his drama school training with work in repertory before auditioning for Olivier and joining the National Theatre at the Old Vic in the mid-1960s.

A stroke of luck came soon afterwards. The younger man was the star’s understudy for Strindberg’s The Dance Of Death and got his big chance when Olivier suffered appendicitis.

Olivier later said Sir Anthony “walked away with the part of Edgar like a cat with a mouse between its teeth”.

Sir Anthony Hopkins
Sir Anthony Hopkins as Bob in Hearts And Flowers by Peter Nichols (BBC/PA)

Stage success was not enough for Sir Anthony, who longed for the fame and riches promised by the big screen. He grabbed his chance with both hands when The Lion In Winter came along.

But, despite his growing success, he was battling personal demons.

His first marriage, to Petronella Barker in 1967, broke down after two years.

In 1973 he married film-production assistant Jennifer Lynton, whom he met on the set of When Eight Bells Toll. They divorced in 2002.

He battled alcoholism, an affliction which made him, in his own words, “disgusted, busted and not to be trusted”.

He turned his life around following a talk with a woman from Alcoholics Anonymous in December 1975.

He said the woman asked him “Why don’t you just trust in God?” and from then on the urge to drink was “never to return”.

Sir Anthony Hopkins
Sir Anthony Hopkins with the Academy Award for The Silence Of The Lambs (Tim Ockenden/PA)

His career has continued to bring him acclaim, with an Emmy for playing Hitler in 1981 TV movie The Bunker, while other roles included The Hunchback Of Notre Dame, Equus, Magic, and A Change Of Season.

After his Oscar win for The Silence Of The Lambs, Sir Anthony was the toast of Hollywood and further big roles beckoned.

The only best picture winner considered a true horror movie, it is widely seen as one of the best films ever.

The 90s saw two further best actor nominations, for playing a repressed butler in The Remains Of The Day, and a rogue president in Nixon, and he earned a supporting nod for Steven Spielberg’s historical drama Amistad.

He was knighted for services to the arts in 1993, and went on to play further roles in Howard’s End, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, The Innocents, Legends Of The Fall, Shadowlands and Surviving Picasso.

Not one to stay in his comfort zone, Sir Anthony introduced himself to younger audiences with roles in 2010’s green screen blockbusters Transformers: The Last Knight and Marvel’s Thor films.

He returned to TV with a stint in sci-fi Western series Westworld from 2016-2018, before adding another Oscar nomination, his second for supporting actor and fifth overall, for 2019’s The Two Popes.

Sir Anthony married his third wife, actress Stella Arroyave, in 2003.