Sir Hopkins, you once said that the more life you experience the more it seems like a dream. Was there a certain moment in your life where things seemed to diverge from reality?
Most of my last 30 years have been like that. Results and manifestations of things I’d dreamed of as a young kid and wanted as a child and as a young man. I realized it maybe 30 years ago. I thought, “This is unreal. This has happened as I expected it to, as I’d pictured it.” My whole life has been like that and I’m fascinated by that power that we all have. That we create our lives as we go.
Do you think actors and filmmakers have a more powerful inner life? People often say actors are more emotional, more sensitive.
Well, I always distrust the word art when it is applied to acting. I’ve always liked to be a meat and potatoes kind of actor who doesn’t believe in any of the highfalutin stuff about acting, so I tend to be a little bit more cynical. But I guess it is a creative process; acting is a creative process, and directing and music. I think creative people – and I take myself as a creative person and it doesn’t mean you have to be an actor, a musician, or a painter – but I think if you are in a creative profession or a creative business you do have a heightened awareness. It doesn’t make you special though.
A lot of actors certainly behave as if they are…
You have to be careful of that because when you begin to believe you have license because you are a special person breathing special oxygen, that’s when you’re in big trouble. That’s the road to insanity. And a lot of people in the studios are like that. They believe that they are special. I do think actors are blessed, or cursed, with maybe a slightly heightened awareness, which you have to use. That’s all. It doesn’t mean you’re superior or better than anyone it just means that’s the way our brains tick.
Were there any directors in the past that have really inspired you?
There have been a number of them and they all have their own quirky way of working. I’ve worked with Oliver Stone, Spielberg, a number of them. Some of the best and I’ve been lucky. When I direct I try to keep it a unique design of my own. Naturally you’re influenced. Oliver Stone is a great director and I’ve seen many films over the years, but I try to create stuff out of my own imagination. I want to break all the rules and mess about with it and make a different movie just for the fun of it.
Does acting help to keep you young?
Yeah. I am young! Being creative and keeping your brain occupied is very sensible because if you don’t you die, slowly. Although sometimes I feel tired and think I ought to give it up, I don’t want to just retire. No, I enjoy it all and you just keep going until the day comes when you can’t do it anymore. And that’s what I want to do.
Are you still obsessed by acting?
I used to be a bit obsessed by it but not anymore. I do enjoy acting but I probably enjoy it more now because it’s easier. I can’t work in the theater because to me it’s too serious. It’s like being in prison for me. I admire people that can do that but I can’t do it. I’d rather live my life and do a bit of acting in between.
What does your life look like these days?
I play piano and that’s my love. I read and I paint and I compose music, so I’ve got a pretty full creative life. And it’s not because, you know, I’m obsessively creative. I enjoy painting. I don’t know if I’m good at it, but I paint. I paint very quickly. I paint in acrylic and it seems to work and I write music and compose music and play the piano and I read a lot and life’s good. So acting is something I do as a fill in.
You seem to be at harmony with yourself…
I wish when I was younger I knew what I know today, what I feel like today, a kind of ease with myself. Because when you’re younger you are much more intense and everything’s much more important and you look back and you think, “Oh what was that all about?” Nothing is that important, just live your life because we’re here so briefly.
So you enjoy getting older?
Yeah. I keep in shape. I look in the mirror and I see the lines, but I don’t care. It’s a good time. I don’t know why it’s such a good time, but it’s a good time. Mortality is the great rescuer, it finally takes you out of everything, and that makes life good, you know? Read Carl Jung. It makes life richer because this is it; none of us know where we go and this is the fun of it.
Have you achieved everything you wanted to achieve?
Beyond everything. I’ve been very lucky. I’ve had my problems in the past, I’ve had my troubles, but you move on. I had a great life and I am really thankful for it.
Name: Sir Philip Anthony Hopkins
DOB: 31 December 1937
Place of Birth: Margam, West Glamorgan, Wales
By The Talks