In this week’s The Wolfman, Anthony Hopkins tackles the classic role of Sir John Talbot, a misanthropic loner who welcomes home his estranged son, Lawrence (Benicio Del Toro), after his other son is killed by a mysterious beast. Hopkins spoke to Vulture about the Twilight series, his upcoming role as Odin in Thor, and what he dislikes about movies these days.
For Benicio’s Wolfman character, where did the actor end and the CGI begin?
They had a great team of experts there, the CGI and all that, on Benicio Del Toro. They’re extraordinary, those transformations. I don’t know how the hell they do it, it’s a mystery to me. That’s the wonderful collective genius that’s behind movies today. Like Avatar — the sheer science — it’s something I find so baffling but exhilarating, in a way. And that’s the advantage they have over the old movies, now.
When you watch the original Wolfman from 1941, it’s amazing to see what they could even do back then.
Oh yeah! The Frankenstein movie, the Bela Lugosi movies, King Kong. You could see the model of King Kong under the Empire State Building — you could see the fingerprints from the [animators] turning each muscle. And you think, well, that’s what they did. The ingenuity of people, even with limited technology, is pretty impressive. Today they have the advantage of computer chips.
It’s an interesting time for this film to be released, because of the recent vampire and werewolf trend in movies. Have you seen the Twilight movies?
No. I’ve seen the one — I’m just getting older now, it’s a different generation. I’m aware that it goes on. I’m aware of it, but I think some movies go on, for example, computer technology. I think there are some movies that are quite notable — I won’t mention names, I don’t want to offend anyone — big movies, sometimes with historical significance to them, and there’s too much technology. I think, Well, this wasn’t real. And you can tell by the water around the ship or whatever, bombs — you think, Oh no, this is not good. It’s too computerized and it lacks reality. And you shove the actors in that and you think, This in not real at all. If you go to the actual blood and guts of a movie, which is, let’s say, in a historical context, it’s much grittier more grimy than it is when the computer tends to wipe everything out — unless it’s used well. When it’s used well it’s terrific.
The Wolfman should probably be required viewing for anyone who thinks werewolves would make a good boyfriend or a basketball teammate …
I think women particularly — but both genders — are fascinated by the Beauty and the Beast mythology. It goes back to Ovid’s Metamorphosis, it goes back to classic mythology. In another way, it’s like Sleeping Beauty. The woman who’s been put into a spell of enchantment by the wicked witch and she has to wait there for generations for the Prince Charming to come. And those mythologies are so powerful in our subconscious mind that I think that’s why people respond to Beauty and the Beast. The Beast, in its darkness, is attractive. It’s threatening, it’s sexy. It’s the dark stranger that’s in all of us. The bogeyman. Once you make friends with it, it’s very attractive. It’s the beast that needs to be saved and brought out. In psychological terms, if it’s denied and repressed, then it comes out in other forms: massive warfare, psychotic dictatorships, or people like Nazi Germany. So it has to be acknowledged.
You’ve mentioned your favorite character that you’ve played is Burt Munro from The World’s Fastest Indian. Is there a role you enjoyed playing, but when you saw the final product were left disappointed?
I was in a film, it was very good, but it was so overedited that, in the end, I said, “I just don’t care.” It was so edited, it was such flashy camera work and all that and, in the end, you think, Who cares? I think that’s a problem with many films — you look at adventure films and a lot of action movies and I don’t know who’s chasing who. There’s so many close-ups and, personally, I can’t understand what anyone is saying anymore. Am I going deaf? Am I getting too old? In most of these big action movies, everyone is putting on this deep, sexy whisper. I don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. So, they lose me. I think I’m quite bright, but I think, What the hell are they talking about? If you can’t understand what somebody is saying, it’s an insult to the audience. To be so fascinated by someone’s internal monologue? Brando could do it because he was a great actor. But there are actors today who mumble and whisper and, finally, I think that they are just boring.
Too much action in a movie can take away the excitement of the action. If you look back at Raiders of the Lost Ark or, even, The Silence of the Lambs, it’s the buildup in those films that makes them great. Raiders is not nonstop action.
Well, yeah. I don’t think there’s any social significance in it, but I think it’s a market for kids that are so multitasked, now, that I don’t think anyone thinks anymore. Raiders of the Lost Ark is a good example of the spirit that lets the story unfold. You see all the action, you see everything happen. There’s moments you see this and you see that, and think this is great, and you’re pulled in with Harrison Ford’s adventures. Or Silence of the Lambs or something like The Shining — when Jack Nicholson’s being interviewed in the hotel, the camera doesn’t move at all. It keeps you on the edge of your seat. But now, I don’t know what’s going on and I don’t care.
You’ve won Academy Awards and you’ve been knighted, but are you prepared for the onslaught of comic-book fans when you appear as Odin in Thor?
Oh yeah. Well, the chance to work with Ken Branagh … I had no idea this was going to happen. It was only a few months ago when my agent phoned and said, “Would you be interested in playing Odin?” I said, “Odin? You mean play God? Yeah, I think it’s about time I played God.” When I met [Branagh], I was so impressed by his whole personality and his sureness. Go back twenty years ago, when he took on the whole impact of the British establishment — Lawrence Olivier making Hamlet, Henry V — I mean, he did it. And yet the British press just hounded him, damned him, and he survived it all. Working with Branagh, playing God, it’s not bad.
You mentioned Olivier, who played a god in 1981’s Clash of the Titans, which introduced him to a younger generation. Now you’re in The Wolfman and Thor, which will expose you to kids who might not have seen Howard’s End or The Remains of the Day.
Oh yes, yes. Well, I just go for the variety. I mean, I don’t plan anything; I don’t think, Oh, what’s my career move? I’ve had a good career. Sometimes you do movies which don’t work out. I don’t shed a tear or lose a moment’s sleep over it if it doesn’t work out. I paint, I compose music. I’ve got a concert tour of Australia later this year of my own works as a composer. I’ve got a pretty rich, full life.