Anthony Hopkins is one of the best-known Hollywood actors, but not many know that he was born in Wales. Let’s take a look at the productive life of a famous British actor whose iconic roles have set their stamp on the movie industry.

Anthony Hopkins’ Welsh Roots

Philip Anthony Hopkins was born in Port Talbot, Wales. His early schooling was difficult due to his dyslexia and his preference for the arts over the traditional “important” subjects.

He met Welsh actor Richard Burton at the age of 15; whether he influenced Hopkins’ decision to enrol at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama in Cardiff is unclear. After a stint in the army, he enrolled in the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

After he graduated from the Royal Academy he debuted in the Palace Theatre in Swansea in 1960 with Have a Cigarette. Five years later, Laurence Olivier spotted him and brought him over to the Royal National Theatre where he became Olivier’s understudy.

Because of his dyslexia, Anthony Hopkins would memorize his lines early and repeat them until they were second nature, preferring not to rehearse too much so his reaction to his fellow actors remained fresh. He fought with alcoholism for a long time but has been clean since 1975.

Are you looking for a tutor to take acting classes?

Hopkins’ Breakthrough On-Screen

Anthony Hopkins’ on-screen debut was in a short called Changes, in 1964. Four years later he had his breakthrough as Richard I of England the Lionheart in The Lion in Winter.

Though he continued in theatre - for example, opposite British actress Judi Dench in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra in 1987 - he concentrated more and more on film; for example in Richard Attenborough’s Young Winston in 1972 and A Bridge Too Far in 1977.

Stardom for Anthony Hopkins: A British Actor in Hollywood

His portrayal of Doctor Frederick Treves - opposite John Hurt as Joseph Merrick - in the 1980 screenplay of The Elephant Man was critically acclaimed.

Further iconic roles in this period include:

  • 1984 as Captain William Bligh of the Bounty in the film of the same name (opposite Mel Gibson).
  • 1992 as Professor van Helsing in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, based on the book by Bram Stoker, hunting British actor Gary Oldman as the Count.
Anthony Hopkins played the Captain of the Bounty.
Anthony Hopkins also played the Captain on the remake of Mutiny on the Bounty starring Mel Gibson. Photo credit: Kevin Burkett on

In 1993, his performance in The Remains of the Day alongside Emma Thompson granted him a nomination for an Academy Award and he received a BAFTA for Best Actor.

In the same year, he starred as C.S.Lewis in the British biography Shadowlands, earning him a second BAFTA nomination.

Two of his subsequent films were with the same co-star, an Alaskan Kodiak bear called Bart: Legends of the Fall in 1994 and The Edge in 1997, where a fall into a river resulted in severe hypothermia (for him, not the bear), an experience he has in common with British actress Kate Winslet’s stint on the set of Titanic.

Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs

Sir Anthony Hopkin’s most famous role was that of Dr. Hannibal Lecter in the thriller The Silence of the Lambs, adapted from the eponymous thriller by Thomas Harris in 1991.

This was not the first cinematic adaptation of one of Harris’ novels featuring Lecter; Michael Mann’s Manhunter, an adaptation of the prequel novel Red Dragon (in which Will Graham, an FBI profiler, turns to Hannibal Lecter to catch a serial killer nicknamed The Tooth Fairy) had already been brought to the screen in 1986.

Directed by Jonathan Demme and starring Jodie Foster in the lead, Silence of the Lambs follows Clarice Starling, an FBI agent trainee who is pulled from her classes to interview former psychiatrist and serial killer Hannibal Lecter in the hopes that he can help the FBI catch another serial killer named “Buffalo Bill”. Like Lecter, Buffalo Bill has cannibalistic tendencies, skinning his victims after killing them.

Dr. Lecter is being held at the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. Starling’s supervisor, FBI special agent Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn), encourages her to keep visiting the known cannibal as he is willing to talk to her. He also encourages her to offer him a fake deal to get him transferred to another hospital.

Hannibal Lecter played by Anthony Hopkins
Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Hannibal Lecter with Jodie Foster as FBI trainee Clarice Starling. Photo credit: FatBusinessman on

The deceit is uncovered by the director of the hospital, Frederick Chilton (played by Anthony Heald) and Starling loses his trust but manages to recover it enough to put together the final clues to finding the current villain. The skinning was not an act of cannibalism; instead, the murderer was a tailor seeking to make a “woman suit” from the skin cut from his victims. While supervisor Crawford chases down a wrong lead, Clarice finds herself face-to-face with the killer.

Shortly thereafter, Hannibal escapes.

The name of the book comes from one of the childhood memories Clarice shares with Lecter in exchange for his profiler services - when visiting relatives on their farm, she woke up one night hearing the bleating of the lambs being slaughtered; a sound that still gives her nightmares. Lecter suspects that she wants to save the latest victim so much in the hope the lambs’ cries will be silenced.

The sequel to Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal, was adapted for the screen in 2001 by Ridley Scott, where Anthony reprised his role, with Julianne Moore as Starling and Gary Oldman as Verger, a former patient of Lecter’s. Jodie Foster refused the role of Starling because of the deconstruction of the character in this film, where she accepts a substitute role for Lecter’s dead sister Mischa and the two end up as lovers.

Anthony Hopkins took up the role of Lecter again for the remake of Red Dragon in 2002.

The NBC TV series Hannibal takes elements from Red Dragon and Hannibal and features the relationship between Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) and Hannibal Lecter (portrayed by Mads Mikkelsen) while the latter was still a forensic psychiatrist. It was cancelled after season three.

It featured Caroline Dhavernas as Alana Bloom, a profiler for the FBI, Laurence Fishburne as Jack Crawford and Gilian Anderson of X-Files fame as Bedelia du Maurier, Lecter’s psychotherapist but, alas, no Sir Anthony Hopkins.

He did not appear in the 2007 prequel to Red Dragon, Hannibal Rising, either.

After the Lambs: Sir Anthony Hopkins in the Late 20th Century

In 1997, Anthony Hopkins starred as Quincy Adams alongside Morgan Freeman, Matthew McConaughey and Nigel Hawthorne in the epic drama Amistad, about a revolt aboard a slave ship.

In 1998, he starred as an ageing Zorro in The Mask of Zorro, then as William Parrish in Meet Joe Black opposite Brad Pitt as Joe Black / Death.

Anthony Hopkins in the 21st Century

In 2003, Hopkins received a star on the Hollywood walk of fame.

Hopkins' star on the Walk of Fame
Anthony Hopkins' star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Photo credit: Thomas Hawk on

In 2005 he starred as Burt Munro in The World’s Fastest Indian.

A year later, he was awarded the Golden Globe Cecil B. Demille lifetime achievement award.

In 2011 The Rite came to theatres with Hopkins in the role of Father Lucas, an exorcist priest and mentor to the main character.

In 2012 he played Alfred Hitchcock in the biopic detailing his work on Psycho.

Anthony Hopkins and the Marvel Universe

In the 2011 film Thor about the Marvel comic hero (played by Chris Hemsworth), Anthony Hopkins played the Allfather, Odin, Thor’s father. He reprised his role in both sequels, Thor: The Dark World (2013) and Thor: Ragnarok (2017), along with Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Thor’s half-brother and trickster figure.

Anthony Hopkins as Odin.
Anthony Hopkins as Odin, father of the Marvel superhero Thor. Photo credit: The_JIFF on

Anthony Hopkins’ Current Projects

Also in 2017, he played Sir Edmund Burton in the latest Transformers franchise: The Last Knight.

As of 2018, his role starring in Westworld, a HBO sci-fi series created by Jonathan Nolan (based on a 1973 film by Michael Crichton), may be at an end. He plays Robert Ford, the founder of the futuristic game park Westworld, where people can have an interactive adventure with “hosts”, automatons programmed to a certain script but autonomous enough to react to outside stimuli from the guests. Rumours say his character is killed off.

Anthony Hopkins: Awards and Honours

In 1987, Anthony Hopkins became a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) - an honour he shares with British actress Kate Winslet - and was knighted a Knight Bachelor in 1993.

Sir Anthony has won two Emmy awards and three BAFTA awards in addition to a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award, and the BAFTA Fellowship.

Find drama classes near me with an acting coach.

Need a Acting teacher?

Did you like this article?

5.00/5 - 1 vote(s)


Sonia is an Egyptologist turned writer and translator. She speaks 3 and a half languages, can translate hieroglyphs and enjoys yoga, singing, embroidery and travelling through all of time and space.