Hopkins Masterpiece: NIXON'S Soul

Sir Anthony Hopkins, the little boy from South Wales, inspired to act by a fleeting tryst with hero and hellraiser, Richard Burton, has grown up to be considered among the finest actors of stage and screen. Having been beneficiary of a remarkable rise, including as estimable a break that one can imagine in acting, having been spotted by Sir Laurence Olivier and then groomed as his understudy at The Royal National Theatre in London, from a young age his talent was noted by among the very best. Over forty years later, it is possible to compose a reasonable overview of what Hopkins has managed to achieve with his considerable abilities. Certainly, artistically, his strongest work has always been theatrical; Olivier€™s influence palpable as he has drawn almost unparalleled veneration across decades for the great roles of theatre, foremost among which- of course- have been his stints as Shakespeare€™s leading men. Though Hopkins would no doubt rhapsodise about these titanic dramatic parts, he has made little secret of the fact that the repetitive nature of acting for stage is frustrating to an eager and restless mind, such as his own, and as such pursued screen roles from an early age. After a mixed early career in film, he of course became known world-wide for his role as Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs for which he won his Oscar as best actor. Since then, Hopkins has been plagued by a myriad of relatively mediocre roles, many of which he is called upon to employ accents ill-suited to his more physical and emotionally studied acting style. Indeed, Hopkins has gone on to play Lecter several times, and his mannerisms have been synonymous with the actor, and the playing of charming psychopaths. It is a shame, then, that a relatively one dimensional and camp character so dominates the public perception of Hopkins, especially since his best film- and the best film of one Oliver Stone- came a few short years after Silence of The Lambs in epic presidential biopic, Nixon. Broadly neglected at the time, and seen as a messy and grandiosely inferior companion to Stone€™s JFK, it is a film worthy of a second-look. Stone€™s screenplay is his very best- full of dark fractured intrigue and yet full of human compassion for a man whose behaviour would make it so easy for him to have demonised. At the very heart of the film, though, is Hopkins masterful performance. In this instance, Hopkins was well-advised to avoid the former president€™s laconic baritone and instead, seemingly, completely disappears into his body. Each mannerism, nervous tick, and false public gesture is magnificently crafted; Hopkins disregards Nixon€™s voice to realise his soul. Nixon ultimately works because it is the story of a fallen emperor- a Caesar destroyed by an unending lust for power. It is probably the only screen part of the Shakespearean import to which Hopkins is so thoroughly attuned. If you haven€™t seen Nixon, either lately or ever- do so. To watch it is to be present at a master class. The film is available on Blu-ray in the U.S. and at only $10.99, it's well worth importing.

Ben Szwediuk hasn't written a bio just yet, but if they had... it would appear here.