regular screenwriting collaborator Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, the end result is by some way James Ivory‘s finest achievement in 30 years of moviemaking. A complex family chronicle told with clarity and compassion, it’s a rounded and involving film that does justice to one of the major English novels of the century.
Hopkins’s character is the key to the narrative momentum, for his typically ' clipped way of snatching at sentences creates a portrayal of a gruff , stubborn man with outmoded principles which we positively root for the women to change. ‘James Ivory’s directing, Emma Thompson’s in it. so I thought I’d do it.’ was the star‘s own brisk initial assessment of the piece, confessing that it was only after he accepted the part that he actually read the script. ‘Wilcox just doesn’t understand. That‘s his problem. He’s not a bad man, just a bit dense. I played the situation as it was, played the lines as they came along. You don’t have to overact him, he just smokes his cigars, puts his hands in his pockets and has opinions — like we all do, I suppose. It was a very enjoyable experience all round. Emma Thompson’s very good in it. Ivory’s a very skilled director. Trusts the actors, trusts his crew, rather like Jonathan Demme in that respect.’
Having fought bitterly with any number of theatre and film directors in the past (particular scorn is reserved for The Bounty’s Roger Donaldson who, he claims, ‘didn’t know what time of day it was’), such kind words are rare enough. But Hopkins is
even more fulsome in his praise for Francis Ford Coppola, with whom he’s just finished shooting the eagerly-anticipated Dracula with Gary Oldman as the good Count and Winona Ryder as the vampire’s main love interest. ‘He’s such an American director. I’m a British actor. Parts like this one are few and far between, so I was really -
‘Maybe I have done some things I really shouldn’t have . . . the wonderful Freeiack, lor instance. I did it because I wanted to meet Mick Jagger. Just to say hello to him really.’
surprised when he asked me to come and see him. When he said to me “I’d like you to play Van Helsing,“ I actually looked round the room to see if he was talking to someone else.
‘Dracula’s a massive film. huge sets, a big budget. They say it’s a very rich film, very vibrant. There’s some gore, some sex. Coppola’s a sort of magician. He works in a way I’d never experienced before. He’s in total charge of everything, takes hours, days of shooting endless scenes and never quite makes up his mind what he wants. He tends to wait for you to bring as much as you can to the set, then he starts improvising around that. A bit exhausting, but I enjoyed it because I hadn’t worked like that since drama school. God only knows what he’s going to do with all the material he’s shot, though?
A further box office smash with Dracula
Howards End: ‘James lvory's llnest achievement in 30 years ol movlemaklng'
would establish Hopkins in the Hollywood firmament as one of the handful of actors revered on stage and screen across both sides ofthe Atlantic, but, looking back on the various travails and triumphs that have brought him thus far, the baker’s son from South Wales remains rather too self-deprecating than is probably healthy for a man with his talent. It’s one sign perhaps that this introverted. often troubled man hasn’t quite resolved the inner conﬂicts that have raged throughout his turbulent personal history.
‘When I was young.’ he stops and considers
for a moment, ‘I was too into my own neuroses. It was anxiety. unsureness,l suppose. I was a very intense individual. I was examining the subtext of the parts. doing the Stanislavsky method and all that. I actually remember walking to rehearsals in
; the morning sometimes and just saying to
myself “open up, open up" over and over again, and gradually, gradually over the years, that has seeped through my whole system. I did it because I think I had the sheer gumption to get through and enjoy my life, even ifit has taken me all this time to finally come to terms with the parts ofmyself I wasn’t too keen on. I didn’t really like myself very much before, but now when I look in the mirror I think, that‘s all I’ve got so I’d better get on with it. Maybe I’m not so bad after all . . .’
Howards End opens in Scotland on Friday 15 May. Dracula is scheduled foraJanuary 1993 release.
The List 8— 21 May—16192 7
ANTHONY HOPKINS FEATURE
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