Anthony Hopkins could rest on his laurels from decades of award-winning work as a stage and film actor.
Instead Hopkins — universally known as serial killer Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs, for which he won an Oscar — keeps challenging himself with new artistic pursuits. He’s composed orchestral music and conducted it, too. And now he talks to Metro about establishing himself as a painter.
You credit your wife, Stella Arroyave, with encouraging you to start paining six years ago. Did you really have no inkling of talents as a painter before that?
When I was little I used to draw, and had an idea that I wanted to become an artist, but I’m a poor student and didn’t have the patience to sit in classes. But I kept doodling and when my wife found some doodles she said “You ought to do something with this.” For our wedding, she asked me to make 75 paintings as party favours for our guests. They seemed to like them, so I’ve kept going.
You’re well-known for practicing your lines up to 200 times. How do you prepare when painting?
I’m a complete anarchist. The only thing where I like order is in learning a line. It frees me up when I act because I know the lines so well. When I paint, I think of what the colours mean and how they look together. Then I just have a go. In a way, it’s similar to learning my lines.
Before taking on the role as Hannibal Lecter, you had announced that you were done with Hollywood. You still live in Los Angeles, but are you planning to metaphorically leave Hollywood for a second career as a painter?
No. I enjoy Hollywood and acting very much, but I don’t seek friendships with actors, so I’m not part of Hollywood in that way. I paint for the pleasure of it. I’m not a very deep person who thinks about the meaning of art; I just love colors.
And you play the piano for pleasure, too?
My piano technique is very primitive, but I practice every day, and I play some pretty complicated things, like Chopin’s Scherzo. It keeps my brain fit. I play, paint and read all the time to keep my brain alive. My wife thinks I’m completely bonkers when I get up in the middle of the night to play the piano, but my brain doesn’t let me rest.
For a Welshman who specializes in vaguely surrealistic paintings, is Los Angeles a good source of inspiration?
I’m married to a Colombian woman, and she has brought so many colors into our house. And I often travel to Colombia and Mexico, which have so many vibrant colors and vivid art.
As a painter and musician, do you take instructions from anybody?
I don’t dislike learning; I’m just not a very good student. Once I conducted a symphony orchestra in one of my own works. I was scared out of my mind, and afterwards I told the musicians I should take composition classes. But they were very nice and told me that I should keep composing in my own style. I admire the famous Russian composers and German expressionist painters, but I don’t pretend to know anything about either.
You beat your alcohol addiction long ago, but are known to have a life-long love affair with bread. What’s so great about this staple?
My father was a baker, and I’ll always remember the smell of fresh bread. Bread and sugar; what else can you ask for?