Hopkins wants to lighten up

Over the course of a long and distinguished career, Anthony Hopkins has played serial killer Hannibal Lecter several times and all manner of control freaks, including his latest role - the creator of a theme park staffed with robots in the upcoming sci-fi drama Westworld.

But do not expect him to resort to method acting for such extreme roles.

He says firmly: "I don't get into the head space of a character I'm supposed to be playing."

Speaking of his turn in Westworld as Dr Robert Ford, he adds: "I never did get to understand why he does what he does. I don't really want to know.

"It surprises if you don't know, it's much more pleasant."

I seem to be cast over the years as a control freak. I don't know why. I'm the last person who wants any control. Here in America, maybe because of my British background, people say I look very serious. ''

ACTOR ANTHONY HOPKINS on the types of roles he has been getting over the years

While series creator Jonathan Nolan, 40, says in a separate interview that he had Hopkins in mind for the role from the beginning, the actor finds this puzzling.

He says: "I seem to be cast over the years as a control freak. I don't know why. I'm the last person who wants any control. Here in America, maybe because of my British background, people say I look very serious."

Hopkins, 78, has won an Oscar for Best Actor as Lecter in the psychological thriller The Silence Of The Lambs (1991), three British Academy Film Awards, two Emmys and a knighthood.

His approach to all his roles is straightforward.

"I keep it really very simple, learn the text. For me, the identity is just in the text, following common sense and logic, listening to the director, making some suggestions here and there."

Dressed in a navy suit with a light-blue shirt at a Los Angeles press event to promote Westworld, he comes across as a genial old-school gentleman - one who would take the effort to go round the table to ask where each journalist comes from.

Acting was not a calling for Hopkins, but a means of escape.

He describes himself as a "very poor student" who "couldn't play sports". His Welsh baker father used to say: "I don't know what's going to happen to you."

In a fit of pique, Hopkins decided he would do something different and be somebody.

He adds: "Schoolkids who laughed at me, they're all dead now anyway."

He later graduated from the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama in Cardiff in 1957 and started out in theatre, understudying the legendary Laurence Olivier at one point. He then broke into television and films, making his reputation with feted films such as Howards End (1992), The Remains Of The Day (1993), Shadowlands (1993) and Nixon (1995).

In 1998, he was reportedly Britain's highest-paid performer for his turns in The Mask Of Zorro and Meet Joe Black and agreeing to reprise his role as Lecter for US$15 million in Hannibal (2001).

"There's nothing wrong in achievement and planning and making a family and having an idea of a career when you're young. But you come to a stage in your life when you think, enough, just relax, let go, because there are no guarantees.

"I have a kind of diffident attitude about things, which has come with age, I guess, over the years.

"I don't regret anything. At the end of the day, I did the best I could."

He continues to work steadily and will be seen in two blockbuster flicks next year - Transformers: The Last Knight and Thor: Ragnarok.

Asked what he likes about acting, he says with a chuckle: "Beats working. It keeps me alive."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 28, 2016, with the headline 'Hopkins wants to lighten up'. Print Edition | Subscribe