Anthony Hopkins: Long before ‘The Silence of the Lambs,’ he was an Emmy favorite

Anthony Hopkins made his film debut 1968’s “The Lion in Winter” and the 83-year-old actor has become a lion in winter. He’s received extraordinary reviews for his devastating and poignant performance as an elderly man descending into dementia in “The Father,” which opened in theaters on Feb. 26.

AARP Movie for Grownups’ Tim Appelo stated: “Anthony Hopkins scores the performance of a lifetime as a man afflicted with dementia in a film that takes you inside his disintegrating reality — and also inside the experience of his daughter Anne (“The Favourite” Oscar winner Olivia Colman), who looks after him and faces terrifying decisions about his treatment.” Hopkins has won the British Independent Film Award for Best Actor, is nominated for a Golden Globe, SAG Award and Critics Choice honor and is a strong contender for an Oscar nomination.

Of course, he’s no stranger to Oscar. Hopkins won his only Academy Award to date for his iconic performance as Hannibal “the Cannibal” Lecter in 1991’s “The Silence of the Lambs” and earned nominations for 1993’s “Remains of the Day,” 1995’s “Nixon,” 1997’s “Amistad” and 2019’s “The Two Popes.” Hopkins is also one of the coolest octogenarians around. He’s a constant presence on Instagram playing the piano with his cat Niblo on his lap, painting, reciting Shakespeare or just acting goofy. To celebrate his six-decade career, let’s look back at his pre- “Silence of the Lambs” work.

The 1970s were a pivotal decade for the Welsh-born actor. He went to Broadway for his first and only time in 1974 to star in Peter Shaffer’s Tony Award-winning play “Equus” and became sober in 1975. (He celebrated his 45 years of his sobriety on Instagram last year.) And though he made many feature films including 1974’s “Juggernaut,” 1977’s “Audrey Rose” and 1978’s “Magic,” Hopkins mainly starred in TV movies and miniseries.

Hopkins won a BAFTA Award for his performance as Pierre in the 1972-73 British 14-hour plus production of Tolstoy’s “War and Peace,” which aired in the U.S. on PBS’ “Masterpiece Theatre.” American audiences stood up and took notice of Hopkins in the critical and ratings success-ABC’s 1974 two-part drama “QB VII.” Based on Leon Uris’ novel, Hopkins plays a noted doctor who sues a writer (Ben Gazzara) implicating him in Nazi war crimes. The drama earned 13 Emmy nominations and won six. He was even better in in 1976’s “The Lindbergh Kidnapping Case,” winning his first Emmy as German immigrant Bruno Hauptmann who is tried, convicted and executed for the kidnapping and death of aviator Charles Lindbergh’s baby son Charles Jr.

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It was the best of times and worst of times for Hopkins in 1980. Hopkins gave a poignant performance in David Lynch’s “The Elephant Man” playing Dr. Frederick Treves who comes to the aid of John Merrick (John Hurt), a severely disfigured man and discovers a man of grace and intelligence. The film earned eight Oscar nominations including best film, actor (Hurt) and director. Though he came up empty handed with “The Elephant Man,” Hopkins did receive a Razzie nomination for worst actor of the year for his other 1980 feature, the ghastly romantic comedy “A Change of Seasons.”  He plays a married middle-age man who has an affair with a “10”-literally-a young woman played by Bo Derek. The film opens with a hot tub sequence that may have been fun for Hopkins and Derek to film but is rather cringeworthy to watch.

Thank goodness, redemption was right around the corner. Hopkins was riveting and truly terrifying as Hitler in the 1981 TV movie “The Bunker” for which he received his second of two Emmys to date. His versatility was on display in 1982 when he received an Emmy nomination for his sweet, haunting performance as Victor Hugo’s sensitive Quasimodo in CBS’ adaptation of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” But he got all Jackie Collins in 1985 starring as a high-powered British film director in ABC’s 1985 three-part miniseries “Hollywood Wives,” based on the novelist’s best-selling book. Candice Bergen, Mary Crosby, Suzanne Somers, Angie Dickinson and Andrew Stevens also starred in this wallow.

I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for the 1987 feature “’84 Charing Cross Road” about a struggling New York writer (Anne Bancroft) and her long pen-pal relationship with a quiet, modest bibliographer (Hopkins) at Marks and Co. in London. There’s nothing earth shattering here, but it’s a lovely, genteel film. Marks and Co. doesn’t exist anymore-the location is now a McDonald’s. Hopkins earned a Golden Globe nomination and co-star Derek Jacobi won an Emmy for the 1988 TV movie “The Tenth Man.” It’s a taut mystery based on a Graham Greene tale about a French man, imprisoned by the Nazis and about to face the firing squad, who wills his estate to another prisoner’s family in order to save his life.

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