On this day in 1937, Anthony Hopkins, who will become known for playing one of the greatest villains in movie history, the cannibalistic serial killer Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs and its two sequels, is born in Port Talbot, Wales. In addition to portraying Lecter, a role which earned Hopkins his first Academy Award, the versatile actor, considered one of the best of his generation, has appeared in a long list of films, including Remains of the Day and Fracture.
Hopkins studied acting at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. In the 1960s, Sir Laurence Olivier asked Hopkins to join the Royal National Theatre and serve as his understudy. In 1968, Hopkins landed his first big-screen role in the Academy Award-winning The Lion in Winter, with Peter O’Toole and Katharine Hepburn. Hopkins went on to co-star in such films as The Elephant Man (1980), directed by David Lynch, and The Bounty (1984), in which he played Captain William Bligh to Mel Gibson’s Fletcher Christian.
In 1990, Hopkins starred in the thriller The Silence of the Lambs as the murderous psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter, a character who originated in a series of novels by Thomas Harris. (The actor Brian Cox first played Lecter on the silver screen in 1986’s Manhunter.) Directed by Jonathan Demme, The Silence of the Lambs co-starred Jodie Foster as the FBI trainee Clarice Starling, who asks for the incarcerated Lecter’s help in catching another serial killer. The film won Academy Awards in all five major categories, including Best Actor for Hopkins, Best Actress for Foster, Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. The American Film Institute later named Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter the top villain in movie history. Hopkins reprised his role for 2001’s Hannibal and 2002’s Red Dragon.
In addition to The Silence of the Lambs, Hopkins was featured in a lengthy list of films during the 1990s, including director James Ivory’s Howards End (1992); Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992); The Remains of the Day (1993), which earned him a Best Actor Oscar nomination for his performance as aging English butler James Stevens; Shadowlands (1993), in which he played Chronicles of Narnia author C.S. Lewis; Old West epic Legends of the Fall (1994), with Brad Pitt, Henry Thomas, Aidan Quinn and Julia Ormond; and director Oliver Stone’s biopic Nixon (1995), for which Hopkins earned another Best Actor Oscar nomination for his portrayal of America’s 37th president.
Hopkins received his first Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for Steven Spielberg’s slavery drama Amistad (1996), in which he played John Quincy Adams. Among the actor’s more recent film credits are The Human Stain (2003), with Nicole Kidman; The World’s Fastest Indian (2005), based on the real-life story of New Zealander Burt Munro, who built a motorcycle that set the land-speed record; and the thriller Fracture (2007), with Ryan Gosling, in which Hopkins plays a manipulative murderer.
In 1993, Hopkins was knighted by Queen Elizabeth.