Who but Anthony Hopkins is perfectly suited to convincingly portray Pope Benedict XVI and the cannibalistic serial murderer Hannable Lecter from Silence of the Lambs. Indeed, the Welsh thespian is an acting treasure and has been over the course of six decades. Now at the age of 82, he’s imparted advice to young actors during an Augustman interview. 

When asked about mentoring aspiring performers, the Oscar-winning actor responded:

“I tell them to stop trying to be cool because it doesn’t work, to instead learn the craft and be disciplined. It’s not a competition. Being in competition with people is a waste of time. How do you compete? At the awards? You have five people who are happy to have been nominated, then you have four losers later, pretending to be happy. It’s all bull****. What’s more important is to keep trying, and to consistently deliver the best you have to offer.”

Growing up in Wales, Hopkins was a very quiet child; he was convinced he was stupid and suffered from an inferiority complex. (Incidentally, in 2017, the actor revealed he’d been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome “on the high end” of the spectrum.) But he says he only stumbled into acting because of a “series of connections and accidents … I didn’t know what else to do. And suddenly, within a few years, I took off. It’s quite extraordinary.”

After graduating from the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama in 1957, Hopkins trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. Immediately thereafter, he spent two years in the British Army followed by studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Much to his delight, in the mid-1960s, Hopkins became an understudy for the legendary Laurence Olivier. Next thing he knew, when Olivier suffered a medical emergency and needed to have his appendix removed, Hopkins “walked away with the part like a cat with a mouse between its teeth,”—according to Olivier in his memoir, Confessions of an Actor

Hopkin’s acting philosophy is rather stark. He insists, “You mustn’t take it seriously. If you take it seriously, if you think you’re unique, you’re dead. No one is unique, and no one is special. Actors, especially.” Rather, he applauds working-class values—values he admired in his father who was a baker. “Whenever I get a feeling that I may be special or different,” the actor once said, “I think of my father and I remember his hands—his hardened, broken hands.” In fact, he believes the “Ego is the enemy.”

When it comes to preparing for a role, Hopkins delves deeply into the words of the script. He is known to go over his lines sometimes over 200 times until they’re absorbed into his psyche. “I learn the text so deeply that I think it has some chemical effect in my brain,” he says. “I believe in learning the text which is there. Once you know it so well that you can improvise and make it real, it’s easy. You can’t pretend to know—it’s impossible to, and I couldn’t do it. I’ve worked with actors who don’t know their stuff, and they were just wasting everyone’s time.” His practice of learning the text so well enables him to give a relaxed, natural delivery—although always with his trademark intensity. 

Hopkins’ acting achievements include winning an Academy Award for his portrayal of the iconic villain Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs. He also received Oscar nods for his performances in The Remains of the Day (1993), Nixon (1995), Amistad (1997), and The Two Popes (2019). Other roles for which he’s well known include The Elephant Man, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Legends of the Fall, and he played Odin, the Allfather of Asgard in Marvel’s Thor franchise. On TV, Hopkins starred as Robert Ford in the HBO sci-fi series Westworld  as well as starring in the title role in the BBC Two television film King Lear.