Born on December 31, 1937, as the only son of a baker, Welsh actor Anthony Hopkins was drawn to the theater while attending the YMCA at age 17, and later learned the basics of his craft at London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. In 1960, Hopkins made his stage bow in The Quare Fellow, and then spent four years in regional repertory before his first London success in Julius Caesar. Combining the best elements of the British theater's classic heritage and its burgeoning "angry young man" school, Hopkins worked well in both ancient and modern pieces. His film debut was not, as has often been cited, his appearance as Richard the Lionhearted in The Lion in Winter (1968), but in an odd, "pop-art" film, The White Bus (1967).
Though already familiar to some sharp-eyed American viewers after his film performance as Lloyd George in Young Winston (1971), Hopkins burst full-flower onto the American scene in 1974 as an ex-Nazi doctor in QB VII, the first television miniseries. Also in 1974, Hopkins made his Broadway debut in Equus, eventually directing the 1977 Los Angeles production. The actor became typed in intense, neurotic roles for the next several years: in films he portrayed the obsessed father of a girl whose soul has been transferred into the body of another child in Audrey Rose (1976), an off-the-wall ventriloquist in Magic (1978), and the much-maligned Captain Bligh (opposite Mel Gibson's Fletcher Christian) in Bounty (1982). On TV, Hopkins played roles as varied (yet somehow intertwined) as Adolph Hitler, accused Lindbergh-baby kidnapper Bruno Richard Hauptmann, and the Hunchback of Notre Dame.
In 1991, Hopkins won an Academy Award for his bloodcurdling portrayal of murderer Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs. With the aplomb of a thorough professional, Anthony Hopkins was able to follow-up his chilling Lecter with characters of great kindness, courtesy, and humanity: the conscience-stricken butler of a British fascist in The Remains of the Day (1992) and compassionate author C. S. Lewis in Shadowlands (1993). In 1995, Hopkins earned mixed acclaim and an Oscar nomination for his impressionistic take (done without elaborate makeup) on President Richard M. Nixon in Oliver Stone's Nixon. After his performance as Pablo Picasso in James Ivory's Surviving Picasso (1996), Hopkins garnered another Oscar nomination -- this time for Best Supporting Actor -- the following year for his work in Steven Spielberg's slavery epic Amistad. Following this honor, Hopkins chose roles that cast him as a father figure, first in the ploddingly long Meet Joe Black and then in the have-mask-will-travel swashbuckler Mask of Zorro with Antonio Banderas and fellow countrywoman Catherine Zeta-Jones. In his next film, 1999's Instinct, Hopkins again played a father, albeit one of a decidedly different stripe. As anthropologist Ethan Powell, Hopkins takes his field work with gorillas a little too seriously, reverting back to his animal instincts, killing a couple of people, and alienating his daughter (Maura Tierney) in the process.
Hopkins kept a low profile in 2000, providing narration for Ron Howard's live-action adaptation of Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas and voicing the commands overheard by Tom Cruise's special agent in John Woo's Mission: Impossible 2. In 2001, Hopkins returned to the screen to reprise his role as the effete, erudite, eponymous cannibal in Ridley Scott's Hannibal, the long-anticipated sequel to Jonathan Demme's Silence of the Lambs (1991). The 160-million-dollar blockbuster did much for Hopkins' bank account but little for his standing with the critics, who by and large found Hannibal to be a stylish, gory exercise in illogical tedium. Worse yet, some wags suggested that the actor would have been better off had he followed his Silence co-star Jodie Foster's lead and opted out of the sequel altogether. Later that year, the moody, cloying Stephen King adaptation Hearts in Atlantis did little to repair his reputation with critics or audiences, who avoided the film like the plague.
The long-delayed action comedy Bad Company followed in 2002, wherein audiences -- as well as megaproducer Jerry Bruckheimer -- learned that Chris Rock and Sir Anthony Hopkins do not a laugh-riot make. But the next installment in the cash-cow Hannibal Lecter franchise restored a bit of luster to the thespian's tarnished Hollywood career. Red Dragon, the second filmed version of Thomas Harris' first novel in the Lecter series, revisited the same territory previously adapted by director Michael Mann in 1986's Manhunter, with mixed but generally positive results. Surrounding Hopkins with a game cast, including Edward Norton, Ralph Finnes, Harvey Keitel and Emily Watson, the Brett Ratner film garnered some favorable comparisons to Demme's 1991 award-winner, as well as some decent -- if not Hannibal-caliber -- returns at the box office.
Hopkins would face his biggest chameleon job since Nixon with 2003's highly anticipated adaptation of Philip Roth's Clinton-era tragedy The Human Stain, a prestige Miramax project directed by Robert Benton and co-starring Nicole Kidman, fresh off her Oscar win for The Hours. Hopkins plays Stain's flawed protagonist Coleman Silk, an aging, defamed African-American academic who has been "passing" as a Jew for most of his adult life. Unfortunately, most critics couldn't get past the hurtle of accepting the Anglo-Saxon paragon as a light-skinned black man. The film died a quick death at the box office and went unrecognized in year-end awards.
2004's epic historical drama Alexander re-united Hopkins and Nixon helmer Oliver Stone in a three-hour trek through the life and times of Alexander the Great. The following year, Hopkins turned up in two projects, the first being John Madden's drama Proof. In this Miramax release, Hopkins plays Robert, a genius mathematician who - amid a long descent into madness - devises a formula of earth-shaking proportions. That same year's comedy-drama The World's Fastest Indian saw limited international release in December 2005; it starred Hopkins - ever the one to challenge himself by expanding his repertoire to include increasingly difficult roles - as New Zealand motorcycle racer Burt Munro, who set a land speed record on his chopper at the Utah Bonneville Flats. The quirky picture did limited business in the States but won the hearts of many viewers and critics.
He then joined the ensemble cast of the same year's hotly-anticipated ensemble drama Bobby, helmed by Emilio Estevez, about the events at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles just prior to RFK's assassination. Hopkins plays John Casey, one of the hotel proprietors.
Hopkins long held true passions in arenas other than acting - specifically, painting and musical composition. As for the former, Hopkins started moonlighting as a painter in the early 2000s, and when his tableaux first appeared publicly, at San Antonio's Luciane Gallery in early 2006, the canvases sold out within six days. Hopkins is also an accomplished symphonic composer and the author of several orchestral compositions, though unlike some of his contemporaries (such as Clint Eastwood) his works never supplemented movie soundtracks and weren't available on disc. The San Antonio Symphony performed a few of the pieces for its patrons in spring 2006.
Hopkins would remain a prolific actor over the next several years, appearing in films like The Wolfman, Thor, and 360.
In 2016, Hopkins took to HBO for a lead role as the mastermind behind the hyper-realistic theme park in Westworld, and appeared the next year in Thor and Transformers sequels. His awards fortune began to return in 2019, when he was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in The Two Popes, and in 2021 his work in The Father earned Hopkins his second Best Actor Oscar.