Sir Anthony Hopkins is considered to be one of the greatest living actors. His role as the cannibalistic serial killer Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs won him a Best Actor Academy Award – surprisingly his only Oscar, given the diversity and acclaim of his career. In fact, it’s one of the shortest lead roles to win the coveted gong. He only appears for little over 16 minutes (14% of the film’s running time). The American Film Institute have listed his character as film’s number one villain.
However, it’s a role Sir Anthony shuns. When I met him while filming The World’s Fastest Indian, the biopic of speed bike racer Burt Munro, in my hometown of Invercargill in New Zealand, he said he wanted to move on and had refused to sign Lecter images. Some years earlier I sent him a portrait based on the character and he signed it. In his trailer he had piles of fanmail wanting ‘graphs on Silence of the Lambs material, which he was ignoring. So I drew an Indian sketch, which he loved and wanted the original. He signed some copies for me. One with ‘Tony’ which is the name he’s known by in the industry, except by one Steven Spielberg, who was so in awe of him that he refused to call him ‘Tony’ and always referred to him on the set of Amistad as “Sir Anthony”.