A little over twenty years ago, I was talking to Anthony Hopkins’ then wife about her hopes for a new film which would show her actor husband in a very different light. We’d seen him with Mel Gibson in The Bounty and in the endearing 84 Charing Cross Road, but with his Oscar-winning performance as Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs his career went into orbit.
Hopkins is more than an actor, being also an accomplished painter, and now he is flexing his muscles as a composer: his disc Anthony Hopkins — Composer will be released mid-January.
The Times’ Emma Pomfret talked to him; here is a selection from their conversation:
Actor, director, painter … now musician. How did you start composing?
I play the piano most days if I’m at home [in Los Angeles]. I’ve got a nice Bösendorfer. I play Chopin and some complicated Bach, not to impress anyone but to keep the co-ordination of my hands and my brain as I’m getting older. I’ve become very adept at improvising — that’s how I compose.
How do you flesh out the melodies for orchestra?
When I’m writing on the piano I hear the instruments. I go to the studio of my friend Stephen Barton [a soundtrack composer] once or twice a week and he has a keyboard with all the orchestral instruments. I sit down and put together tracks of how I want it to sound.
You like composers from Vaughan Williams to Charles Ives … what characterises your own music?
I always write in F sharp minor — a melancholy key. I love woodwind, French horn and cello.
Did you hear classical music or go to concerts as a child?
I remember going to Cardiff in 1955 to hear a great Hollywood pianist, José Iturbi, but there was nothing really in Wales.
So piano lessons were your big musical introduction?
Yes, I learnt the piano from 6. My father also bought me some encyclopaedias and in one there was a drawing of Beethoven sitting with his hands over his ears — he was losing his hearing. I was so impressed by him going deaf and still composing, that in my pathetic way I tried to write music.
Is the reward comparable with acting?
When I heard the orchestra I did think, my God, this is my music! It takes your breath away … Let’s say I’m pleasantly moved.
via The Times