Saturday, Nov 18, 2017 | Last Update : 12:40 AM IST
Legendary actor Anthony Hopkins, who plays the intriguing Dr Ford in Westworld, talks to us about his latest eccentric character.
Anthony Hopkins plays the role of the enigmatic Doctor Robert Ford, one of the original creators of Westworld in Jonathan Nolan’s show, which has received a staggering 22 Emmy Nominations this year! As Dr Ford, he has both a fascination with the creatures he has brought to life and a casual disregard for them, reminding his top engineer Bernard (played by Jeffrey Wright) to stop questioning the morality of what they do.
Considered to be one of the greatest living actors, Anthony Hopkins is well-known for his portrayal of Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor, its sequel Hannibal, and the prequel Red Dragon. Other notable films include Thor, The Mask of Zorro, The Bounty, Meet Joe Black, The Elephant Man, etc.
What can you tell us about your character, Dr Ford?
Anthony H: I get to play these very strange characters who are always in control. This is completely against my nature. I just go with the flow of it all now, and I love being out here. I can’t take anything too seriously.
With Dr Ford it is on a massive scale — he controls everything and he wants to perfect everything. Which means he’s mad. All I do is talk a lot; a lot of very highfalutin stuff about the bicameral mind.
What do you think it is about you, that you are cast in these very controlled roles?
Anthony H: I have no idea. Maybe it’s coldness. I think, maybe, it’s the blank stare. But I don’t relish that — I’ve never been interested in control. I think most of our pain comes from trying to control everything. Or dominate — dominate other people and dominate ourselves, terrorising ourselves. I started giving that up some time ago. I just said, oh, I don’t know.
The best piece of wisdom I can come up with is: I know nothing. I don’t know.
I can have opinions, but I really don’t know.
What aspects of getting into Ford’s character did you enjoy the most?
Anthony H: I had a good time with it, I was very relaxed during it. I had to learn a lot of dialogue, a lot of text, but I enjoy that. It keeps my brain cells active. I don’t want to overdo it, but I love learning long text — I just love it.
What do you think your wealth of experience brought to the production?
Anthony H: I have a good imagination, and as I’m working on a part, I see how things could work, geographically. If I say, can I try this, a really good director will say, okay, let’s have a look at it. But if they don’t have a clue about what they’re doing, and you show up on set and it’s all chaos, then you have to take a bit of chance, and say, well, I’d like to do it this way — without offending anyone.
I remember doing a scene on Westworld, with a very good director, Michelle MacLaren. I’d seen it in my own cinematic vision in my head, and I said, I’d like to do it this way.
Then Jonah came on the set, and said, oh my god, I didn’t think the scene was going to work like that. But you’ve got to try it, experiment with it. The more you try to control yourself, you get frightened, and you’re afraid to move. You have to throw off ideas of what people think.
Are you a fan of sci-fi and dystopian stories in general?
Anthony H: I find any idea of a utopia or dystopia pretty alarming. I mean, in the 20th century, many great ideas of utopias all caused so much bloodshed and horror.
I’m fascinated by the history of the 20th century, the Bolshevik revolution, Nazism and fascism rising in Italy. And the post war years too: the Kennedys in power in this country, Cuba. I remember clearly at the end of the last war, when Russians were our allies, and then there was a reveal of what a monster of tyranny that was, and then changing loyalties, changing ideologies.
My father was an extremely left wing Marxist, and so was his father, and I was raised in that atmosphere. Gradually, the years have passed, and now I just think, oh well.
I hear so many opinions from people, but I know the only certainty is death. Some people believe that being a celebrity or being famous or being very successful is going to ward off mortality, but it doesn’t do a thing at all. We can try to control everything, but there’s no control.
How do you feel about the rapid advancement of technology; are ‘thinking robots’ part of our inevitable future?
Anthony H: This is Jonathan Nolan’s baby; he’s fascinated by the advent and development of human intelligence and artificial intelligence. I was talking to a guy the other day from Boston. I was up in Ojai. I went there for a holiday, and there was a guy there, in the hotel, he was having breakfast and lunch. We got chatting, and he’s from MIT. He was saying, there’s no such thing — you can never really create artificial intelligence. You cannot create life, you cannot create a thinking being…but then he said: ‘But I could be wrong.’
(Westworld airs in India every Monday-Friday, 10 PM on Star World and Star World HD)