Hopkins Says Nixon Was His Toughest Role

After more than 70 roles in television and film, Anthony Hopkins will be honored at the Golden Globes Monday with a Lifetime Achievement award. So we took the chance to talk to him about the politicians he's played -- everyone from John Quincy Adams to Adolph Hitler. Hopkins said Richard Nixon was the toughest.

Anthony Hopkins: When Oliver Stone phoned me up and said, "I want you to play Nixon," I thought he was kidding. I said, "I can't play Nixon. I'm not American." He said, "Well, I want you to do it, because I think you understand his paranoia and his insecurity." I said, "Well okay, but does that qualify me to play him?" He said, "I think so."


You don't have to take a moral judgment of him, because once you start judging the characters you're playing, you can't play it. And that is the mistake a lot of people make. They judge what they're playing. You can't judge. You cannot judge it.

I understood his diamond-like sharpness, his total intolerance of any lies or guff, and all that nonsense. He knew what the reality was in the world he was living in. He was an unsentimental man.

With Hitler, I watched a lot of him. Yeah, I had to become like his physicality, [to] seem as a real isolated, lone man, because that's what he was.

All those leaders, those charismatic leaders … when you look at them, they have one quality. They never look at anyone. If you look, watch Saddam Hussein, he never looks at anyone, but they're all around him. You watch Stalin, you watch Hitler, and they're fascinating in that they never look at anyone, because they're so isolated and so empty in themselves.

You make choices. How do you play them? You either play them crazy or do you play them just as human beings who have a twist in their personality -- a twist, a quirk, which can be an eccentricity or downright pathology."