'20/20': Walters Interviews Anthony Hopkins

Feb. 2, 2001 -- A few weeks ago on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, Anthony Hopkins left his hand- and footprints in cement.

Like his many movies, his imprints memorialize the 63-year-old actor who finally realized his childhood dream of being rich and famous.

It was also a celebration of sorts, marking the return of the character that won him an Academy Award and made him a superstar. Hannibal Lecter returns to screens next week in the sequel to The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal.

Hopkins sits down with Barbara Walters on 20/20 and reveals some interesting similarities between him and his infamous character.

On Being Hannibal

WALTERS: You have said that you really understood Hannibal, and that he was not a difficult part for you to play. Why?

HOPKINS: I've no idea. I read the first script many years ago and I knew that it was one of those parts, that I could slip into like a glove. I think he is a little like me in a way. He's a person in solitude and isolation. I am a bit of a solitude person — a solitary personality. I like being on my own. I don't have any major friendships or relationships with people.

WALTERS: You never blink.


WALTERS: As Hannibal.

HOPKINS: It's a trick I learned because, if you don't blink, you know you can keep the audience mesmerized. It's not so much not blinking, it's just being still. Stillness has an economy and it has a power about it. And I have learned that by watching other great American actors.

On Becoming an American

HOPKINS: I have always been American, in my heart …

WALTERS: That's so interesting. I mean, you grow up in Wales. You spend your life in Great Britain. And you feel like an American.

HOPKINS: Well, I'll tell you. As I won't go into a long story, but a bit. During the end of the last war — gosh, it's a long time ago — there was an American soldier who came and visited us. And he used to send us food parcels after the war, and magazines — Look magazine, and Life magazine — and I used to pour over these things, and I became, I guess imprinted with Americana. And I had a secret yen, to come to America. I remember coming to New York, in 1974 to do a play here called Equis. And I remember the first morning getting up and walking around the streets and I thought, "I'm home." I felt really at peace here.

On His Marriage

WALTERS: You are a very private man. But I know your wife Jenny. And she is a lovely woman, and you are separated. She lives in England, and you live here. But you are not divorced. What is the relationship — as much as you feel you want to say?

HOPKINS: Well, as much as I want to say, we are good friends. And she is a lovely woman. And, I don't want to go too deeply into this, I liked living here very much. I wanted to live here. I was always restless. And gradually we just drifted apart. But I live a separate life now.

WALTERS: Anyone in your life now, that are you about to stay with?

HOPKINS: No, God I'm 63 now so I've come to accept I am what I am. I like my own company. I like to be left alone.

Playing the Game

WALTERS: And you have not had a drink, in 25 years. And you were a big drinker.

HOPKINS: I believe that I was given a second chance at life. I drank myself into a stupor. I mean looking back on it I probably had many, many years to go before I finally died of it.

The craving to drink, left me 25 years ago and it has never come back, which is the greatest freedom I could even begin to describe to somebody who is not an alcoholic. You have no idea what it's like to be free of it.

WALTERS: Are you happy?

HOPKINS:I am very happy … happier than I think I have been in a many, many years. But to me, it's all a game. It's all one wonderful game which I don't even understand the rules of. The only rule is to show up on time and be there. Enjoy it. Be polite. Be gracious. And just have a ball with it … You're not here for long. It's taken me a long time to learn that. Just to enjoy it all. It's a weird game. My life is none of my business anymore. I can't figure any of this out.