How fortunate are we, the movie loving public, and Academy members to have in 2021, five male performances as rich and inventive as those beautifully created by Riz Ahmed, Gary Oldman, Steven Yuen and the late great Chadwick Boseman. The awards’ race this season despite the pandemic chaos, has offered up a myriad of wonderful storytellers across the various mediums where films have been readily available for consumption. Delroy Lindo gave a visceral tour de force in the Spike Lee joint ‘Da 5 Bloods’, Tom Hanks displayed all his skill and humanity in the powerful ‘News Of The World’, Kinglsey Ben-Adir broke through big time with his stunning inhabitation of Malcolm X in Regina King’s cogent ‘One Night In Miami’. Steven Yuen did some emotional heavy lifting in the big hearted ‘Minari’, Gary Oldman gave further vindication to his reputation as one of cinema’s finest character actors in David Fincher’s mighty ‘Mank’, and Riz Ahmed was a revelation in the surprise critical hit ‘Sound of Metal’ – a transformative performance that was breathtaking.
Added to these luminous players, how can I wax lyrical further about Chadwick Boseman in terms that haven’t already been expressed? I was so moved by his full-bodied, whole-hearted, and spirited final burst in ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’, an actor who tragically, whilst just at the peak of his powers, had to confront cancer. It’s unimaginable that the light of his gifts have been extinguished, the void left for his friends and family is irreparable, and years of his abundant brilliance will be lost to the craft of acting and storytelling. His searing portrayal of ‘Levee’ was one for the ages and will always remain a performance to embrace whenever we need reminding of the courage and determination required to move through the world and battle its endless obstacles. Mr Boseman and ‘Levee’ both personified that courage and determination.
But here, I am singing the praises of perhaps the one male ‘thesp’ who can rise above every other thespian in 2021: ‘The Father’ to end all fathers – Academy Award nominee: Sir Anthony Hopkins. The Welsh born performer has been an acting juggernaut for 7 decades! He first entered my radius 40 years ago in 1981 when I was devastated by David Lynch’s ‘The Elephant Man’. At the age of 16, and with a school mate in tow, I had this extraordinary cinematic experience and was forever changed by it, and it remains one of my five all-time favourites. Sure, the brilliance of John Hurt was front and centre, but as BAFTA recognised at the time, the co-lead performance of Anthony Hopkins was just as germane to the success of the movie. I was utterly moved by his portrayal of kindness; of goodness and the conflicted emotions that the script offered Hopkins’ ‘Dr Frederick Treves’ as he battled his conscience and ambition as well as his humanity when he presented the abused and misunderstood John Merrick to the medical fraternity and society in ‘The Elephant Man’. The role was so exquisitely played; it began for me, a five decade exploration of this sublime actor’s resume.
The versatility of Sir Anthony Hopkins has clearly shown no bounds. Immediately following ‘ The Elephant Man’ there was a romantic comedy with Shirley Maclaine: ‘Change of Seasons’, his strident turn as Captain Bligh along side Mel Gibson in 1984’s ‘The Bounty’, and one of my all time favourite performances by him: in the romantic dramedy ’84 Charing Cross Road’ opposite Anne Bancroft. A beautifully understated but hugely endearing turn as the lonely bookseller who is befriended by a brash American writer across the Atlantic, and a sweet romance through letters ensues.
The 1990’s were huge for Hopkins; with his Academy Award winning turn as the sinister Hannibal Lector in ‘Silence of The Lambs’ becoming one of the most iconic and referenced performances in cinematic history; incredibly he was on screen for only 16 minutes! Only an actor of his brilliance could turn a serial killer into a movie legend. After that Oscar victory, the world was at the feet of Anthony Hopkins, when at the ‘tender’ age of 52, he then travelled to Australia to appear in ‘Spotswood’ in 1992; then to America for Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’, and back to Britain for famed filmmakers Merchant/Ivory for the E.M Forster classic ‘Howard’s End’ and Kazuo Ishiguro’s ‘Remains of the Day’; the latter winning him another Oscar nomination. More acclaim ensued for his BAFTA nominated turn as C.S Lewis in ‘Shadowlands’ and back on American soil, Hopkins would appear in Ed Zwick’s ‘Legends Of The Fall’, before earning another two Academy Award nominations playing American presidents: John Quincy Adams in ‘Armistad’ and the infamous ‘Nixon’. There’s also his depiction of Picasso in ‘Surviving Picasso’, his directorial debut in an adaptation of Chekov’s ‘Uncle Vanya’ – ‘August’, and later his title role in ‘Hitchcock’ playing the legendary filmmaker. Sir Anthony Hopkins can, and has done it all: box office behemoths like ‘Mission Impossible 2’, ‘Thor’, and ‘The Mask of Zorro’, as well as low-budget gems like the Kiwi classic ‘The World’s Fastest Indian’. The man has an awe-inspiring 7 dozen big screen credits.
At the age of 80 he appeared in Fernando Merelles’ ‘The Two Popes’ earning his 5th Oscar nod, and now at the age of 82 he is nominated again for ‘The Father’ and the 4th time for Best Leading Actor. He is the father of all acting fathers. So often cast as a real life figure, or a larger than life character, it is refreshingly testament to the gargantuan skill of Sir Anthony that in ‘The Father’ he plays an ordinary man, who is confronted by a debilitating condition that is sadly an all too common affliction facing our elder population. But there is absolutely nothing ordinary about this performance.
I was again completely devastated 40 years after first experiencing Anthony Hopkins, when I went to a cinema to see ‘The Father’. He gives the most splendiferous masterclass in acting; using every faculty he has: that mellifluous voice; the physicality of his frame, and that remarkably expressive face and those deeply set, probing eyes. Hopkins submits his entire being to depicting the ravages of the diabolical condition: one moment strident, the next childlike and playful to instantly willful and belligerent before then finding himself completely bewildered and unable to rely on his cognitive processes. ‘The Father’ showcases an actor not only at the top of his game and gifting the world an unforgettable tour de force, but also one who tops a magnificent career with great majesty and artistry. In a year that thankfully has been filled with bravura performances, it is my fervent hope that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences will give Anthony Hopkins, and this astonishingly heartbreaking display of skill and courage, its Best Leading Actor prize for 2021.
ACADEMY AWARDS For Your Consideration SIR ANTHONY HOPKINS