In a wide-open year for Best Actor nominations, the buzz has been consistent around one performance in particular: Anthony Hopkins’ turn in Sony Pictures Classics’ The Father as an elderly man whose confused descent into dementia has heart-rending consequences for himself and his daughter. Co-starring Olivia Colman, Olivia Williams, Imogen Poots and Rufus Sewell, the film is an adaptation of Florian Zeller’s hit 2012 play, which the writer directed for the screen from a script by Christopher Hampton.
Zeller says during the movie’s panel at Deadline’s Contenders Film awards-season event that the inspiration came from a very personal experience. “I had been raised by my grandmother,” he says, “so she was like my mother. She started to suffer from dementia when I was 15, so I knew a bit what it was to go through this painful process.”
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From that starting point, he decided to write something more universal. “Everyone has a father,” he says, “and everyone has—or will have—to deal with this kind of dilemma now, which is, what do you do with the people you love when they are starting to lose their own bearings?”
Modestly, Hopkins credits others for his powerful portrayal of an angry and frightened man. “It was quite easy, really, because Florian’s play is remarkable, and Christopher Hampton’s script pulls it together like a map, so you just follow the course of the road. And then working with Olivia Colman and Olivia Williams—everyone—makes it really easy,” he says.
Hopkins also noted that he’s around the same age as the character. “I am 83 now, so I’m at that dangerous age,” he says. “It felt very second-nature to me. I don’t know why—maybe because I’ve been [in this business] a long time. It was such a wonderful part to play, but it was so easy because I guess I’m closer to it now.”
Check out the panel video above.
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