It seems odd to call Anthony Hopkins’ Best Actor victory at Sunday’s Oscars a surprise, but his triumph might have been the night’s biggest upset. A Best Actor trophy for Chadwick Boseman’s electric performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom seemed a foregone conclusion after Boseman, who died tragically last year at 43, won at the Critics Choice Awards, SAG and the Golden Globe Awards.
But Deadline’s own Pete Hammond hinted at a potential a late surge for Hopkins, and that seems to be what happened.
The legendary Welsh actor was a no-show for the ceremony, as he was last year when nominated for Best Supporting Actor for The Two Popes. He did not attend the BAFTAs this year either, where he also won Best Actor.
In 2012, Hopkins, whose film Hitchcock was getting Oscar buzz, told the Huffington Post he was not interested in the awards circuit. “Having to be nice to people and to be charming and flirting with them…oh, come on! People go out of their way to flatter the nominating body and I think it’s kind of disgusting. That’s always been against my nature,” said Hopkins. “People groveling around and kissing the backsides of famous producers and all that. It makes me want to throw up, it really does.”
Hopkins has said he prefers the work speak for itself and this year that’s exactly what happened.
The only adaptation from stage to screen among this year’s eight Best Picture nominees, The Father translates a chamber drama about a man’s slow descent into dementia into a powerful cinematic experience. Deadline called Hopkins’ turn a “devastating performance.”
At 83, Hopkins is the oldest actor ever to win an Oscar — male or female — beating out Christopher Plummer who was just 82 when he won in 2012 for Beginners. Plummer received a nomination at the age of 88 for All the Money in the World, making him the oldest person to ever be nominated in any acting category.
It is Hopkins’ second Best Actor victory. He famously won in 1992 for his role as Hannibal Lecter in Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs. In all, he has been nominated six times, for Silence, The Father, The Remains of the Day, Nixon, The Two Popes and Amistad.
While shocking, the actual moment of Hopkins’ win was a bit anticlimactic. Last year’s Best Actor winner, Joaquin Phoenix, ambled onstage and told the audience he was not going to speak about what he was supposed to speak about — the transformative moment when an actor discovers his character — because, he said, “I don’t think I’ve ever had that experience.”
The Joker star three times said he was presenting the award “for Actor,” pointedly leaving out the officially appended “Best” from the category’s name.
Phoenix, it seems, has long shared Hopkins’ disdain for the awards season, telling Interview magazine — also in 2012 — that he considered it “utter bullsh*t.” Yet here he was, an Oscar winner presenting the night’s final and supposedly climactic Oscar.
After going off script, Phoenix added, “The only thing I can say with sincerity is that when I watch all five of these performances I feel inspired and it’s a shame that we have to choose just one.”
It was a fitting prelude. Once the result was revealed, Phoenix offered the standard, “The Academy congratulates Anthony Hopkins and accepts the Oscar on his behalf,” and the show quickly wrapped.