Men's Journal

Life Advice from Anthony Hopkins

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What experience most changed your life?

Like a lot of actors, I was a dull student. I couldn’t concentrate. In those days, the schoolmasters used to slap us around, so I accumulated a lot of resentment for authority figures and thought, “Well, screw you,” and made my own course in life.

What’s the best survival skill you know?

I like food, but I got tired of being heavy, so I went on a really good regime of eating healthy and exercising for an hour a day and lost 80 pounds over 10 months. I’m not a nutty, macrobiotic kind of guy, but I enjoy being alive.

What should every man know about money?

It’s best not to get involved with the power and prestige of money. Treating people with contempt and rudeness is unspeakable. I see this in the movie industry all the time. The main thing to remember is that we all end up in the same dust cart at the end of the walk.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

I was living in London during the Cuban missile crisis. I called my father and told him I was worried about nuclear holocaust. He said, “It’s okay because it will be over in a flash in London and you won’t feel a thing. If you were still in Wales, you’d suffer from the fallout.” I got a big relief from that.

What book should every man read?

There is a book by Theodore Rubin called Compassion and Self-Hate. It’s not a self-help book, but it is, in a way. It’s a look inside the darkness of the human soul — how we get sucked into giving ourselves a bad time and how we can actually talk ourselves away from that.

What movie should every man see?

I’m not a movie aficionado, so I don’t know. I like good movies, but some people take it all very seriously. They get consumed and have lectures and talk about the arc of the part and the metaphor. I don’t know what they’re talking about. Somebody mentions Orson Welles, and I think, “Here we go again.” Just learn your lines, show up, and do it. I’m probably a very shallow actor.

When is it okay for a man to lie?

We all are liars. If you see someone who has an unfortunate predisposition to being fat, I think the thing is never to comment on it. A guy said to me once, “You’re packing on the pounds.” I said, “Your breath stinks. Do I ever tell you that?” When someone says, “Do you mind if I’m honest?” say yes.

Do you have a scar that tells a story?

I was in woodworking class in school, working with a saw, and sliced through almost half the tendon in my left hand. The scar will be with me for the rest of my years.

Who is the toughest guy you know?

Alec Baldwin is a really strong man with great integrity. Before we started filming The Edge together in the Rocky Mountains, I dislodged something in my neck. I was in a lot of pain but thought I was duty-bound to finish this film. Alec just stopped everything one day and said, “This is crazy; you’re going to the hospital.” They found out I had a herniated disc, they operated, and I was back at work within three days. I admired Alec for being tough. Maybe a lot of people don’t like that, but I do because he’s been very forthright, very honest, and faithful.

How should a man handle getting older?

Accept it. It’s funny how life and time change you. It’s like the molecules of your being get realigned. I don’t take offense as easily as I used to. Everything I do now is like a gravy train. I work when a good part comes along, and if it doesn’t, then I paint and write music.

What advice would you give the younger you?

Lighten the fuck up.

What’s the key to staying young?

I paint, and I play the piano a lot — complex exercises in Bach and Chopin. It doesn’t matter if I play them well or not. I practice and practice to keep supple the coordination in my arms, my hands, my fingers. I do memory tests. I memorize lists of 450 to 500 words in sequence and link them all together with mental images so they flow easily. Then I’ll write a story using those words, just to exercise my imagination and brain cells. It’s fun.