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An interview with Anthony Hopkins

On getting involved with the project

Well I worked with Roger Donaldson back 20 years ago on The Bounty, 1983, in Tahiti and New Zealand. Then years passed by and I hadn't seen Roger for along time and then we were going to do a movie called Papa, about Ernest Hemingway and that didn't work out. And Roger was kind of disappointed and so was I; but that's the way life is sometimes in movies.

And then he phoned - a strange coincidence - a few months ago, I just thought I would give him a call and see how he is, I wanted to know how he was after the disappointment of Hemingway, and he asked " Tony did you get my message?" I said "no", he said "I just left you a message", "What?" He said "I've got a script", he said "You're not phoning me to answer my message". I said "No", I said, "I haven't even picked up my messages this morning". He said "Oh, well this is propitious or fortuitous", and he said "I've got the script here called The World's Fastest Indian and he said "a beautiful story -I don't know if you would be interested in playing a racing driver, a racing bloke.

So I got the script that afternoon and I thought it was just terrific. It is a unique script, I don't know what it is about it; it is just well written, very very well written, beautifully written, and so refreshing. It's not the bang bang, of big Hollywood movies. It's got much more variety and for me it's a big change because it's a real winner of a guy. I've had a good career playing psychopaths or uptight people, and I'm fed up with those, I don't want to play any more of them. This is my life now, I'm a very happy guy and Burt Munro's philosophy and character suits my temperament.

Comments on 'The Bounty' (1983), and Roger as director

Roger and I had our moments of animosity. Roger had his methods of dealing with people. He's an Australian, and he had that, as we say in England, a kind of an antipodean chip on his shoulder. He was different, and I was younger and arrogant and all the rest of it. I was very impatient with people and especially directors, and if they wanted too many takes I would question & and he used to do a lot of takes,
he's a perfectionist.

Now 20 years have passed and I'm not only tolerant but I am respectful of what he does, and what directors do. He does it for a reason. I know that he knows that he wants a good movie and I don't care if he does 50 takes. I hope he doesn't have to do 50 takes because it's a lot of time, but I respect him as a director and I like him as a guy, I think he's a terrific fellow. You know the first few days I was wondering if he thought I would go berserk any moment. But those days are over you know& I was temperamental, I would get impatient with things. Now I think oh it's only a movie&  But I don't mean that in a cynical way. It is finally [that] nothing is that important to get upset about and I just roll with the punches and roll with the conditions now.

And he's a great director to work with, one of the best I have worked with. I've worked with Spielberg and Oliver Stone and he's there with that lot you know. He really is, in his films like No Way Out and Thirteen Days and, a wonderful director.

On Burt Munro

Well I'm no speed freak myself but Burt Munro, in the documentary that Roger filmed, Burt loved speed. He was, I don't know if he was obsessed with it, but he loved the thrill of speed, he said that you can live more in 5 minutes on a motorbike going high speed than you can in your whole lifetime. That was the challenge. I suppose there are obviously people who flirt with mortality. I mean, you're taking a huge challenge, a courageous challenge to risk your life... Donald Campbell was the same, to break the world speed water record. And he was killed in the process, breaking the actual record, and he said he was scared every time he got into Bluebird.

But that was it - to overcome fear is the greatest virtuous courage and I think Burt is one of those characters, one of those guys. That's his whole philosophy of life, to live life to the full, because "When you're dead you're a long time dead" he says, and "Once you're dead you never come back". I'm not a speed thrill freak though - I'm a careful driver, so I don't like speed. I used to when I was younger but now, I like to live.

On establishing the character, Burt Munro

Well, I'm kind of mellowing into the part; getting the New Zealand accent... And this is where Roger Donaldson is so easy. "Listen, it doesn't matter, down in New Zealand they will probably criticize you for your accent" he said "but worldwide you'll probably get away with it." He said "It doesn't matter anyway, do it your way make him yours, you're Burt Munro". But he checks me. He says "Flatten the vowels sounds out a bit and watch the R sounds". And when I hear Burt Munro he sounds almost Cornish to me, or almost Irish, Devonshire or Cornish. He's got those very beautiful round R sounds and it really sounds like Cornish to me.

On the script

It is such a good script, Roger wrote it and I'll add little things here and there; it's not written in stone. But it is such a good script you don't need to change the structure of it, and I don't want to replace lines. But I sometimes make a line sound more natural because I may have difficulty with the consonant sound which is too New Zealand for me and I'll say well can I...? For example, I've got one coming which is "No harm in asking". Well I don't know if I can handle that, so I'll say "Well I thought I would ask". I don't know, maybe I will just put it that way and say "I thought I'd ask", which is easier. Little things like that, anything to make it simpler.

On working with Roger

If you have a director who has an equanimity in his temperament, that's good. If you get someone shouting and screaming - and that can come from an actor as well and I've done that in my past and I admit it; that doesn't help anyone - if you can express irritability take it aside instead of being public about it... Some directors are vociferous and noisy and scream and shout and you can't work like that.

With this crew, which is the best crew I have worked with in many years, why create trouble? Just get on with your job, learn your lines, as the guy's preparing his lighting and the sound guys are doing their stuff, and the props and wardrobe people, everyone's doing a job and that's what it is... That's what it is, it's a job and I've taken some years to learn how to settle into this kind of respect for people for what they're doing.  And maybe Burt's spirit is around us, because he seemed to be such a decent fun man and I liked his wonderful sense of humour, when he only loved the ladies and says, "Well I think a nice couple of ladies around can help a party go".  You know, I love that bloke Burt, he was, he's a great, great personality, probably a very generous man as well.