Tag Archives: Anthony Hopkins

The Set of 400: #323 – My Favorite Wish to Just Lay Down

Today! Because people are frightened by what they don’t understand –

The Elephant Man (1980)

Directed by David Lynch

Starring John Hurt, Anthony Hopkins (x2), Anne Bancroft, John Gielgud (x2), Wendy Hiller (x2), Freddie Jones, Michael Elphick, Hannah Gordon, John Standing (x2), Helen Ryan, Kenny Baker (x2)

An absolutely riveting, heart-wrenching biopic of severely deformed 19th century Londoner Joseph Merrick, brought to life by the disparate talents of director David Lynch, actor John Hurt, and producer Mel Brooks. Lynch was hot off his very Lynchian glorified student film Eraserhead – as bonkers a movie as has ever been made – and Mel had recently wrapped his Hitchcock parody High Anxiety, so naturally these two Americans had to get together for a black-and-white period British freakshow drama. Really though, both have a strong streak of outsider characters populating their films and shows, and treating them sympathetically, so it may not be as far-fetched as I’m supposing.

Besides the tremendous performances – Hurt and Hopkins as Merrick’s doctor, primarily – and those gorgeous b&w visuals, the movie is a towering triumph of film make-up. Merrick’s deformities were so massive that it required near full-body coverage for Hurt – a process that allegedly took seven to eight hours a day. Burying your lead actor under massive prosthetics poses an obvious challenge – how does an effective performance emerge when you can barely see the actor – but Hurt is riveting throughout – even if completely unrecognizable. Another good actor example of physical immersion into roles, good and bad, is Gary Oldman – terrifically effective as the massively scarred Mason Verger in Hannibal, and (in my opinion) somewhat less so in his Oscar-winning pile of make-up work as Churchill in The Darkest Hour. Come on, is there one minute of that movie where you’re not just saying to yourself “Oh hey! Look at how much make-up Gary Oldman is wearing!” Maybe it’s just me.

These waxworks are so lifelike!

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The Set of 400: #350 – My Favorite Razor Licking

Today! Because I have crossed oceans of time to find you –

Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola

Starring Gary Oldman (x2), Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins, Keanu Reeves, Cary Elwes (x3), Richard E. Grant, Sadie Frost, Tom Waits, Monica Bellucci, Billy Campbell

As I think I’ve mentioned before, 1992 was basically the year I realized good movies existed. I enjoyed movies before then – and some turned out to remain decent afterward – but for whatever reason, I turn 13 and all of a sudden I’m looking for a different level of quality and artistic merit in my entertainments. All this after Batman Returns, though, so let’s keep my 1992 in perspective. I still didn’t really know what good was, I just now had a more serious pursuit of it. And one of the movies that had a definite impact on this quest was Coppola’s wildly over-directed Dracula.

Without much risk, I can definitively state that this was Coppola’s last even remotely good movie. Not that he’s been cranking them out – only five true features over the last 27 years – but it was as though this film took every last thing out of him. And it’s all on the screen – the frenetic editing, the sheets of blood, Anthony Hopkins going completely ape-shit, Keanu Reeves acting – it’s mayhem. Artistic mayhem, sure, but still so chaotic that just imagine if this was your whole exposure to the Dracula character. Like, no Bela Lugosi, no Christopher Lee, just this – how would this character have ever become popular? He’s this age-swapping, hyper-passionate monster who can’t pick a hairdo and go with it?

Seriously, what the hell was this about?

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