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Television

Anthony Hopkins delights in his ‘dark, mysterious’ character in ‘Westworld’

Sir Anthony Hopkins
Anthony Hopkins stars in HBO’s “Westworld,” inspired by the 1973 film of the same title written by Michael Crichton about a futuristic theme park populated by artificial beings.
(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Anthony Hopkins is the elder statesman of “Westworld,” both among the cast and within the show itself as Dr. Robert Ford, the mastermind behind the adult theme park concept and its “hosts.” The Oscar winner recently sat for a quick chat that included an impromptu voice appearance by a frightening character from his past — no, not that one, Clarice — among other delights. Edited excerpts below, but not too many because, as Hopkins noted: “I’ve been sworn if I give any secrets away I’ll be arrested by the HBO secret police. I’ll be locked up in some asylum.”

As the “creator” you may have the best role of anyone in the show.

I’m really intrigued by that, seriously. I had no idea what the part was about while I was playing it. (Laughs.) That’s not true, I had a vague notion, but I couldn’t really follow the line through because I didn’t have time to read the scripts thoroughly. So I’d read my own parts and talk to [executive producer] Jonah [Nolan] or the director or whoever was working on the [episode] and say “What happens now? What happens in the next episode?” And they’d say “Well, I can’t tell you that.” But I am pleased that you said that because I really enjoyed playing him. It’s the most interesting part I’ve had in a long time because he had to say so many grand themes about the bicameral mind and consciousness and all that. And it gets more interesting.

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The show is having a deeper conversation about ethics: If you program the “hosts” to feel — love, fear, pain — is what you’re doing actually OK?

You mentioned [Hopkins’ 1978 thriller] “Magic” earlier, which fits in some. Because when Corky, the guy I play, is finally destroyed, how does he die? He kills himself, doesn’t he?

Yes, Corky stabs himself in a ruse to fool Fats, his ventriloquist dummy —which he believes is separate from himself — that he has killed someone else.

And then Fats the dummy whispers to me (he adopts the creepy dummy voice) “It was you all along schmucko.” It was just a dummy, but it was his own insanity that destroyed him. But the dummy had to tell him. And that’s this guy, he’s created this Disney world and he doubts very much that what he’s done is that good, it’s a very dangerous world that he’s created.

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Your character seems benevolent, almost grandfatherly towards his creations initially, but it appears Ford takes a turn and it must have been fun to unspool him.

I saw the trailer for the first time this morning and I was really impressed by that. I’m very pleased and thought “Well, this really looks interesting.“ I guess the lines I spoke in that, I’ve forgotten, they make him a very strange, dark, mysterious figure.

Dolores, the host played by Evan Rachel Wood, asks if you are friends. And you say “No, I wouldn’t say friends, Dolores. I wouldn’t say that at all.”

Is that what I say? I heard someone laughing in the audience. It was kind of sinister.

Yes, it was very scary.

(Dropping his voice to a whisper and with a twinkly-eyed smile) I like scaring people.

ALSO:

Meet the inhabitants of HBO’s ‘Westworld’

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‘Westworld’ creators on love, violence and human nature

‘The Dresser’s’ Anthony Hopkins on how devoting your life to the theater can drive you mad

From the Archives: When Anton Yelchin met Anthony Hopkins: An Oscar winner becomes a mentor to a 12-year-old actor


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