Anthony Hopkins’ performance in The Father has scored him a host of plaudits and a string of awards, including the Oscar for Best Actor.
But according to the film’s director and co-writer, the idea of getting Hopkins to star in the film in the first place started off as a dream that he never expected to come true.
Speaking at a Q&A to promote the film, Florian Zeller explained that he had even named the main character Anthony because he was so determined for the veteran actor to take on the role.
“It was a dream at that stage, but it helps to have dreams,” he explained “Everything has to start with a dream, especially in films. And it’s true that when I started to write the script – it was in French at the beginning – I used the name of the character as Anthony because it was my dream.
He continued, “And I remember when I shared my idea and my dream with my friends they thought I was mad because I’m French, this is my first feature film and he is Sir Anthony Hopkins! But my thought was that until somebody comes and tells you it’s not possible, then potentially it is.
“So I made the decision to believe in the potentiality and believe in the desire and I sent the script to Anthony through his agent and I waited. And then his agent called me and let me know that Anthony wanted to meet with me, so I took a plane to Los Angeles to meet with him and it was a very intense, powerful and joyful moment and this is how everything started.”
Hopkins himself said he was instantly captivated when reading the script, explaining, “It was so powerful, such a powerful script and so simple, so direct, so concise, so compact.
“So Florian and Christopher flew over from Europe and we met and I can only describe the memory as being very ordinary, unceremonious. And I said, ‘yes I really want to do it,’ and I just knew it was one of those extraordinary parts.”
However despite being immediately won over, the actor had worried he wouldn’t be able to take on the role because he was already committed to another film, Fernando Meirelles’s The Two Popes (which was released on Netflix in 2019 and earned him a Best Actor Oscar nomination.)
“So I turned to Florian and Christopher [Hampston, co-writer] and I said ‘I’ve got this thing will you wait for me?’” he explained.
“And Florian said, ‘yeah, we’ll wait for you.’ And I thought, this is a business, they’re not going to wait, but they did!
“For a small independent film, the chances of anyone waiting are pretty slim, because it’s a business, so I was mightily relieved. And it was the best time of my life!”