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Last Updated: Monday, 16 January 2006, 18:54 GMT
Hopkins' love repaid by Hollywood
Sir Anthony Hopkins poses with his wife, Stella Arroyave, and his Golden Globe
Sir Anthony Hopkins with wife Stella Arroyave at the ceremony in LA
As Sir Anthony Hopkins is honoured at the Golden Globes with a lifetime achievement award, the BBC Wales news website examines the character of one of the world's most feted actors.

One of the first films the young Anthony Hopkins saw, says biographer Michael Feeney Callan, was the 1943 Humphrey Bogart war movie Sahara.

The vast expanses of hot desert sand represented freedom to the boy from south Wales.

It was the start of Hopkins' lifelong love affair with Hollywood, and his desire to escape his small town bonds.

Hollywood's latest tribute, the Cecil B DeMille award for lifetime achievement, is another example of how he was later to combine that love and desire.

"He was looking for a canvas of freedom and he found that in acting," said Callan, who spent three years writing his biography Anthony Hopkins: A Three-Act Life.

Yet despite Hopkins' achievements - an Oscar on one side of the Atlantic and a knighthood on the other - Callan says Hopkins has retained one quality close to his heart: his Welshness.

He seems to do everything, westerns, comedies, everything - there is an extraordinary diversity of roles he has played
Michael Feeney Callan

This despite the criticism Hopkins attracted in his homeland when he gained American citizenship in 2000.

"I think Hopkins is so deeply rooted and soaked in his Welshness that wherever he goes, he will take it with him," he said.

"It's his manner, his demeanour, which is essentially poetic."

As a teenager, Hopkins met that other great south Wales-born actor and Hollywood star, Richard Burton, who encouraged him into acting.

Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs
Playing the evil Dr Hannibal Lecter won Hopkins his Oscar

Hopkins grew up in Port Talbot, a coastal town dominated by a huge steel plant. It is close to where Burton lived and he would have had many of the same influences, although, as Hopkins' family owned a bakery and delicatessen, his upbringing was comfortably middle-class.

But he did not seem to fit in, was not particularly academic, and could not settle in the humdrum life of the family business.

Acting was his way out and, once he realised this, his progress was relentless.

'Hollywood prince'

From the drama group of his local YMCA, he went to study in Cardiff, then work in regional theatre companies in Manchester and Liverpool, before landing a place at Rada (The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art) in London.

In 1968 he made his name with his film debut in A Lion in Winter, starring opposite Peter O'Toole, and soon he became an international star.

But it took him a while to find himself in the craft and not as just the latest version of Burton, says Callan

Richard Burton
Hopkins was encouraged into acting by the late Richard Burton
"He did model himself on Richard Burton, he is very open about that. He was in awe of Richard Burton.

"Burton was the evidence of the potential of a Welsh boy becoming a Hollywood prince."

But acting like someone else, even Richard Burton, was a "dead end" for him, says Callan.

"He would have just become a second-rate Burton - he was a deeper man than that."

For most people, the depths of his talent were revealed with his performance as Hannibal Lecter in 1991's Silence of the Lambs. It is the role that won him his Oscar and secured his name.

View of Port Talbot
Hopkins' hometown is one of south Wales' industrial heartlands
But with more than 100 screen appearances, he is one of the few who have transcended the role of "actor" to become an "artist," according to Callan.

"He seems to do everything, westerns, comedies, everything - there is an extraordinary diversity of roles he has played.

"He realises that his shop window is in his movies. He is one of half a dozen leading figures in the cinema in the past 50 years."

Hopkins now lives in Los Angeles but maintains his links with Wales.

In 1998, he donated 1m to the National Trust campaign to buy an 4,000-acre estate on the southern flank of Snowdon, Wales' highest peak and an iconic landmark.

Snowdon is a long way from the Sahara, but it is one of the places Wales can offer to anyone looking for the liberation of open spaces.

Hollywood star for Hopkins
20 Jun 03 |  South West Wales
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03 Mar 03 |  Entertainment


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