What does Anthony Hopkins believe in?

Raymond de Asis Lo L. A. Correspondent - The Philippine Star

LOS ANGELES, CALIF. —“Who said I pray?” Sir Anthony Hopkins initially responded after a brief hesitation. We were halfway through our roundtable interview with the legendary actor during the junket of his current movie The Rite when this writer asked him this rather easy question as a setup to what would have been my actual question: “When you pray, to whom do you do it?”

The Oscar-winning actor met with the press recently to promote his latest movie based partly on the accounts of a young priest who was sent to study the little known Vatican course on the sacred rite of exorcism in Italy. The movie is not your typical horror flick with heads that turn 360 degrees and green vomit flooding the screen. It is a well-made supernatural thriller featuring terrific performances by Hopkins and Irish newcomer Colin O’Donoghue — who was outstanding in his part as the young novice who was skeptical about all of it — and a chilling finale that will have you silently cowering in fear.

In the movie, Hopkins portrays an old priest who is tasked to provide the young priest first-hand lessons on how the sacred rite is carried out. He believes in the devil as much as he believes in God.

In real-life, the veteran actor doesn’t believe in either.

Asked if he is a religious person, Hopkins replied: “Einstein and Darwin believed in some great intelligence in the back of everything and I believe that myself.”

“I don’t have a personal God but I used to be an agnostic, I guess,” he disclosed. “I don’t know. I am pretty open-minded about everything. I don’t have any certainty and strongly-defined knowledge about anything.”

He acknowledged that he had a feeling of “the most often used word Awe” (his exact words) when as a kid he was taken into the woods during springtime and he saw blueberries for the first time. He remembered being completely overwhelmed by all the colors and how he rushed to grab all the apples and blueberries he could touch. “I don’t know but there was something quite inspirational about all that,” he recalled.

“I wasn’t brought up in a religious household. My father was an atheist. My mother wasn’t but my father was and he told me it was all rubbish. I went along that and then gradually, slowly, I’ve come to believe that I know nothing. People say the debate is over; they are full of it!”

So what does he believe in?

“I don’t know what I believe. Somebody said be kind because everyone is fighting a great battle. We all have parts of our lives where we have access to cruelty and violence, horror, unkindness and misery and we have access in ourselves to create goodness and kindness.”

“As you get older, as I get older, be kind and don’t take yourself seriously,” he advised. He cited television anchors — “bright and intelligent people” — and how they seem to know everything. “God bless them, that’s fine, but I don’t know anything, ” he declared. “I know nothing. And that gives me an openness and an access to all kinds of possibilities.”

That openness and curiosity was what brought him to accept his role as an exorcist in the movie although he doesn’t believe in exorcism anyhow.

“I thought the script was very good,” he said. “I was glad that there were no special effects on this. It was based on reality. I was intrigued by it. All I am aware of is that it would be far from me to refute or ridicule, as it is fashionable today for people to ridicule religion. It would be arrogant for me to say they are lunatics and I would hate to live with that sort of certainty.”

Hopkins shared that he has rediscovered reading lately. He has read Darwin’s book on evolution and confessed that he still couldn’t understand Einstein’s theory of relativity. Throughout the interview he repeatedly quoted Darwin, Einstein and Carl Jung.

“All the time I am struck with my unbelief and some days I don’t know whether I believe in God, Santa Claus or Tinkerbell,” he revealed. “I don’t know what I believe. I just couldn’t believe in certainty and I don’t believe that there is a divine intelligence looking after my personal little problems.”

So when he prays, to whom does he do it?

This is the part where Hopkins initially brushed me off. But he finally responded and said, “When I get up in the morning, I make a few little private affirmations and things — whatever there is. I don’t get up and complain about stuff. I look around me and there are people who are in worst position than me, so who am I to question that all?

“There are people who (think they) know everything: The cynics of the world. They say the debate is over. What the hell is that? The arrogance! They know nothing!

“Be well-advised and like (the word) nothing,” he further added. “Say, I know nothing, and stop all the bickering and hatred — and that’s we are living with. Nobody’s got any humor anymore. Nobody’s got any sense of levity. The world is dark enough as it is without adding to it.”

Lest it be misunderstood, Hopkins was not trying to influence anybody on his belief. He was only trying to share his thoughts on faith and religion as it relates to the transformation and the crisis of faith his character goes through in the movie.

The actor is not interested in just Darwin’s or Jung’s theories. He does a lot of paintings and musical compositions in his spare time. His paintings have been exhibited in major galleries all over the world while his musical work has been featured in a festival in Italy in 2009.

Released by Warner Bros., The Rite opens today in theaters.









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