Anthony Hopkins Won an Oscar at Age 83 — For Playing a Dementia Patient

Recently, the 85-year-old Anthony Hopkins announced that he is 47 years sober. “I am a recovering alcoholic,” Hopkins said in a much-shared video on Instagram. “I was in a desperate situation and despair. And probably not long to live. And I just happened to acknowledge one day that there was something really wrong with me… [a] Mental, physical, emotional condition called alcoholism or addiction.”

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He went on to offer advice to those struggling: “Be kind to yourself. Be kind. Stay out of the circle of toxicity with people if they offend you. Live your life. Be proud of your life.”

The message went viral, with fans expressing support for Hopkins’ journey. A journey that has continued well into his old age. Back in 2021, Hopkins won his second-ever Academy Award for The Father. At that point, he was 83 years old making him the oldest Oscar winner ever.

A Dramatic Ceremony

“It’s a wonderful thing being old.”

— Anthony Hopkins

In 2021, the Academy Awards ended in a major upset: Anthony Hopkins won best actor for The Father, a movie that most Americans had not seen — or even heard of. Instead of announcing the award for best picture last, as is customary, that year’s Oscars flipped the schedule so that best acting categories occurred last.

Many fans expected this move to result in an ending tribute to Chadwick Boseman, the late actor who was favored to win posthumously for his role in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Instead, Sir Anthony Hopkins took home the coveted prize: his second Oscar throughout a career that includes six nominations.

Anthony Hopkins was first nominated for an Oscar n 1991 for The Silence of the Lambs. Playing Hannibal Lecter, Hopkins challenged what was possible for on-screen villains and affected the serial killer genre for years to come. Since then, he’s been nominated for five other Oscars for his roles in The Remains of the Day, Nixon, Amistad, The Two Popes, and, in 2021, for The Father.

In that year’s Best Actor category, Hopkins competed against four other nominees: Riz Ahmed for The Sound of Metal, Steven Yeun for Minari, Gary Oldman for Mank, and the late Chadwick Boseman for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. The reveal was highly anticipated due to the shocking news of Boseman’s death in August of 2020, and his enduring popularity. Plus, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom had been a favorite throughout this year’s awards circuit, with Boseman’s widow accepting a Golden Globe on his behalf in February.

However, following Frances McDormand’s own best actress win, it was Hopkins whose name was called. From there, the night ended abruptly since Hopkins had not come to Los Angeles for the pared-down, COVID-safe Oscars ceremony. He did not even appear via video chat, like most other remote nominees. Instead, the Academy accepted the award on his behalf with many viewers left wondering about what was supposedly Hopkins’ career-best performance.

‘The Father’

The Father was directed by Florian Zeller in his directorial debut, based on his French play Le Père. In it, Anthony Hopkins stars as an aging man, also named Anthony, who struggles with severe dementia. Olivia Colman co-stars as Anthony’s beleaguered daughter Anne and her performance was nominated too, for best-supporting actress. Mark Gatiss, Imogen Poots, Rufus Sewell, and Olivia Williams also appear in various characters who Anthony struggles to recognize as his condition worsens.

As you can see in the clip above, Hopkins embodied his character’s illness with a gut-wrenching degree of empathy. Like the mood of a real Alzheimer’s patient, Hopkins’ performance swings wildly from suspicious anger to lost confusion with broad strokes that feel nearly Shakespearean. The New York Times critic Jeannette Catsoulis said of the production: “At once stupendously effective and profoundly upsetting, The Father might be the first movie about dementia to give me actual chills.”

Anthony Hopkin’s Remote Acceptance Speech

Speaking from his home in Wales through a video released online today, Hopkins thanked the Academy and paid extra tribute to Boseman who was “taken from us far too early.”

In winning the historic Oscar at the age of 83, Hopkins took the record from the great Christopher Plummer, another talent who was lost that year. Plummer was 82 years old when he won in 2012 for The Beginners. Plummer remains, however, the oldest nominee for 2018’s All the Money in the World. But who knows? Once Hopkins turns 89, we could be in store for another surprising upset.

WATCH: Anthony Hopkins Was Only in ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ For 16 Minutes

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article was published on April 26, 2021.

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