In the upcoming remake/reboot movie The Wolfman, Anthony Hopkins takes over the role played in the 1941 original by the legendary Claude Rains, but he tells us that he ignored what came before.
The Oscar winner also ignored the remake's script, credited to Andrew Kevin Walker and David Self. Sort of.
"No criticism of the writing, but the writing was an American idea of what an English aristocrat would be," Hopkins said by telephone during an exclusive interview late last month. "Do you know what I mean? I was not familiar with the original film anyway. Somebody said, 'Go watch the original,' and I said, 'I don't want to, really. I'd just rather look at the script.' I had seen the original, but I'd never gone out of my way to study it. I know that Claude Rains played the part. So I read it and re-read, and it occurred to me that the manners were a bit strange. He was written in a way that I couldn't play. He was kind of bombastic, and I said, 'I can't do that.' I didn't want to do that."
Hopkins plays Sir John Talbot, the father to Benicio Del Toro's lunar-challenged Lawrence Talbot.
At the time Hopkins joined the cast, Mark Romanek was the director guiding The Wolfman toward production. He exited the project, and Joe Johnston (The Rocketeer) stepped behind the camera of the Feb. 12 release, which also stars Emily Blunt and Hugo Weaving. Hopkins subsequently took his argument to Johnston, who heard out the star.
"I talked to Joe, and I said, 'I want to play it in this way,' and he said, 'Good,'" Hopkins recalled. "I told him I wanted to play a much quieter man, very understated, very still and very remote. That's it, and that's how I played it."
But that wasn't the end of it. The ideas kept flowing and forming in Hopkins' mind: He pictured the elder Talbot to be a "great, strange eccentric," an isolated figure whom he considers the equivalent of Miss Havisham in Charles Dickens' Great Expectations.
"He lives in this house that's covered in dust and spider webs and great heads of hunting trophies and age and decay and filth everywhere," Hopkins said. "Leaves are blowing into the broken windows. That's what I said to Joe, and he very generously accommodated me. He had some say on the set, and I guess he came to an agreement with the set designer, and they seemed to like the idea of this great, empty hall with this long, big mastiff dog walking around and this strange, isolated man."
You can judge the results for yourself when The Wolfman opens Feb. 12.