Marvel Cinematic Universe profile: A look at Anthony Hopkins’ career

CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 20: Sir Anthony Hopkins attends the US premiere of "Transformers: The Last Knight" at the Civic Opera House on June 20, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Timothy Hiatt/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures)
CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 20: Sir Anthony Hopkins attends the US premiere of "Transformers: The Last Knight" at the Civic Opera House on June 20, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Timothy Hiatt/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures) /

Sir Anthony Hopkins is known as acting royalty around the world, so it is only fitting for Marvel to cast him as the King of Asgard, Odin the Allfather, the most regal of MCU characters across the Nine Realms.

Chris Hemsworth was not a household name when he first starred in Thor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Marvel needed to fill the cast list with other big name actors; the role of Thor’s love interest would go to Oscar-winner Natalie Portman, while Sir Anthony Hopkins would portray the God of Thunder’s father. With Kenneth Branagh directing, the first Thor gathered a Shakespearean group of artists that was previously uncommon for superhero movies.

Hopkins is immediately authoritative and commanding as Odin (Thor might call him a stubborn old fool), mightily showcased in the scene where he decisively banishes his heir from the kingdom. He does spend most of the first film in Odinsleep, yet Hopkins’ residency in the trilogy as a whole improves the worthiness of the franchise. Hopkin’s Odin is as an important figure for Hemsworth’s Thor to aspire toward.

In Thor: The Dark World, Odin tries to prepare his son for an ancient threat, then his tough exterior begins to crack when his wife is killed. His mood is furthermore appropriately softened in Thor: Ragnarok as he accepts his time has come to an end. Odin’s aura continues to hang over Thor throughout Ragnarok and into the Avengers’ third and fourth sequels.

Anthony Hopkins, with his decades of substantial film roles, brings a certain amount of prestige to the Thor films, however, the knighted actor’s decision to join a superhero franchise did not come out of left field. Hopkins actually has a tendency to work on genre fare in recent years: He played Hrothgar (another king) in Beowulf, a werewolf in The Wolfman, an elderly action villain in Red 2, and the founder of Westworld in the sci-fi western HBO series. Even if Thor is not especially a departure for Hopkins, his Marvel trilogy is conspicuously elite compared to his other sci-fi/action work (he also had a role in a fifth Transformers debacle).

A look back at Anthony Hopkins’ career

Only a select few Marvel Cinematic Universe actors began their career in the 1960s, and one of Anthony Hopkins’ earliest successes came in 1968 as Richard the Lionheart in The Lion in Winter, arguably the greatest sequel of the ’60s. He is one of Henry II’s sons vying for a seat on the throne and Hopkins does more than hold his own in the presence of legends Peter O’Toole and Katharine Hepburn. Before the decade is done, he turns heads as the despicable Claudius in Tony Richardson’s version of Hamlet.

In the 1970s, Hopkins’ most notable starring role was in the War and Peace limited series. In the latter part of the decade, he played an officer in Richard Attenborough’s extensive war ensemble, A Bridge Too Far – a fine film that hosts one of the most impressive casts ever. The director then picks Hopkins to lead his ventriloquist horror movie, Magic. Hopkins demonstrates his ability to navigate various types of cinema, paving a path for his roles in future genre movies like Thor.

The 1980s starts off strong for Anthony Hopkins. He pairs up with John Hurt for The Elephant Man, David Lynch’s striking biopic about John Merrick. After that Hopkins spends much of his time on television yet he finds his way back into theaters as Captain Bligh in a Mutiny on the Bounty remake, retitled by Roger Donaldson to The Bounty.

The ’80s ends in a series of disappointing pictures; one may find a few things to like about 84 Charing Cross Road, where Hopkins develops a long-distance correspondence with Anne Bancroft (re-teaming with her Elephant Man co-star) over their love of literature. Hopkins then follows that tame biographical story with the The Dawning, and then, the aptly-named musical A Chorus of Disapproval.

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The 1990s would see a decisive turning point for Hopkins, from respected actor to titan of cinema. Four of his five Academy Award nominations came in the ’90s. His only Oscar victory is for Silence of the Lambs – Hannibal Lecter is a career defining role for Hopkins. With his piercing gazes and chilling hisses, he scares the fava beans out of audiences while reclassifying cinematic villainy.

He follows up Silence of the Lambs with Howards End, Chaplin, The Remains of the Day, Shadowlands, Legends of the Fall, and Nixon, all in the first half of the decade. He manages to squeeze in his role as Van Helsing in Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula. Even if his part alongside Robert Downey Jr. in Chaplin was minor, the rest of his roles during this time period were major leading performances in his career.

In Howards End, Hopkins withholds a secret of his dying wife, Vanessa Redgrave, which was intended for his new bride, Emma Thompson. Then Hopkins and Thompson are both breathtaking in the tragic love story Remains of the Day; both films are Merchant Ivory Productions. Hopkins trades in his dance partner for Debra Winger in the melancholy Shadowlands (another Richard Attenborough picture). Not a fantasy film itself, yet Shadowlands is a biopic with Hopkins portraying fantasy author C.S. Lewis.

Hopkins is the patriarch in Legends of the Fall, a beautiful looking film with exceptional performances; featuring Hopkins as a proud veteran who raises his sons in rural Montana. He has a meaty role as the excommunicated Head of State in Oliver Stone’s Nixon, however that part sometimes feels more like mimicry than an embodiment of the scandalous president. Then in the second half of the 1990s Hopkins steals several scenes as John Quincy Adams in Steven Spielberg’s Amistad.

Anthony Hopkins’ Top 10 Movie Roles

1. Hannibal Lecter in the Hannibal trilogy
2. James Stevens in The Remains of the Day
3. Henry Wilcox in Howards End
4. Pope Benedict XVI in The Two Popes
5. Richard the Lionheart in The Lion in Winter
6. Frederick Treves in The Elephant Man
7. C.S. Lewis in Shadowlands
8. John Quincy Adams in Amistad
9. William Ludlow in Legends of the Fall
10. Richard Nixon in Nixon

In this century, Hopkins has too many great performances to touch upon here, but some highlights include his reprisal of Hannibal Lecter in both Hannibal and Red Dragon, Gwyneth Paltrow’s mentally disturbed father in Proof, channeling the master of suspense during his most scrutinized production in Hitchcock, and his adroit delivery of dialogue as Pope Benedict just last year in The Two Popes.

And among his recent oeuvre, Hopkins has been a pleasurable part of the MCU, playing Odin in all three Thor movies. Odin fails to reach the heights of his best roles, partially due to his carefully limited screen time in the trilogy, but mainly because there are so many other prominent works in Hopkins’ 60 years of acting experience.

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Thor: Love and Thunder comes out in a few years and even though Odin journeyed to his final resting place in Ragnarok, it is too soon to completely rule out an appearance from Hopkins, perhaps via flashback or godly apparition.