Anthony Hopkins

He’s explored many a memorable mind on screen, but in Slipstream, we discover that Anthony Hopkins’ head may be stranger than them all.

“Did you ever have nitrous oxide in the dentist?” Sir Anthony Hopkins asks Empire. Unsure where this peculiar line of questioning is going, we reply that we haven’t. “I don’t know if they use it now, but they had it when I was a little kid,” he elaborates. “I went on all kinds of trips with that stuff. The last time I had some oral surgery done they gave me nitrous oxide and I just went on a visual trip that was so scary but revealing. That’s what I wanted to make this film — a dream.”

In Slipstream, the first time the 71-year-old icon has been behind the camera in over a decade, Hopkins plays a screenwriter whose reality fractures into multiple surreal dimensions. “I wanted to mess with people’s perceptions, in a way,” he says. “It’s the way the mind works — it’s jumping forwards and backwards through time.”

With its odd time signature and wealth of disorientating imagery, the film makes a sort of lucid nonsense that reflects its creation. “I just wrote the story in a stream of consciousness,” Hopkins continues. “It sounds pretentious to say but I wrote it without any logical connection to any of it. So what came out at the end was a kind of mental aberration.”

For Hopkins, such waking states have involved more than simply visits to the dentist. “I’ve had all kinds of weird experiences over the years,” he reflects. “Some years ago I was suffering hypothermia on a movie and I lost track of time for a few hours. It was so weird and strange, and it was like living in another reality. It was very scary, but also kind of wonderful, because I had a glimpse of some mechanism in the mind, in the brain, which kept jumping forward in time. Not literally; it was an illusion.”

After sending his script to Steven Spielberg (“It’s extremely unique,” came the encouraging reply), Hopkins set about filming an experiment he knew would puzzle audiences. “I said, ‘Well, I’m really gonna go all out on this and push the envelope and do some really crazy things which will drive people nuts and make them angry — but I don’t care’,” he offers, unapologetically.

“It’s all a movie show anyway. All of life is a strange illusion, and so much of that has played a part in my life — I mean, beyond cinema; the experience of being alive.”

October 2008

Originally published in Empire

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