Chris Schulz is the deputy head of entertainment for the New Zealand Herald.

Why Anthony Hopkins refuses to watch Westworld

Anthony Hopkins is supposed to be promoting his new show Westworld. But there's one big problem: he doesn't like television. He doesn't even own one. Chris Schulz reports.
Anthony Hopkins plays a key role in HBO's Westworld, Dr Robert Ford the creator of a futuristic sci-fi theme park and potential inventor of artificial intelligence.
Anthony Hopkins plays a key role in HBO's Westworld, Dr Robert Ford the creator of a futuristic sci-fi theme park and potential inventor of artificial intelligence.

He's on one of the biggest television shows of the year, a big budget HBO production that asks major questions about life, technology, relationships and artificial intelligence.

Also this: would you pay to have sex with a robot in a theme park?

After two episodes, reviews for Westworld have been positive. "Vivid, thought-provoking television," said the Los Angeles Times. "A pulp spectacular," said Time. "Deeply fascinating," said TV Guide.

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But it's unlikely the show's biggest star Sir Anthony Hopkins, the screen veteran known for a film career spanning six decades, one that includes award-winning roles in cultural tent poles like The Silence of the Lambs and The Remains of the Day, cares.

Hopkins, 78, doesn't watch television. He can barely remember filming the show, in which he plays Dr Robert Ford, the creator of a futuristic theme park and possible inventor of AI.

And he's definitely not going to watch Westworld.

Why? Hopkins doesn't own a TV.

"I have my own Mickey Mouse theories that we have alienated ourselves in the world watching television all the time," Hopkins said at a recent Westworld press event.

"We get all our information from that. So I stopped watching it. I don't watch it, I don't want to know."

Hopkins made the incredible revelation just minutes into a round table discussion with a panel of international journalists at the upmarket Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles during a recent Television Critics Association event.

Hopkins was the star attraction during a day of interviews that also included chats with Evan Rachel Wood (explosively enthusiastic), Thandie Newton (abstract, charming), James Marsden (so charismatic he should be the next Indiana Jones) and Ed Harris (droll, possibly hadn't slept for three days).

They were there to play the publicity game, to promote the show, to talk it up. Most did exactly that. "This might possibly be the greatest show of all time," chirped Wood. "It put chills up my arms," gushed Newton. "This is really special," said Marsden. Harris just lowered his head and mumbled something about guns.

Anthony Hopkins as Dr Robert Ford in a scene from Westworld.
Anthony Hopkins as Dr Robert Ford in a scene from Westworld.

But Hopkins wasn't in the mood to do much promoting. His anti-TV stance stunned many journalists sitting at the table, who erupted with a flurry of follow-up questions that probably sent the show's PR team into a frenzy.

Here, verbatim, is how the follow-up discussion went.

Question: Have you stopped watching all television or just news?
Hopkins: I don't watch it at all.
How do you inform yourself?
Why do I need information? It's going to come through to me anyway.
In what way?
Conversations. 'Did you hear about that thing?' It's like obesity. It's like being told, 'Well, if you eat all this junk food, you're gonna get fat, you're going to die of heart disease, diabetes' or whatever. So you turn on the television. If you watch all that, you're going to poison your brain, your psychology, your outlook on life. You could become a cynic, miserable, a nihilist. So along come these great visionaries (who say) 'I'm going to change your life, I'm going to change everything for you'.
You're talking about politicians?
Anyone who says they have the answer. There is no answer.

Later on at a stage presentation, he said this: ""I have a delete button in my brain and I don't remember the past very well. I can't remember - we started two years ago. Just watching it now I'd forgotten I was in some of those scenes."

Let's recap. Hopkins is slamming the very medium he's working on. It's a rare event. It doesn't happen, because it shouldn't happen. Steven Spielberg still loves movies. JK Rowling still loves books. Phil Spencer still loves games. Keith Richards still loves music.

Kanye West sort of did it around the release of his recent album The Life of Pablo, when he declared, ""This Tidal Apple beef is f****** up the music game".

But that's Kanye. This is Anthony Hopkins, the 78-year-old film titan who spends
most of his time playing complex screen characters with ulterior motives.

"Oddly enough, for someone who's not about control or certainty, they give me these very controlling parts to play," he explained. "It's a paradox of my nature, I guess. I know how to look like a control freak."

To be fair, Hopkins did answer questions about Westworld. He chose to return to TV after a lengthy absence because "HBO's got a great reputation". He's signed up for a second season. "I have no idea which way this character's going," he said.

Anthony Hopkins as Dr Robert Ford in a scene from Westworld.
Anthony Hopkins as Dr Robert Ford in a scene from Westworld.

Perhaps Hopkins is just too busy painting these days, smearing paint onto canvas at his home in Wales and musing on the state of the world.

Would he want to pay to visit a futuristic theme park? "I haven't given much thought to utopias or dystopias," he says. "It's all about control, which I find is pointless, because there is no control, there's only uncertainty. Our agony is that we desperately want certainty but there's no certainty. Which means we want control, so we volunteer and vote for politicians to give us the control. It's all useless, as we've seen in the past."

Sounds like Hopkins could use a break. Maybe a trip to Westworld would help.

• Westworld screens on SoHo on Mondays and is available for streaming on Neon. Chris Schulz travelled to Los Angeles courtesy of Sky TV.

- NZ Herald

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