ONE KNIGHT AT A TIME –
Feb 27, 2021 –
You recently marked forty-five years of sobriety. Was it difficult to give up drinking?
No. I’m not an evangelist—I know people who drink and they’re fine with it. They don’t have to destroy the furniture. I was not a good drinker. It wasn’t so much the amount; it was what it would do to my brain and my body. And to drive a car when you’re drunk is insanity—I could have killed somebody. So I thought, Stop it! And it was over and done with. I’m flabbergasted that I’m here and alive. I should have been dead many years ago. I used to drink with all the old actors, because that’s what you did in those days. I went into the Salisbury Pub in London about fifteen years ago, where I used to drink, and I just stood in the doorway. And the barman said, “Hello, there! You’re Anthony Hopkins! Come in and drink!” I said, “I’ll have a tonic water.” And I looked at all the brass, a beautiful pub of all Victorian design. And he said, “Did you use to come here? All the famous actors would come in.” I said, “Yeah, they’re all dead now.” Many of them just burned out. They touched the rafters of life. But, in the end, I’m glad I didn’t have to go that far. My heroes were people like Dylan Thomas. Dylan Thomas was dead at the age of thirty-nine. What a glorious genius he was, but what an agonizing life as well. I think there’s an idea that actors need to live in extreme emotional states, and people conflate that with drinking. But you said something once that was so intriguing: “I’m very happy I’m an alcoholic. It’s a great gift, because wherever I go the abyss follows me.” That’s true! Wherever I move, I can’t go back. Because for me to do that would be deadly, would be suicide. It’s fun to move forward in life and think, Don’t look back, because there’s a big, gaping abyss behind you, and it’s called death. I remember that morning, a Monday morning, the twenty-ninth of December, 1975, I thought, choose life or death. It was like an awakening, and something in me said, It’s all over. Now you can start living. I mean, I didn’t become a saint. I was still an irascible badass. But that one ingredient had left me—that killer thing.