Hannibal star Anthony Hopkins films in refugee camp for modern Shakespeare tale

Sir Anthony Hopkins’ acting skills are legendary, so it should come as little surprise that he proved incredibly believable while portraying King Lear as a tramp.

The actor, 80, takes the title role in a contemporary version of the Shakespeare play for BBC2, from renowned director Richard Eyre.

This version has a lot more sympathy for all of Lear’s daughters, as the perspective is changed and the king is portrayed as a deeply difficult man.

Sir Anthony, who won an Oscar for The Silence of the Lambs, was required to go a bit wild and savage in the role, which he played alongside an A-list supporting cast including Emma Thompson, Emily Watson, Andrew Scott and Jim Broadbent.

As well as taking refuge on the moors in an asylum camp, the actor also filmed as a down-and-out in a shopping centre.

Eyre tells us: “I just remembered the mad scene in Stevenage, when we were filming.

"A woman on a mobility scooter scooted up and said to Tony ‘y’know there is a hostel for the homeless down there, so you might want to take your trolley?’”

Thompson, playing Lear’s eldest daughter Goneril, said she was delighted to be reunited on screen with Hopkins.

“It is our third time working together and we said to each other this time, him nearly 80 and me nearly 60 ‘isn’t it great, we are free now in a way we weren’t when we first worked together?’

"We acknowledged it didn’t matter if we got it wrong, we could do anything, we could be stupid, we could be useless. We were fearless and that is a very good creative place to be.”

Scott, best known as Moriarty in Sherlock, was in awe of Hopkins.

“What I found so extraordinary about what Tony brings is how ferocious and alive he is about being an actor. He used to come in every day, you would say ‘how did you sleep?’, he would say ‘f*** sleep, I don’t sleep’.”

The actor also urged people to give the film a go even if they worry about understanding the verse.

He explained: “I think Shakespeare is a little bit like rap. I worked on it and there are still some things I don’t fully understand, but I understand the music of it and the feeling and by the end of it you have a sense that this play which was written 400 years ago and human psychology has not changed.

"I hate the idea that this kind of drama is just for a select few and that is not the way it should be.”

The film will air on BBC2 in the last week of May.

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