Sir Anthony Hopkins on philosophy and shamanism in ‘Noah’

Sir Anthony Hopkins is one of those people I look forward to speaking with at any press day where he appears because I know that whatever he gives you, it's not a rote answer he's given a thousand times, and that's something I value at this point.

I understand why actors fall into that, and there are certainly people who are very good at it, who can make it feel fresh each time, but it doesn't change the basic mechanism, which is that junkets turn you into a hamster on a treadmill, and it's very hard for someone to keep their focus for a full day of that, no matter who they are.

Hopkins, though, simply doesn't play the game. I get the sense that if you walk into the room with something you actually want to discuss, he's game. Talking to him about how he approached the role of Methuselah for Darren Aronofsky's “Noah” was interesting because of how clearly the character is drawn from a shamanic tradition.

It's not really what I'm used to seeing in Bible films, particularly the part where he offers Noah a hallucinogenic brew that is designed to foster a vision from God. That's not me interpreting things through a certain filter, either. That is the actual text of Aronofsky's film. Methuselah prepares a drink, and once Noah's ingested it, Methuselah mentions its hallucinogenic properties.

Noah is propelled into a vision of the Garden and the snake and Adam and Eve's fall and Cain and Abel's violence, and he sees the flood, and he sees the Ark, and he knows, with one complete revelation, what he is supposed to do. Methuselah isn't remotely surprised. He knew that this particular brew would give Noah a direct pipeline to the voice of God, and Aronofsky uses a very real-world visual vocabulary to show a direct communion with the supernatural.

It's just one part of what I find so fascinating about the movie. The location where Hopkins had to shoot his scenes is suitably apocalyptic and visually arresting, and it sounds like it was a lot easier to shoot than one might expect.

Overall, this is way too short a chat with one of cinema's true gentlemen.

“Noah” is in theaters now.