Conversation at Sardi’s

June 18, 1975

Anthony Hopkins was in “Equus” at the Plymouth Theater on West 45th Street, New York City

Wednesday afternoon.

In Shubert Alley, Tony Hopkins asked, “Would you like to have a drink with me?”

“Yes,” I answered politely and quietly. I thought he heard me, but a few steps on, he asked again, looking over at me, his hands held in front of his waist. “Would you?”

“Yes,” I said more loudly. I punched my right fist into my left palm and kicked out my right leg.

He grinned.

“I’m not going to drink,” he said.

“That’s good.”

“But I am going to smoke.”

“Oh!” I reacted partly in disgust, partly in pleasure he remembered my concern.

I stopped a big black car on 44th Street and he followed me across. I opened the door to Sardi’s, he held it and we went in. Sardi and he talked about someone who had bothered him and he made dinner reservations for 5:30, and I looked at a caricature of him on the wall.

Upstairs we went into the alcove next to the bar and after some musical chairs sat down at a corner table. He ordered two Tabs and one for me. He was still very excited from the show. When he poured his drink into the glass, he poured until it overflowed and then sat and stared at it. He put a paper napkin on the spill, and began to fold each corner into the middle, then took another and did the same thing. Later I offered him another napkin and he laughed and stopped playing with them.

When we sat down, I asked him about Saturday’s show – did he think it went well?

“Afternoon or evening?”

“Night.”

“Who’s your friend?”

“My psychologist and some of his friends.”

“Oh, what did he think of it?”

“He didn’t like it.”

“What didn’t he like?”

“He said the stuff about taking away people’s passion was stupid – foolish. And about everything being a trick and a catch.”

“Yes. Well, I’m reserving judgment about the play until after I’ve finished it.”

A little later he said, “I’m reading The Politics of Experience. I’ve read it three times.” [book by R. D. Laing]

“Don’t you think that’s a little obsessive?”

“I think he’s crazy.” He went on to say he doesn’t help people deal with society.

“He is kind of strange.”

“Doesn’t he live in this country now – in California?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I think I would have heard about it. He visited here. I think he still lives in England. They had a press conference when he came to New York – last fall, I think.”

“Really?”

“Yes.”

He seemed amused and/or amazed. I said The Divided Self [also by R. D. Laing] was a better book.

“I’m just coming down now,” he said at one point, exhaling and staring ahead of him at his drink.

I asked him about the After Dark interview, and he said he hadn’t read it, and he vaguely remembered Norma McLain Stoop, the interviewer. I told him she said he was a Welsh “volcano.”

“What do you think about being called a ‘volcano’?”

“Am I a volcano? People have called me a lot of things – vulgar, emotional, aggressive, violent.”

We talked about the effect success was having on him. He hated the star syndrome – some people go for that – the limousines and all that. Being a star doesn’t mean money, he said, then withdrew a little, “well . . .” [He talked about a star who came to work in a limousine, late and didn’t know her lines.] “One day, I had to have an argument with her. I told her she was going to have to settle down and work.”

“What’s it like to be a big star?”

“Am I a star?” he asked. After a moment, he said, “I’m going to be a big star…”

“You’re a big star.”

“Do you think so?”

“I know so.”

He was silent.

I asked him if he didn’t worry about losing his voice from smoking.

“Don’t say that!” He jumped up. “I have to knock on wood.” He hit his knuckles on nearly every piece of furniture in the vicinity, saying, “I’m so superstitious,” then sat down. “It hasn’t happened with this play.” And later: “It usually happens with those long Shakespearean parts.”

He said about leaving “Equus” that these last weeks were very hard.

“I thought these last two weeks would be easier,” I said in surprise.

“I thought so, too.” He said, “The play’s gotten too big. I don’t think I can finish it when I start. Every night before I go on, I take a deep breath and plunge on. It’s like taking a parachute jump.” A pause. “I do everything through fear. I know – I’m a masochist.

“You look so confident on stage.”

“I’m not. I feel naked every time I go in the stage door.”

“I had this dream last night,” he went on. “I went to the theater as usual and it wasn’t there. I went right to where the door is supposed to be and it was gone. There was just a wall there. There I was on 45th Street and I knew it was the right street and I was walking up and down it, but the theater wasn’t there. I asked a man and he said, ‘Oh, they’ve moved it.’ It was five minutes before I had to be on stage and I couldn’t find the theater.”

He asked if I had ever been to California and I answered no. He was thinking of living there, and of getting permanent visas to stay in this country. I said, you don’t want to be part of this country. We discussed England’s versus America’s corruption. I told him when I was in college, I marched and demonstrated against the [Vietnam] war.

He insisted English society – “high society” – was more corrupt. He said he felt useless being an actor. He should be saving the starving people of the world.

Later in the diary I wrote:

I was attracted to him at first because he is professional, because he works hard and I know that often “the muse doesn’t just descend” and you become inspired. I’m trying to learn how to write; when I am inspired, I am clawed up in the trying. I do apply myself to writing. People’s responses are so confusing – different. When I write it’s both serious, for an audience and publication, and as an exercise, because I’ve never done that particular thing before. Sometimes I just give up because I think I can’t do it and who needs quality? I am interested in how he remains sane and open under pressure to create, as an artist.

(This is for David Selzer.)

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