Rebel Inside; Anthony Hopkins Isn't One to Fear Controversy. Robin Walker Discovers How His Latest Role Mirrors His Own Colourful Life

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Byline: Robin Walker

IT looks like art is imitating life in Sir Anthony Hopkins's latest film, with more than a few parallels between the character he plays and his own high-profile rise to stardom.

The Human Stain,based on the novel by Philip Roth, is a film about second chances. In it,he plays a respected New England professor who is accused of racism and walks away to begin life again, finding passionate love with a young woman,played by Nicole Kidman,along the way.

And Hopkins points out the similarity to his own life -he walked away from the intensity of a highly acclaimed British stage career 30 years ago and turned himself into a major movie star.

Three times married himself, the Hopkins has also found a late love match in antiques dealer Stella Arroyave, who he married on St David's Day in a daffodil strewn ceremony last year.

Hopkins says he liked his character Coleman Silk because the man refused to buckle to political correctness.``He's a man of great conviction,passion and rebellion. I like him because I hate political correctness with a deep passion,'' he says.

And he could personally relate to the ``screw you'' response from his screen character.``I've done that several times. Thirty years ago I said `screw you' and left the National Theatre -and that was a life changer.''

Despite playing a late middle- agedm an having a passionate relationship with a much younger woman, the actor who turned 66 on New Year's Eve says it wasn't a problem.Kidman, who plays a woman escaping an abusive relationship into the arms of an older man,did most of the work,including nude scenes.

``I just sat there; I'm no sex symbol,''he says.``This is an unexpected love,he's just devastated by her.''

And his co-star Kidmanalso defends the idea of a 25-year-old woman falling in love with a man nearly three times her age.``I don't think age matters in true affairs of the heart,'' she says.``There is a huge age difference between these two but the reason why people choose each other, wen ever know.''

One of Hopkins' lines in the films is: ``This is not my first love and it's not my great love,but it's my last love.''

``That resonated with me,'' says Kidman.``What they give each other is really profound.''

The fact that Hopkins is playing a man who is keeping a powerful secret about his racial background wasn't too much of a problem either.

While Silk appears to be a white man,he's actually a light-skinned African-American.Hopkins' blue eyes were dealt with by contact lenses,and his grey hair was cut short.``When I asked them about my skin they said they had a very good make-upguy,''he reveals.

He didn't attempt to mirror young actor Wentworth Miller, who plays a much younger Silk in flashbacks. ``That just gets in the way. You have to sort out your own character and just play it,'' says Hopkins.

In 2000 he became a US citizen, which angered many here who felt he had turned his back on his homeland. He explained his decision to become an American when he said: ``America has been very generous to me,magnanimous really. …