Books: Kings of Calmness; Gregory Peck: A Charmed Life by Lynn Haney, Robson, Pounds 18.95/anthony Hopkins by Quentin Falk, Virgin, Pounds 16.99
Byline: Reviewed by Simon Evans
Two film stars, two very different generations, yet, as both of these admirable biographies make clear, there is more that binds together the late Gregory Peck and the very much alive Sir Anthony Hopkins than might appear.
For one thing neither man was, or is, prepared to play the shallow, backbiting Hollywood game; Peck was just too decent and Hopkins too much of a maverick to pander to the egotistical whims of movie moguls and directors. The section of the Hopkins biography that discusses the making of The Elephant Man is especially enlightening, demonstrating how Hopkins simply ignored the bizarre wishes of the untried but much touted (at the time) David Lynch, to turn in a typically low-key yet absolutely spot-on performance.
Lynn Haney makes no claims for Peck as being a great actor -Falk has no such doubts with Hopkins -but Peck's chiselled looks and aura of calm authority were just right for roles in The Birds, The Guns of Navarone and his Oscar-winning performance as beleaguered lawyer Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird. It was this role that suggested that there was perhaps more to Peck, once described as 'the handsomest man in the world' and by Lauren Bacall, no less, as 'the most gorgeous creature I have ever seen', than mere matinee idol features.
Here, as in so many of his roles, Peck projected a feeling of detached introspection that is worlds away from the current Hollywood predilection for self-indulgent, let-it-all-hang-out emoting -acting as therapy.
In his personal life self-effacement is not something Hopkins has been prone to, especially since Hannibal Lecter kick-started a career that was all but over, but, like Peck, in his acting Hopkins prefers to sketch in the tiny details rather than go for attentiongrabbing big gestures.
Falk's biography of Hopkins has been fully revised since its last appearance, in 1989, three years before Silence of the Lambs made the lad from the valleys into an international star. …