Much like “Game Of Thrones” before it, HBO’s controversial “Westworld” is an elaborate, epic puzzle box of a production that serves as an excuse to explore a wide array of rich themes. But more than anything else, what holds the audacious, ambitious freshman series together are the conversations, though it’s one conversation in particular that serves as the greatest demonstration of the show’s power. It comes from none other than Anthony Hopkins, who plays Dr. Robert Ford, the mysterious creative director behind the titular Western-themed amusement park. His hypnotically interesting delivery is what propels this scene in particular, and this is the thesis behind the newest video essay from Nerdwriter1, the bluntly titled “Westworld: What Makes Anthony Hopkins Great.”
The sequence finds Theresa Cullen, played by Sidse Babett Knudsen, an operation manager of the Westworld theme park, trying to stop — or at least stall — Ford’s new storyline for the guests. It is a storyline that is generally wreaking chaos to the point of worrying the park’s financiers. Theresa feels it’s too risky, but instead of telling him so outright, she puts things in euphemisms. “We want to protect your legacy,” she states. Rather than respond immediately, Hopkins lets the idea linger for an expressive seven seconds. Feelings of disbelief and consideration are then met with a smile, but one of several shades. He then chuckles to himself and glances down, suggesting some repressed anger as he looks away. He can only bear to look at her in quick glances as he composes himself. He then fires off an antagonistic remark: “You don’t like this place very much, do you?” That’s a lot to display in under 10 seconds’ time, and that’s something only a truly talented, committed actor can put forth with so much versatility.
In interviews, Hopkins notes that he’ll read his script hundreds of times, to the point where the dialogue is lodged squarely in his brain. Then he steps away, letting it gestate in his mind. When he arrives on set, he relaxes himself and then lets the part play through him. That’s what gives Hopkins such a towering command of the words, and how he modulates the tempo of their delivery in order to get the most out of them in a given scene. This is how Hopkins can make such a menacing, elusive personality shine so brightly, and it’s through the Oscar-winning actor that “Westworld” and its high ambition works so well.
Hopkins’ balance of tones both menacing and sympathetic is captured as only someone on his caliber can produce, and it’s a key ingredient in feeding the mystery and suspense that drives the series. And it’s all fascinatingly explained in this new video essay.