Westworld Curtain Call: Anthony Hopkins


As Robert Ford, the devious creative director of Westworld, Anthony Hopkins put his trademark gravitas to good use. Here’s why we’ll remember his performance.

Ever since the trailer debuted, it was clear that Westworld offered a prime acting opportunity for Anthony Hopkins. Seriously, just the way he blinks before uttering the line, “I wouldn’t say that at all” is enough to send chills down your spine.

Fortunately, the show, which wrapped its freshman season on Sunday, lived up to its hype. So did Hopkins’s performance. In fact, as we noted before, Dr. Robert Ford is the British thespian’s most impressive work since he won an Academy Award for The Silence of the Lambs.

Less than a decade ago, it would have been unheard-of for an actor of his prestige to appear on television in anything besides a miniseries or movie. And, to be sure, the short commitment that Westworld required of Hopkins was likely a selling point (though he suggests in a post-finale interview with Entertainment Weekly that he didn’t know what was going to happen on a week-to-week basis, so maybe not).

But the Westworld cast is remarkable in part because everyone seems to belong, from established performers like Hopkins and Thandie Newton to less familiar actors, such as Sidse Babett Knudsen and Jimmi Simpson. For his part, Hopkins fit in by doing pretty much what he’s always done, at least since he started getting typecast as calculating villains: he understated everything. Even when delivering grandiose philosophical monologues, he kept his voice quiet, enunciating each word with painstaking care, letting menace fill the gaps. He also demonstrated the power of stillness, capable of commanding the screen without moving a muscle. The scene in which Ford and Theresa size each other up over lunch is a marvel of subtle acting.

It can be easy to take Hopkins’s work for granted. His character was, by design, emotionless, and unlike several of his fellow cast members, most notably Newton, Evan Rachel Wood, and Jeffrey Wright, he didn’t face the challenge of having to simulate humanity. Yet he lent nuance to Ford’s “egomaniacal genius” persona, hinting at the genuine bitterness, regret, and curiosity beneath the chilly façade, often with nothing more than a minute shift of the eyes. Whenever Ford talks about Arnold or interacts with the hosts, you can sense the unspoken history, the repressed emotion. He talked a lot but never quite seemed to mean what he said or say what he meant.

We aren’t too broken up about Ford dying. The finale, which ended with the visionary scientist being shot in the head by one of his own creations in an elaborate suicide scheme, cemented him as the villain of Westworld, a cynic with a god complex who would rather exterminate humanity than relinquish control of his project. Thanks to Hopkins, though, he was always a compelling villain, simultaneously larger-than-life and terrifyingly believable, treading the fine line between brilliance and madness.

Ford was hardly the season’s only casualty. Knudsen’s Theresa Cullen bit the dust at the end of episode seven, her head brutally bashed against a wall by Bernard when she stumbled into Ford’s secret lab. Bernard also presumably murdered Shannon Woodward’s sardonic Elsie Hughes, who went missing while investigating Theresa’s data theft, and Ashley Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) was attacked by Ghost Nation hosts immune to voice commands while looking for her. There’s a possibility that they’re somehow still alive, since we didn’t see them die onscreen, but it seems slim. Things also look grim for Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) and William/Man in Black (Ed Harris), who were in the middle of the hosts’ rampage. Basically, the only human characters who we know survived the season are, weirdly, Felix Lutz (Leonardo Nam) and Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman).

Related Story: Westworld Recap: Season Finale “The Bicameral Mind”

Whatever happens next, we’re going to miss watching this cast on our TV screens every week.