Anthony Hopkins: "They seem to like the chills, the ladies."

The Prince Of Wales on his new movie Thor, his abiding love for Tommy Cooper and the curious appeal of Hannibal Lecter to the fairer sex.
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You seem to have enjoyed your time making Thor.
Yes, it might surprise you but it's been one of the most positive experiences of my career. Of course, [director] Kenneth Branagh's a lovely man, a fellow Celt. But everybody, from the cast along to the caterers, was wonderful.

Were you much of a comic-book fan before coming to the movie?
No. I mean, I'd heard of them and I knew about Spider-Man and Batman. But when you get to my age, you have other interests.

Such as?
Music - I love to play and compose; I wrote the scores for the three films I directed, which was a great challenge. And art - I staged an exhibition of my work last year and I was incredibly proud of that.

How do you prepare to play Odin, the Ruler of Asgard?
I suppose I could have read a thousand books and read a million comics. But, no - I just had a feel for the character and I followed my instincts. My Shakespearian background might have helped - I've lots of experience of playing 'the king'. But I didn't go to Scandinavia and sit on a mountain.

Do you think some actors put too much emphasis on research?
Absolutely. You see some of these young actors and the lengths they go to, and it leaves you exhausted. It's like when I played Hannibal Lecter. If I'd wanted to, I'm sure the studio could have arranged for me to meet serial killers and spend time in solitary confinement. But life's too short to spend time on such grisly matters.

Do you think Lecter will be the role you're remembered for?
Yes, and that makes me very happy indeed. Hannibal Lecter has an amazing hold on people, especially women. The number of times I've been asked to recite the 'fava beans and Chianti' speech... They seem to like the chills, the ladies.

Is there anything you're afraid of?
I've made a couple of films in Australia - Spotswood and Mission: Impossible II - and while I don't mind spiders per se, I'm glad I didn't run into one of the deadly creatures they have over there. In Sydney, they have these Huntsman spiders that are as big as your hand. They're harmless, apparently, but I'm glad I avoided them.

Does Tommy Cooper still have a special place in your heart?
From now till the day I die. I love British comedy - Eric and Ernie, Only Fools And Horses and Tommy Cooper, of course. I was asked to unveil a statue of Tommy in Caerphilly a couple of years ago. What a privilege that was!

And have you a favourite Cooper gag?
Someone once told me about the time Tommy appeared at the Royal Variety. He was being introduced to the Queen and he said, "Ma'am, do you like football?" "No, not especially," Her Majesty replied. "Oh, in that case, can I have your Cup Final tickets?!" The man was priceless.

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