Sir Anthony Hopkins has a very simple explanation as to how he ended up as one of the world's most famous screen stars. "I was lousy in school," he says. "I was antisocial and didn't bother with the other kids; a really bad student. I didn't have any brains. I didn't know what I was doing there. That's why I became an actor."
A typical response from a very unusual man. Born on New Year's Eve 1937 in Port Talbot, South Wales, Sir Philip Anthony Hopkins doesn't fit the stereotype of an actor accidentally falling upon Hollywood glory. On the contrary. He says he knew exactly where he wanted to be as a teenager, the minute he met dashing Welsh screen star Richard Burton, whose sister frequented the bakery run by Anthony's parents. Right then, he says: "I knew I wanted to get out of Wales. I wanted to be famous."
Despite his claims that he was "an idiot", in 1955 young Anthony won a piano scholarship and went on to study at the Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff. After a three-year stint with the British Army in the Royal Artillery he was accepted to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and was afterwards mentored by "grand guy" Sir Laurence Olivier.
The late Sixties found the actor making his film debut in 1967's The White Bus, and performing in his first-ever TV venture. After making his big-screen breakthrough in The Lion In Winter, he balanced screen and stage performances, picking up a most promising newcomer gong at the London Theatre Critics awards in 1971.
In 1974, married to his second wife Jennifer Lynton he had divorced his spouse of five years, Petronella Barker, with whom he had a daughter Abigail, in 1972 Anthony decided to head Stateside. In America he made his Broadway debut, won an Emmy and found the place he would call home Los Angeles.
"I'd never seen anything like California," he says. "All these long-legged girls. I'd go to Dean Martin's restaurant every night, shoot back tequila and see all the lights come on in my head." He lived there with Jenni for ten years, before returning to London to tread the boards.
Of course, the stage wasn't exactly Anthony's cup of tea. "To me hell would be a wet Wednesday afternoon in the Old Vic for the rest of eternity, standing onstage in wrinkled tights doing Shakespeare," he says. "I hated every minute of it."
Returning to Los Angeles, he made a series of TV movies before his Oscar-winning turn in 1991's Silence Of The Lambs. The Nineties also included three more Academy Award nominations, his directorial debut, and a knighthood from the Queen. He closed the millennium by making his US move permanent, taking an oath of citizenship in a private ceremony taped for posterity by friend Steven Spielberg.
Meanwhile, as he made his home in LA, wife Jenni remained in London. "She says, 'How can you possibly want to live there You must be nuts'," he remembered. "I told her the other day that I'd bought a pair of cowboy boots and a baseball cap. She said: 'Well, there's no hope then'."
There was also little hope for the couple's long distance relationship. In 2002, after 30 years of marriage, the two divorced. Describing himself as "unneedy", he explained: "Suddenly I say: 'That's it'. I'm not a cruel person. I outgrow things." Romance returned to his life, however, in 2002 when he met South American antiques dealer Stella Arroyave. The two were wed in a small ceremony at Anthony's home in March 2003.
Estranged from his actress daughter Abigail for many years, in October 2002 he admitted in a magazine interview that he had no idea where she was, other than she lives "in England somewhere". After wishing her luck, he added: "I hope she is well Life is life. You get on with it."
The actor continues make his film choices with the same independence he demonstrates in his private life. "As long as it's a nice location and the script is good, I don't wonder if it's a good career move and all that bull," he says. "It's a job. Point me to the camera, that's it."