BAZ BAMIGBOYE: Anthony Hopkins, 80, signs up to star in the film version of The Father

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Anthony Hopkins (pictured) has agreed to star in the film version of the phenomenally successful play The Father

Anthony Hopkins (pictured) has agreed to star in the film version of the phenomenally successful play The Father

Anthony Hopkins has agreed to star in the film version of the phenomenally successful play The Father.

The harrowing yet powerfully poignant thriller by Florian Zeller opened to laurels in Paris in 2012, and received further garlands when it was performed over here, in Christopher Hampton’s English translation: first in Bath and then in London.

Oscar winner Hopkins, still at the height of his powers at 80, will play Andre, who can’t remember if he used to be an engineer . . . or a tap dancer.

Andre has early onset Alzheimer’s and his daughter Anne becomes concerned when he dismisses his third carer, after blaming her for stealing his watch. Has it been stolen? Or is it behind the microwave?

On stage, all was not what it seemed, and as a result the play became a gripping, emotionally charged exploration of the devastating psychology of ageing.

Zeller and Hampton have jointly written the screenplay, and Zeller will direct the film, which is expected to begin shooting in October.

What’s up in the air, at present, is where it will film. The writers have been discussing whether to shoot in Paris, or London.

In any event it will be an English-language picture, and I’m guessing Andre will become Andrew. Zeller and Hampton, who have collaborated on several of the French writer’s other plays, visited Hopkins at his home in Los Angeles to discuss the project.

The actor was very taken by the script and recognised some parallels to Shakespeare’s King Lear — a part he has become well acquainted with. In Richard Eyre’s excellent television version of Ronald Harwood’s play The Dresser, with Hopkins and Ian McKellen, Hopkins played an old-style actor-manager touring Lear in the provinces during the War.

The actor was very taken by the script and recognised some parallels to Shakespeare¿s King Lear ¿ a part he has become well acquainted with

The actor was very taken by the script and recognised some parallels to Shakespeare’s King Lear — a part he has become well acquainted with

I remember being at the Hackney Empire when Eyre shot the Lear scenes. They were so moving that he and Hopkins came up with the idea — along with producers Colin Callender and Sonia Friedman — of doing an actual Lear, for BBC TV. Which they did, with Hopkins surrounded by a cast including Emma Thompson, Emily Watson, Florence Pugh, Jim Broadbent, Jim Carter, Andrew Scott and John Macmillan.

The latest version of Shakespeare’s great tragedy, shot in fictionalised contemporary settings, focuses as much on the harm the monarch does to his daughters as it does on his decline: the loss of his regal powers, his dignity and, ultimately, his marbles.

Hopkins has been busier than ever. He’s currently portraying Pope Benedict, with Jonathan Pryce as current pontiff Francis, in director Fernando Meirelles’ Netflix film The Pope, written by Anthony McCarten who also wrote Churchill film Darkest Hour.

A TV broadcast of Zeller’s Le Pere was shown in 2014, with a French film adaptation, Floride, released the following year.

Sir Anthony Hopkins in the Westworld TV Series - the actor has been busier than ever. He¿s currently portraying Pope Benedict, with Jonathan Pryce as current pontiff Francis, in director Fernando Meirelles¿ Netflix film The Pope, written by Anthony McCarten

Sir Anthony Hopkins in the Westworld TV Series - the actor has been busier than ever. He’s currently portraying Pope Benedict, with Jonathan Pryce as current pontiff Francis, in director Fernando Meirelles’ Netflix film The Pope, written by Anthony McCarten

The UK productions were led by Kenneth Cranham (who won an Olivier), at the Theatre Royal, Bath, and the Kiln (formerly the Tricycle) in Kilburn; followed by West End runs at Wyndham’s and the Duke of York’s.

The anti-poaching movement can have no finer champion than Pulitzer prize winning playwright Lynn Nottage. I caught her play Mlima’s Tale at the Public Theater in New York recently.

It stars Sahr Ngaujah (he was in Fela at the National a few seasons ago) who bends and bucks his body to portray Mlima, a 40-year-old elephant who relates the story of how he was sold by corrupt officials so his enormous tusks could be harvested.

Though in essence about the fate of a big beast, I had the feeling that Nottage was also talking about how humans are trafficked for organs, for slave labour, for . . . almost anything. I hope Mlima’s Tale finds its way to London some time soon.

Ella Hickson’s jaw-droppingly good play The Writer is dividing audiences at the Almeida — in the bar, and all the way to the pricey Ottolenghi restaurant on Upper Street, Islington.

This sizzling production challenges perceptions on race, gender and sexual politics. The perfect Marmite play! Romola Garai, Michael Gould, Lara Rossi and Samuel West rip The Writer right off the page and run with it.  

A wonderfully waspish aunt runs away with the show

Perfect timing - Cecilia Noble (pictured)

Perfect timing - Cecilia Noble (pictured)

Just how does an actor steal a show?

They rarely do it on purpose. It’s down to alchemy: a combination of how the part itself is written, and the ability of the artist (sometimes, but not always, with help from the director) to mine the lines.

The best do it without going over the top to grab your attention. They use astute comic timing, and they burrow so deep into a character that you can’t see the joins.

Right now, the finest example of grand larceny is being perpetrated by Cecilia Noble on the Dorfman stage at the National Theatre, in Natasha Gordon’s debut play Nine Night, directed by Roy Alexander Weise.

Ms Noble knows how to say something, wait a beat, and then come back with a zinger.

She is also a great actor. One who knows how to make a bad show better, and a good show (like Nine Night) soar.

That Noble can play Aunt Maggie with such ease is a blessing. She’s at a traditional Jamaican wake for Gloria, who has died leaving her family almost at the point of war.

Auntie Maggie suggests that the wig Gloria’s wearing would frighten Jesus. She’s also alarmed at the idea of Gloria’s body being cremated. ‘We don’t cook our people!’ she exclaims.

The finest example of grand larceny is being perpetrated by Cecilia Noble on the Dorfman stage at the National Theatre, in Natasha Gordon¿s debut play Nine Night, directed by Roy Alexander Weise

The finest example of grand larceny is being perpetrated by Cecilia Noble on the Dorfman stage at the National Theatre, in Natasha Gordon’s debut play Nine Night, directed by Roy Alexander Weise

What I loved about Noble’s characterisation is its universality. Maggie reminded me of my own wonderful Yoruba princess aunts, but also the deliciously wicked Aussie aunts who arrived, en masse, at a pre-wedding party in Perth to check me out. Give any of ’em a good glass of red and the joint’s a jumpin’. Everybody has an Auntie Maggie. I’ve seen variations of her from Nashville to Newcastle: the outspoken queen bee who will have her say.

Ms Noble’s cast mates — Franc Ashman, Oliver Alvin-Wilson, Ricky Fearon, Michelle Greenidge, Hattie Ladbury and Rebekah Murrell — are on top form, too.

The actress, who won an Olivier award for her Sister Moore in Amen Corner, has no honours. Not even an MBE. Even so, there’s nothing like this dame.

Oh, yes, and while I’m at it, Nine Night needs to transfer. And it needs to be marketed to all communities, not just the usual suspects.

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