In the touching drama “The Father,” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January and is now at the Toronto International Film Festival, Anthony Hopkins plays a man who is slipping into dementia, with moments of clarity and moments of hallucination. And the film itself, which is directed by playwright and first-time director Florian Zeller, adopts the character’s state of mind, keeping the audience off-balance by never letting us know what’s real and what’s illusion.
“I didn’t want to tell the story from the outside, because it’s already been done so many times,” Zeller said when he and stars Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman spoke about the film in TheWrap’s virtual Toronto interview studio. “I wanted to try to tell that story from the inside, as if the audience was in the main character’s head.”
That approach, said Colman, was one of the things that appealed to her to about the film, in which she plays the main character’s daughter, who is trying to find a living arrangement that suits her father’s delicate mental state. “I’ve never seen it written from that point of view,” the Oscar-winning star of “The Favourite” said. “You are in the mind of Anthony, you are as confused as he is.”
But if the character, who is named Anthony, spends the movie very confused, the actor Anthony was not — and he said playing that confusion was a delight. “The script was so attractive, so magnetic, condensed, to the point,” Hopkins said. “This sounds like actor talk, but I couldn’t believe my luck at my age to be offered that. And when Olivia was cast, I thought, ‘What more do I want?’
“It sounds weird, but it really was easy to play,” he added. “It was easy, it was fun, one of the best experiences I’ve had in many years. I’ve been lucky the last five years, but this was one of the best.”
“The Father” will be released by Sony Pictures Classics. See more of the interview with Florian Zeller, Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman above.