Sir Anthony Hopkins‘ confession that he doesn’t know or “care” if he’s a grandfather in a recent interview has resurfaced speculation about his rocky relationship with his only child, daughter Abigail.
“I don’t have any idea,” the 80-year-old actor said in a new interview with the Radio Times when asked if Abigail, 48, had extended the family tree, according to The Telegraph. “People break up. Families split and, you know, ‘Get on with your life.’ People make choices. I don’t care one way or the other.”
When Hopkins was told his response sounded cold, he replied, “Well, it is cold. Because life is cold.”
Hopkins welcomed Abigail during his first marriage with Petronella Barker. However, the actor reportedly walked out when Abigail was a toddler, barely keeping up a relationship with his child.
“I would see him, but maybe once a year,” Abigail recalled in a 2006 interview with The Telegraph. “There is a little bit of sadness, but I have to get on with my life. It has always been like that. See him, and then not.”
When she was 18, Abigail told The Telegraph that she experimented with amphetamines and booze due to dealing with depression, something she believes she inherited from her father, who’s been open about his battle with alcoholism in the past. (“There were some days when I’d drink a bottle of tequila and I didn’t care if I died,” he once said at a fundraiser for Alcoholics Anonymous, according to The Guardian.)
Abigal explained: “I came very close to killing myself. It was the worst time I can remember. I totally abused my mind and body. The root cause was the fact that my father and I had an intermittent relationship when I was young. I was angry and there was a lot of grieving going on.”
She added, “Look, it was a relatively short addiction. I was confused. Angry. And I did not try to kill myself.”
Though the father and daughter had a brief reconciliation in the 1990s, with the Oscar winner arranging for Abigail to have short cameos in two of his films Shadowlands and The Remains of the Day, they have since lost contact.
In an interview with Howard Stern in 2002, Hopkins said of his daughter, “I hardly ever hear from her. She probably has good reasons. I guess we are estranged. I hope she is well. She is too busy and has to do her own thing. I think she is in England somewhere. Life is life. You get on with it,” according to The Telegraph.
Abigail — who has gone on to become a singer-songwriter, actress and acting coach, according to her personal website — told The Telegraph she was open to a reconciliation, if it was mutual.
“It would have to be a two-way thing, though,” she explained. “I don’t know how I would feel about it. We have never really been close. We’ve never discussed big life issues. Because, well, our relationship was always so sporadic. I’ve never felt I could discuss those sort of things with him.”
Her dark materials
“We are,” she says, somewhat stiffly, “estranged.” Why, one wonders? Would she like to be reconciled? Hopkins, who, with her pale skin and fine bone structure, looks uncannily like Sir Anthony, her Oscar-winning father, bites her lip and fiddles with her black hair.
“Possibly,” she says, drawing out the syllables. “It would have to be a two-way thing, though. I don’t know how I would feel about it. We have never really been close. We’ve never discussed big life issues. Because, well, our relationship was always so sporadic. I’ve never felt I could discuss those sort of things with him.”
Hopkins, 37, singer, songwriter and actress, is Sir Anthony’s only child, which makes their estrangement all the more poignant. When she was two, her father – then an alcoholic and gripped by the first of many bouts of depression – walked out on her mother, the actress Petronella Barker. The break was bitter, and further contact was intermittent at best. She has, she insists, no real memories of life as a family.
Father and daughter were at least in the same country last month. Hopkins was performing in London, where she lives, ahead of the recent release of her new album, Blue Satin Alley. Sir Anthony, who has settled in Los Angeles, was in town for the premiere of his latest film, The Fastest Indian. The scene was set for a grand reunion. It was not to be.
Sir Anthony stayed firmly surrounded by glamour on his red carpet, while his daughter sang in smoky atmosphere of The Garage, a small club in north London. She received a smattering of good reviews – and would, she said guardedly at the time, have been happy had Sir Anthony been there.
“So why hasn’t he come to see me perform? Oh, God, I can’t really see him at a gig. I didn’t expect him to come, not really,” she says, though one suspects that she couldn’t help but scan the audience none the less.
Sir Anthony never talks of his first wife but, in an interview four years ago, he admitted: “I guess I am selfish. I have not been a good husband or father.”
Of her childhood, Hopkins says: “I would see him, but maybe once a year. There is a little bit of sadness but I have to get on with my life. It has always been like that. See him, and then not. Then, when I was 16, there was some row.” Though she says that she cannot remember, rumour suggests that it was about her mother, to whom she is fiercely loyal.
Hopkins shrugs. “I was a little solitary as a child,” she says. “I have always felt comfortable with my own company. Music meant a lot. I had piano lessons very young but it was never the right instrument for me. My father was going to be a concert pianist before he became an actor. Then, when I was seven, I picked up a guitar at school. I was hooked.”
What Hopkins has inherited, she concedes, is her father’s musical talent, a love of acting, and also some of his depressive traits. “Maybe,” she says softly, “it is all in the genes. There have been more than a few parallels.
“And then there was ‘that story’,” she adds, warily.
“That story” was her drug addiction and contemplated suicide, prompted by her fractured relationship with Sir Anthony. “It was such a short spell,” she sighs. “A six-month spell that a lot of 18-year-olds go through – amphetamines, booze,” she says dismissively.
“It was a depressing time. I think some of that is genetic. Once, I stupidly spilled too much to a tabloid journalist. Now it’s dragged up every time my name is mentioned. That, and the fact that Anthony Hopkins is my father – the whole thing.”
She was 18 and studying English at the University of East Anglia when she dropped out. “I bottled up so much emotion in my childhood, it caused my mind to go,” she told an interviewer later.
“I came very close to killing myself. It was the worst time I can remember. I totally abused my mind and body. The root cause was the fact that my father and I had an intermittent relationship when I was young. I was angry and there was a lot of grieving going on.”
Hopkins gazes into the middle-distance, her sapphire blue eyes – darker than her father’s, though just as arresting – narrow. “Look,” she says. “It was a relatively short addiction. I was confused. Angry. And I did not try to kill myself.”
She shrugs her slim shoulders and seems to slump a little. “It makes me cringe – it’s so cheesy, that whole ‘Daddy’s girl’ thing. It’s all everyone says.”
Hopkins trained at the Lee Strasberg Institute in New York and embarked on an acting career as well as producing the Sam Shepard play A Fool For Love. Her highest-profile parts, however, have been cameo roles in two of her father’s films – Remains of the Day and Shadowlands. “My father very kindly had a connection to get me in. It was slightly intimidating. He is so, so, so well-established.” Did he give her tips? Hopkins purses her lips. “He kept himself to himself, and I kept myself to myself.”
In another interview earlier in 2002, with the American DJ Howard Stern, Sir Anthony said of his daughter. “I hardly ever hear from her,” he said. “She probably has good reasons. I guess we are estranged. I hope she is well. She is too busy and has to do her own thing. I think she is in England somewhere. Life is life. You get on with it.”
And that’s exactly what she did. Determined to go it alone, she set up her label, Possessed Records, three years ago to carve a career recording her own songs. Her high-pitched voice, both arresting and soulful, is likened by critics to that of Kate Bush or Bjork. “That’s fine with me,” she says, with a laugh. “I find that quite flattering, I get a lot of inspiration from artists like them.”
She has been praised by critics for her lyrics, the themes of which often feature the consequences of loss and addiction. “I am attracted to the darker side of life,” she admits. “Suffering, the loss it creates. My inspiration isn’t my own life, it comes from people-watching, I suppose.”
“Lost Soul”, one of her most pensive and widely acclaimed songs, was born of a chance encounter in a London cafe. “A man sat down opposite me and ordered a coffee which he didn’t touch. He had such a lost look in his eyes. Then he became agitated, paranoid… and left. I built the song around him.
“My most recent song is about a lighthouse keeper who saves the life of a man who is drowning himself because he is a gambler and has frittered away his money. They have a conversation about life and death.”
Is anything drawn from her own life? “I don’t use my songwriting as therapy,” she says. “I tend not to write personal songs.”
She has not sought Sir Anthony’s help for her music. “I made a very strong decision that I wanted to do things on my own terms. It’s not that I don’t believe in accepting help but, ultimately, it’s up to yourself to produce the goods. I have had to prove I could do it. I have learned in life to follow my own intuition. It’s been at the times that I haven’t that things have got messed up.
“I am very strong-willed and get upset and angry with myself if I don’t follow my own path. Having my own label means that I am in control. Friends tell me I am obsessive about my work, that I can seem intimidating at first. But then they discover I am a softy. And I am, I’m a softy.”
Hopkins has barely touched her mineral water – she no longer drinks alcohol or smokes – but needs to go. One last question: does she watch her father’s films? “No,” she says. “I would find it very difficult because of our relationship.” Poised for flight, she pauses.
“I love my father. He has been very supportive. I really wish him well. But I have found a certain independence through my music. I need to give myself that time, to move out of the shadow.”