Anthony Hopkins launches second career as a composer

Anthony Hopkins isn’t giving up acting. But he’s launched a second career as a composer, and his music is about to be celebrated at a film-music festival in Birmingham, England.

“I’m 73 now, and I’ve been about the acting business for a long time,” Hopkins said by phone from Italy, where he was vacationing. “Now music has come to the forefront and I’m thrilled about that. It’s a whole new life in a way.”

Hopkins composed the scores for two movies he directed, “August” (1996) and “Slipstream” (2007). But, he said, he’s been writing music for the past 40 years and has decided to take it public via the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra’s “Soundtrack to Your Summer” music festival; Hopkins will be spotlighted on July 23.

“I have no academic training, although I read music and I play the piano,” he explained. “And I think I have a knack for orchestration. The premise of my venturing into this dangerous new world is that I quite honestly don’t give a hoot what anyone says about it. My philosophy is, they can’t arrest me.”

Hopkins is reluctant to define his personal style except to say that it’s both “classical” and “a mixture of all kinds of things. I’ve written one piece, which has a pretty powerful, smashing big opening, and I’ve called it ‘Amerika.’ Another one, called ‘Orpheus,’ is another big walloping piece.”

Concert producer Tommy Pearson characterized Hopkins’ music as “charming and a little wistful. A lot of it is quite emotional, clearly from the heart — music with a glint in its eye, like its creator.”

Most of his non-film pieces “are pretty concise,” Hopkins added, at most eight or nine minutes in length. He expects several to be performed, along with excerpts from his “August” and “Slipstream” film scores — and at least one new piece — at the Birmingham concert.

Also on the program will be music from films Hopkins has been in that the actor didn’t write, including music from “Silence of the Lambs” (by Howard Shore), “Remains of the Day” (Richard Robbins) and “Shadowlands” (George Fenton). Pearson said he will interview Hopkins onstage during the event.

Veteran film orchestrator Stephen Barton (“Kingdom of Heaven”) has been assisting Hopkins in realizing the final version of each piece.

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra associate conductor Michael Seal will conduct the music, although Hopkins said he might conduct “some of the simpler pieces.” He won’t, however, play the piano. “I wouldn’t even play for anyone in my front room,” he said.

Hopkins, who began playing at age 7 in his native Wales, first heard Sergei Prokofiev when he saw Sergei Eisenstein’s film “Ivan the Terrible,” and later fell in love with English composers Vaughan Williams, Elgar and Delius by listening to the radio.

“I always wanted to be a composer, but I never had the education for it,” he said. “I’m not a good student. I’m kind of an unfinished guy. I feel like a glorious amateur.”

Also in the Birmingham series, which is billed as “the U.K.’s first major film music festival,” will be an evening devoted to film scores of the past 10 years (July 19), jazz scores (July 21) and an all-John Williams concert (July 22).

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more