By the Book

Anthony Hopkins needed a leg up on an early role–he received it from an unlikely source.

Posted in , Feb 13, 2014

Anthony Hopkins

Today, Sir Anthony Hopkins is one of the world’s most recognizable and accomplished actors, but in 1972, at age 35, he was in the dawn of his career.

He was also in the midst of a struggle with depression and alcoholism. He’d recently gotten into a fight with a director at London’s National Theatre and angrily quit his starring role in Macbeth.

Anthony’s next part was in a movie based on the novel The Girl From Petrovka by George Feifer. Set in Soviet Moscow, it was about an American reporter who falls for a Russian ballerina. Anthony was to play the couple’s Russian go-between.


Having never read the book, he visited several London bookshops one day in search of a copy. He couldn’t find one.

He stepped into the Leicester Square underground station to begin his journey home. He noticed someone had left something on one of the benches.

Curious, he picked up the object–a well-worn copy of The Girl From Petrovka. A previous owner had written extensive notes in the margins. Notes that, with the novel, helped him to better understand his role.

The following year, filming began. Anthony approached George Feifer, who was visiting the set. He took out the book he had found on the subway and began to tell the incredible tale. “You won’t believe this story...” he said.


Speechless, the author flipped through the book. Finally, he regained his composure. “This copy was mine,” he told Anthony. It was an advance copy he’d lost two years earlier. Those were his notes in the margins.

The Girl From Petrovka wasn’t a huge hit–but Anthony’s performance shone. A year later, he quit drinking for good. His career took off, an Academy Award and a knighthood among his many achievements.

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