Stella Stevens


—Autograph February 2009

Even the most devout Jerry Lewis fan watching the 1963 film The Nutty Professor may be distracted from his antics in a major way because of that beautiful blonde with him. Stella Stevens, Lewis’ love object in the comedy, is without a doubt one of the prettiest women to work in Hollywood.

A signed 8×10 of Stevens

Born Estelle Caro Eggleston on Oct. 1, 1938 in Yazoo City, Miss., Stevens was a divorced mother by the age of 17. She became interested in acting while studying at Memphis State in Tennessee, and while modeling at Goldsmith’s department store in Memphis, she met actress Tina Louise, who dazzled Stevens into taking the plunge. Tina’s press agent from United Artists suggested that Stevens fly to New York to meet executives of 20th Century Fox. She was contracted in 1959 for a small role in Say One for Me with Bing Crosby.

Shortly after, in 1960, she was dumped by the studio and decided to pose nude for Playboy to get another studio’s attention. Playboy paid her only half of the promised amount, saying if she posed as a “hussie,” she’d get the other half. “I told them to shove it,” Stevens said.

She soon went to work for Paramount Studios and became one of the most photographed women in the world. In 1999, Playboy voted Stevens No. 27. on its list of the 100 sexiest stars of the 20th century.

Playing a night club singer in Elvis’ 1962 film, Girls! Girls! Girls! Stevens recalled that Elvis didn’t like her during their six days of working together since she had a negative view of Memphis men due to her bad marriage.

Four years later, she played Dean Martin’s inept partner in the Matt Helm spy spoof, The Silencers.

During the 1970s Stevens landed one of her finest roles: a kind-hearted prostitute in Sam Peckinpah’s The Ballad of Cable Hogue (1970) starring Jason Robards. Her biggest role, however, was as a prostitute in Irwin Allen’s star-studded film, The Poseidon Adventure, in 1971. It was a box office smash but was the last huge movie for Stevens.

A signed 8×10 photo of Stevens

Her TV appearances have been extensive, among them being General Hospital, Flamingo Road, Love Boat, Newhart, Fantasy Island, Hart to Hart, Murder She Wrote and Magnum P.I.

Spending less time making movies today means the 70-year-old beauty has more time to sign autographs. Collectors now have access to Stevens through her website,, where she offers signed photos from various decades of her career. The website also mentions that she’ll sign photos and other items sent to her at $20 a pop (or three items for $50). She will plant a lip print on an item, as well as sign it for $25. That same price goes for signing topless or Playboy poses sent to her, but you won’t find her selling them herself.

Collectors may want to start with Stevens’ offering of 17 poses (both B&W and color) from the 1960s, many of them bikini and lingerie shots. A number of attractive photos are available from the 1970s, including from The Ballad of Cable Hogue, as well shots from The Poseidon Adventure. The 1980s section contains the popular “blue corset” poses. Recent “At Home with Stella” portraits of the beautiful actress are also offered in 8×10 format, as well as a boxed set of greeting cards, with one signed per box.

Stevens will personalize the signature with the collector’s name and a special message, if requested. The website doesn’t offer nude photos but Stevens promises to be adding “new photos of special interest to every decade.”

Items may be sent to her at Stella Stevens, Universal Mail Center, 12400 Ventura Blvd. #502, Studio City, CA 91604. Checks and money orders must be made out to StellaStar Corporation.

In the Trenches: Jamie Lee Curtis


— Autoghraph February 2009

Jamie Lee Curtis signing for a young fan in San Diego, Calif.

One of the best comedies ever is without a doubt A Fish Called Wanda. And getting the DVD signed by its stars slipped through my hands, not once, but twice!

Jamie Lee Curtis attended a fundraiser at a Balboa Park photography museum in San Diego, Calif., for which I could’ve gotten a free press pass. Instead, I gave the DVD sleeve and a copy of Autograph (December 2005) featuring Curtis on the cover to a staff member. But Curtis got into her car before the staff member could ask her to sign them.

I figured I’d eventually get the DVD signed since I had a friend teaching in Santa Barbara who told me he sees Curtis’ costar in the film, John Cleese, around town once in a while. But I never would have guessed the opportunity could come from two students selling magazine subscriptions. I usually say no to those sales pitches, but one of the students said that the newspaper had written a story about her going to school abroad, and she needed to raise money to go there. A nice sales pitch, indeed.

She then asked, “Do you know who John Cleese is?” I said, “Yeah, from Monty Python.” She got so excited, and then she asked if I knew the show Fawlty Towers. I said, “Yeah, it was great.” She explained that as part of her acting class, she would be reenacting a few episodes from the show with Cleese.

I said, “I’d love to help you out, but I already get a few magazines and two newspapers each day. I won’t have the time to read them.” She then said, “You can donate them to the troops.”

I figured I’d do my part for the troops and said, “I have a deal for you. I’ll order two different magazines, if you get my DVD signed by John Cleese.” She got so excited at the proposal. I paid $100, for the two, two-year subscriptions. She told me when she came back in May, she’d show me all the pictures, and get the DVD signed. I haven’t seen her since.

About 10 months later, I found out Jamie Lee Curtis was coming to nearby La Jolla for a book signing. There were 100 people in line to meet her. She showed up walking down the line, saying hello to people. Ironically, of all the book signings I’ve ever been to, the only other person who I saw do this was her dad, Tony Curtis, as he would shake every person’s hand. Jamie hugged the woman in front of me, who she had known from a children’s hospital in L.A.

Before she sat down to sign, Curtis said, “This line isn’t long, let’s start the signing.” Everyone was in a great mood.

This bookstore had been strict in the past about no other items for the author to sign. So, even if I had the Wanda DVD, I wouldn’t have had a chance. But I did bring two back issues of Autograph, with her on the cover. I was going to give her one, and possibly have her sign one for me. At the very least, take a photo of her holding it.

Curtis drew a fish and wrote "Wanda" in her children's book Big Words

She was great with all the kids that came to the table, asking them their favorite color and making conversation.

I remembered an interview I did with a DJ from a radio station in Chicago who told me that as a kid, he sent a letter to Curtis and got her autograph. When he interviewed her a few years ago, he showed the autograph to her and asked, “This is real, right?” She frowned and said, “No, I’m sorry to tell you, it’s not. We had people working for us that would sign those. I apologize.”

When I approached with the children’s book I had just bought for $20, I said, “I’ve read all nine of your previous books.” She had a weird smile as I continued, “And I like A Fish Called Wanda the best.” She laughed.

She opened the book and asked, “Who do I make it out to?” I said, “You can make it out to Josh.” I noticed her looking for the sticker with my name that the bookstore gives to autograph seekers, and then instead of personalizing it, she drew a fish and wrote, “Wanda” in the middle.

I then asked if she would take a picture with the copy of Autograph I brought, but I was interrupted by store security, telling me, “She’s not doing any other memorabilia today.” I said, “I’m not asking her to sign it, just hold it.” She said, “No, I won’t do that.” Security added, “Then everyone else in line will want one.”

I tried to buy a little more time with Jamie Lee by telling her I saw her on The Tonight Show asking the other celebrity guests for their autographs to sell for a charity and was wondering if she was still involved with it.

Now, she looked bothered. She paused and said, “Sometimes.”

I was just about to ask her another question about the celebrities she has encountered when she looked at the kid behind me and started talking to him. Security gently grabbed my arm and escorted me out.

Sirens: May Britt

Featured in Autograph January 2009

Signed 8x10 by May Britt.

Those who know how to reach May Britt for an autograph have one up on their fellow collectors. Having given up acting for the art canvas decades ago, the former sex-pot actress leads a low-key life today and her address has eluded us. In other words, collectors will need to turn to autograph dealers for anything signed by her.

Britt’s autograph is inexpensive, but the pickings seem slim, indicating that demand is less than exceptional. A 1974 May Britt contract to play the role of “Ingrid” in the film, Haunts (aka The Veil), appeared on eBay recently for $125. For one of the few contracts from a short film career, it sat there a while.

It’s hard to believe that the attractive lingerie-clad blonde who dazzled audiences in The Blue Angel in 1959, will soon be 76. But it’s been more than five decades since the daughter of a Swedish postal inspector was accidentally discovered while working as a photographer’s assistant. When Italian producer Carlo Ponti and director Mario Soldati went to a Stockholm, Sweden, studio to check out photos of beautiful models for their 1952 film, The Daughter of the Black Corsair, they certainly pored over photos of lovely ladies, but they liked the beauty in front of them—Maj-Britt Nilsson. She hopped at the chance to go to Rome where her good looks were put to use in films.

The first English language role for May (pronounced My) came in 1956 with the epic, War and Peace. After signing a film contract by 20th Century Fox, Britt went on to star with Marlon Brando in The Young Lions (1957) and Peter Falk in Murder, Inc. (1960). In 1958 Britt appeared in The Hunters, a homage to the flyers and the fighter aircraft of the Korean War, with Robert Mitchum and Robert Wagner.

Her most famous role was in The Blue Angel, where she played a scandalous nightclub entertainer in a club named the same as the film’s title. A professor (played by Curd JÜrgens) goes to the club with intentions of “catching” some of his male students but is crippled by Lola’s sensuality. He develops an obsession with the gorgeous Swede and engages in a romance that ultimately causes him to lose everything. The role drew an unwanted storm of criticism; some disliked the film being remade from its 1929 original version with Marlene Dietrich in the role of Lola. But it also drew Britt lots of American attention, and on August 17, 1959, Britt made the cover of Life magazine, then an indicator of fame.

Not thrilled by her fame, Britt pulled the plug on her film career in 1960, the year she married entertainer Sammy Davis Jr. The marriage drew lots of public jeers and brow beating—even death threats against Davis. At the time, interracial marriage was illegal in many states until 1967 when the Supreme Court weighed in on the matter. The marriage is portrayed in the 1998 HBO movie, Rat Pack, which centers on the relationship between John F. Kennedy and Sinatra and the legendary Rat Pack. The movie suggests that the interracial marriage hampered Kennedy’s chances of being president because of Davis’ close association with Sinatra. JFK’s father, Joe Kennedy, warns Sinatra that Americans won’t appreciate Davis as Sinatra’s best man since Davis is married to a white woman, and that voters’ outrage will deliver a backlash to JFK at the polls.

The marriage produced a daughter, Tracey, who has since written a book about her famous dad, and two adopted sons. Britt left Davis in 1968 after he had an affair with dancer Lola Falana.

Britt came out of obscurity in 1977 to make the psycho-sexual thriller film, Haunts. She later appeared on TV up until 1988.

Character Actors: Robert Forster

Featured in Autograph January 2009

Signed and inscribed note from Forster to the author.

In Hollywood, changing trends and flavors of the month often dictate the shelf life of many actors, but Robert Forster is a survivor. For nearly 50 years, he has been riding the show biz roller coaster, going from leading man to forgotten has-been to respected supporting player. His story is proof that those interested in acting as a route to fame and fortune are almost always doomed to fail, but serious actors committed to doing their best in any circumstance have a chance of staying in the game.

Forster got his start in acting while pursuing another interest: women. “On the first day of my senior year in college, I followed a girl into the auditorium and was trying to think of something to say to her,” he says. “They were doing an audition for Bye Bye Birdie. I had never seen the play and I hadn’t seen the movie, but I knew it was about a guy in a gold suit doing a parody of Elvis Presley. I thought if I did that, that’s how I could meet the girl. They didn’t give me the part of the guy in the gold suit; they put me in the chorus, which was a big comedown. I almost didn’t do it, but then I thought, Bob, how are you going to meet the girl? So I went back and became part of the chorus of Bye Bye Birdie.”

Forster not only met the girl, he married her, and the couple moved to Los Angeles in 1967. It was then that he got the call to audition for legendary director John Huston for the film, Reflections in a Golden Eye. “I’m introduced to Huston, who’s this tall, old guy, and he says, ‘What have you done?’” Forster recalls. “I said, ‘Look, I haven’t done much. I did one Broadway play, I wasn’t bad and I don’t make myself as an actor. I never did a movie, I don’t know how they’re made and I don’t know what the tricks are, but if you hire me, I will give you your money’s worth.’ Huston said, ‘You’ll be hearing from us.’ I figured that was the kiss-off. When somebody says that, you never hear from them. Two hours after that meeting, they made a deal with my agent. John Huston hired me on the basis of a three-minute meeting.”

Robert Forster as Miles C. Banyon in the short-lived 1970s TV series, Banyon.

Reflections starred Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor, and although he shared the screen with two Hollywood heavyweights, Forster made a strong impression on critics and casting agents. He soon graduated to leading man status in Haskell Wexler’s 1969 experimental classic, Medium Cool. The spontaneous nature of the film forced the actor to flex creative muscles he never knew he had. “I was playing a news cameraman,” Forster says, “and I had no experience being a news cameraman, but one time after another, I was required to make it up. Haskell is shooting me as I’m interacting with people and interviewing them, and he made it into a different picture than what we had on paper. We shot twice as much than was in the script. I learned that as an actor, you may be required to do material that is not written for you, and you’ve got to be able to be that character in the shot. You’ve got to be able to make something out of whatever it is they give you to do.”

With his star on the rise, Forster entered the 1970s as an actor in demand, headlining two TV series (Banyon and Nakia) and big-budget studio films like Disney’s sci-fi epic, The Black Hole. But as he soon discovered, it takes more than talent to stay at the top of Hollywood’s A-list. “I got lucky at the beginning of my career, and if you don’t get a hit the second time or the third time to keep the ball rolling, you start slipping,” he explains. “Your agents can only put you up for good stuff for so long, and if you’re not in hits and breaking records, then you start sliding. Every time I thought I had a picture that was going to give me a little traction, it didn’t. It’s very hard to get going again when you’ve started slipping.”

By the 1980s and ’90s, Forster had been reduced to taking roles in low-rent, direct-to-video projects such as Satan’s Princess, Body Chemistry III and Scanners IV. “I was doing crappy stuff, really dopey stuff, anything I could find because I had four kids and two ex-wives,” he says. However, in 1996, his roller coaster career took another turn for the unexpected. “There’s a restaurant where I’ve got a little corner spot that I always sit in where I read my paper and read scripts. I’ve been sittin’ in this spot for 18 or 19 years, and one day, in walks Quentin Tarantino.” Tarantino was Hollywood’s hottest filmmaker, and everyone in the industry was waiting to see what he would do as a follow-up to his Oscar-winning crime drama, Pulp Fiction. “I didn’t know Quentin but I had read for him on Reservoir Dogs,” Forster continues. “So I call him over, he sits down and we bull— for awhile. Six months later, I walk into this restaurant and there he is, sitting in my spot. I approached the table, he hands me a script and he said, ‘Read this and see if you like it.’”

 Forster as Max Cherry, his comeback character in the 1997 film, Jackie Brown.

Forster as Max Cherry, his comeback character in the 1997 film, Jackie Brown.

The script was Jackie Brown, an adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s novel, Rum Punch. “I went home and read the script, and I couldn’t believe he was thinking of hiring me for a big picture like this,” Forster says. “We had breakfast together three days later, and I said, ‘This is great and I’d love to do it, but I’m not sure they’re going to let you hire me.’ Quentin said, ‘I hire anybody I want.’ Only at that moment did I start to believe that maybe this thing could actually happen. There were a few more bumps and worries because everybody in town wanted this part. Big actors wanted to do the part of Max Cherry, but Quentin hung in there for me. It was one of the greatest gifts an actor can ever get.”

As it turns out, it was a gift that kept on giving. Jackie Brown was released in 1997 to great acclaim, earning Forster an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor. His first reaction was shock, but as the day went on and he fielded congratulatory phone calls, another feeling washed over him. “It was a feeling of belonging, a feeling of acceptance. After 20-something years in this business and being long forgotten—after being on the top and going all the way to really, really low-end stuff—it was so generous for the members of the Academy to write my name down. They actually had to write my name, not just check-off a box. It was the most warm, generous feeling I ever had.”

Although he didn’t win the Oscar, Forster happily takes the loss in stride. “The difference between being nominated and winning is like a 10-pound box of chocolates and a 12-pound box of chocolates: they’re both pretty sweet.” Even sweeter was the renewed respect shown to him by Hollywood. Since Jackie Brown, Forster has worked at a feverish pace in projects both big and small, a combination he enjoys. “As an actor, getting a day’s work is one of the great opportunities,” he says. “Somebody calls your name, you step up to the plate and when somebody says, ‘Action!’ you get a chance to hit it out of the park. A low-budget movie requires an awful lot more participation of the actor. He’s required to do more things, to work with less and to get more done. For those reasons, little pictures add something to your day as an actor. However, big pictures can be fun, and you can make a better day’s pay.”

Now in his fifth decade in show biz, Forster has experienced the euphoric highs and depressing lows of life as an actor. Still, he remains enthusiastic about the possibilities that lie ahead. “I try to keep working, I’m ready to work and we’ll see what comes out of left field. An actor never, ever knows what’s coming next.”

Anthony Hopkins

Served up Rare


Featured in Autograph January 2008

Photo by Lori Stoll

One of my favorite actors is Anthony Hopkins. Sir Anthony Hopkins. He has displayed extraordinary versatility in the range of roles he’s taken, from the decent, eccentric New Zealander whose dream it was to break a motorcycle speed limit on the Bonaventure flats in Nevada (The World’s Fastest Indian) to the repressed and reserved butler in The Remains of the Day to the representation of pure evil in his three Hannibal Lecter films (The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal, Red Dragon). Hopkins has given us performances that have chilled and thrilled and captivated us for all the years he has been acting. He’s played such controversial real-life characters as William Bligh in The Bounty, Richard Nixon in Oliver Stone’s Nixon, John Quincy Adams in Amistad, Yitzhak Rabin in Victory at Entebbe, Pablo Picasso in Surviving Picasso, Adolph Hitler in The Bunker and Richard Bruno Hauptman in The Lindbergh Kidnapping. More recently he appeared in The Human Stain, based on Philip Roth’s novel; Oliver Stone’s Alexander; Proof, based on the play by David Auburn; the remake of All the King’s Men; Emilio Estevez’s Bobby; and Fracture, costarring Ryan Gosling.

He’s been nominated for six Golden Globes, four Emmys, and four Academy Awards. He won two of the Emmys (for Hitler and Hauptman) and one Oscar for The Silence of the Lambs. Unlike some of his contentious peers like Marlon Brando and George C. Scott, who refused their Oscars on principles Hopkins never understood, Hopkins considered winning his Oscar as a greater achievement than being knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1993.

“Getting the Oscar was a great moment for me,” he has said. “It changed my life because it knocked a lot of myself down inside of me. Not crippling self-doubts, but doubts that I wanted to be rid of. I think praise is a very good thing to have in one’s life. It’s better than a kick in the ass.”

Hopkins was knighted in 1993 by Queen Elizabeth, shortly before this photo was taken at the Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica. I didn't know if I should address him as "Sir Anthony" or simply "Tony." He said the Oscar for Silence of the Lambs meant more to him than being knighted.

I got to know Hopkins just after he was knighted and presented with his Oscar for playing Lecter. His on-screen time in Silence of the Lambs was twenty-seven minutes, yet his presence was so pervasive that his award was for Best Actor, rather than Supporting Actor. I met him at hotels in Beverly Hills and in Santa Monica and we spent long hours discussing his personal and professional life. He was fascinating to talk to, full of energy and opinions. I must admit, having seen him as Hitler and as Hannibal the Cannibal, I approached him with some trepidation. I really didn’t know what to expect. He was friendly, but a bit wary at the time. He really wasn’t all that fond of being interrogated. It’s one thing to talk to a reporter about a current movie or art project, but quite another when that reporter wants to dig deeper, get more personal, and try to lift the lid to get beneath the often well-honed surface.  Hopkins surprised me with his candor about his childhood, which he was willing to discuss in heartbreaking detail.

“I was an idiot at school,” he said. “I didn’t know what time of day it was. We lived in the rural part of an industrial steel-working town. And when I first went to school, I was in a completely alien environment. I can remember the smell of stale milk, drinking straws and wet coats, and sitting there absolutely petrified. And that fear stayed with me all through my childhood. That gnawing anxiety that I was freaky, that I wasn’t really fitting in anywhere. I didn’t know what was expected of me. I couldn’t achieve anything, and I couldn’t accomplish anything. I wasn’t popular at all. I never played with any of the other kids, didn’t have any friends. I wanted to be left alone right through my school years.”

Just as surprising was what he had to say about actors and acting. “What’s so special about being an actor?” he said. “Actors are nothing. Actors are of no consequence. Most actors are pretty simple-minded people who just think they’re complicated.”

Is it irony or coincidence that Hitler and Hopkins share the same "AH" initials? Obviously Hopkins has thought about it, signing this copy of The Bunker the way he did.

But that was in the early nineties, before Hopkins had married for the third time and mellowed a bit. In 2004 I interviewed him again when he was promoting Proof. I asked if he was no longer restless. “No,” he answered.  “I’m happily married now, and I’ve changed a lot. I don’t want to sit in a trailer and work long hours anymore. I play the piano. Read. I’m painting with acrylics now. I have a small show of my work in San Antonio. Go to restaurants and let my wife do the ordering. I very much stay at home. Which is good.”

Hopkins signed as Stevens, the English butler in The Remains of the Day. So refreshing to see an Oscar-caliber actor willing to sign in such a memorable way. A collector's dream.

I wondered if he had read any books about mathematicians, to prepare for the role of a brilliant mathematician in Proof. “No,” Hopkins said, “but I’m a pianist, so I do have an attraction to math, even if I don’t understand it. I’m slightly obsessed with numbers and dates. I can work out, mathematically, certain dates. Today’s the 28th of June, a Tuesday. There’s also a 28th of June on a Tuesday in 1955, exactly fifty years ago. I can work out what dates fall on what days through the ages. I worked this out in Chicago. My wife was asking me, “Are you counting on your fingers?” I can remember dates of years throughout my whole life, and what day they fell out on, what I was doing. So I suppose I have locked in my brain somewhere a mathematical talent. I don’t use it because I don’t need it.”

What’s the most important date in your life that you can remember?” I wondered. Hopkins knew exactly. “September 30, 1955. It was the beginning of a whole change of life. I won a scholarship to a local acting school in South Wales [the Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff]. When I was in school I guess I was sort of ADD, I didn’t have any knowledge of anything. But I auditioned for this local college and won a scholarship and it was in the newspaper. It was a turning point in my life. And then on a Monday, October 3rd, I went to my first acting course. I was seventeen and got a taste of what this required. The years passed by and I went into the National Service, then came out, and went into this profession and here we are.”

This is my favorite of all actors' inscriptions. Hopkins writes as the devilish Hannibal Lecter from The Silence of the Lambs, inviting me for dinner in London. I still hear the way he inhaled so chillingly when he spoke similar words to FBI agent Clarice (Jodie Foster) in the film.

When Hopkins was a boy, he once wrote to Humphrey Bogart, asking for an autograph. Bogart sent him a photograph. He once asked and received an autograph from his fellow Welshman, actor Richard Burton. The third actor he wrote to for an autograph was Charlie Chaplin, who sent one to him. “They were prized from the time I had them until I lost them,” Hopkins recalled. And he’s never forgotten what it feels like to want someone’s autograph.  “When people stand in line at a premiere,” he says, “I try to sign as many as I can.”

Hopkins has a confident, beautiful signature. When I asked him to sign a copy of Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day, which Hopkins made memorable as the butler Stevens, Hopkins wrote: “Dear Larry, I think we should take breakfast in the drawing room. Stevens (Anthony Hopkins).”  In James P. O’Donnell’s The Bunker, he inscribed it in character, using the same initials as Adolph Hitler:  “All orders must be obeyed without question at all.  A H”   And when I handed him my copy of Thomas Harris’s The Silence of the Lambs, he wrote: “Next time we meet Larry will be in England for a few dinners of raw liver fava beans and chianti. So until then—pleasant dreams. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins).”

Just from these inscriptions one can see that Hopkins is a playful, confident, complex person. And yet, when it comes to acting, the pragmatist in him always made it sound simple: learn your lines, show up, get on with it. But was it really that easy?

“Yeah, yeah,” he said. “The hardest part is putting off the procrastination. I take the script and sit down with a bunch of pencils and markers and go through it very thoroughly until I feel relaxed inside, that I know what I’m doing. I turn up prepared. That’s what I do. I learn the script. Then I go through the preparation, the wardrobe, and I know where I am and what I’m going to do. But once they start rewriting on set, I say no. ‘No, no. I’ve done my preparation, don’t start rewriting it now. I’ll have to take another three weeks off.’ I always make sure that the rewrites come in time so I can learn them. I worked on a film once with Chris Rock [Bad Company]. The producer, Jerry Bruckheimer, would rewrite stuff. I said to him one day, “Why do you do this? To torture us? I just want to let you know when you send me these new pages I throw them in the trash.” People were shocked: “You talk to Jerry Bruckheimer that way?”  Yeah, screw it. If he sends me pages on the day we’re shooting, they go in the trash can.”

Hopkins has never forgotten what it feels like to want someone's autograph. "When people stand in line at a premiere," he says, "I try to sign as many as I can." Signed still from The Silence of the Lambs.

When I saw him more recently, he was filming Slipstream, a small movie blending fiction and nonfiction, reality and illusion, which he wrote, was directing, starring in and had composed the music for. He seemed happy and self-satisfied. He loved being so totally immersed in all facets of moviemaking. And he was preparing for a showing of his art work in a gallery in Texas.  He showed me his drawings, which were small and well done, mostly of landscapes and flowers. He said he used photographic paper, which gave them their shine. He drew with a kind of Sharpie pen, with various colors. He said his last exhibit had sold out.

He spoke about how he felt invigorated doing his art, composing music, making a personal film. “Everyone has genius within him,” he said. “It just has to be explored.”  And then he confessed to changing his attitude about his profession.  “I used to always put down actors and acting, but I realize now that when I said that, I was protecting myself, saying it before someone else could say it and hurt me.”

I wasn't expecting his hand to grab my neck, but that's Lecter for you: he looks right into the camera without a hint of the malevolence inside his head.

Hopkins turns seventy in December, 2007. It’s taken him a long time, but he’s finally beginning to mellow.