ANTHONY HOPKINS remembers a time in his life when he might have related to the midlife crisis suffered by his character in WOODY ALLEN’S latest comedy YOU WILL MEET A TALL DARK STRANGER.

ANTHONY portrays Alfie, a wealthy Londoner who wakes up one morning in a panic about his mortality. His solution? Leave his wife of 40 years in favour of a ditzy call girl, sign up for a gym membership and splurge on a gleaming new sports car.

Well, the legendary actor never went that far. But he claims he did struggle with getting older.

“Men go through that midlife crisis,” he explained during an interview from a restaurant patio last week during THE TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL.

“I’m a little old for that now, but…when I was younger, you know, you don’t want to get older. You want to be attractive. You want to be sexy. And the more you try, the worse it gets.”

“So you just have to relax. You go through certain periods of your life and you tell yourself to relax. Don’t worry about it. We’re all going to go in the end.”

That breezy attitude certainly suits him on this day, as he held court on a wide variety of topics.

The man who portrayed Hannibal Lecter still has an imposing azure intensity in his gaze. But his sense of humour provides a disarming counterbalance — for instance, when he indulges a photographer’s request that he do his imitation of late British comic Tommy Cooper, or when he breaks into a charmingly authentic WOODY ALLEN impression.

He first met the ANNIE HALL director back in 1984, when WOODY was considering him for a part in one of his films.

“I spent about a half an hour in his office and he was very pleasant. I’d just travelled from L.A. to New York on the train. He said, ‘You came on the train? I think I would’ve gotten claustrophobic,'” ANTHONY recalled.

He didn’t get the part, so when he was contacted last year for YOU WILL MEET A TALL DARK STRANGER — which opens OCTOBER 1 — he jumped at the opportunity to finally collaborate with WOODY.

Still, the OSCAR winning actor admits he was initially somewhat overwhelmed by the director.

“He is quite an extraordinary man,” ANTHONY commented.

“I don’t want to sound like an actor gushing. But I went over to England to film and we went out…for the wardrobe fittings and there he was, talking to people.”

“I thought: ‘There’s Woody Allen. Don’t speak unless I’m spoken to.’

WOODY then approached ANTHONY and reminded him that they had met before back in 1984.

“I was so flattered he remembered me,” ANTHONY stated.

“He’s such a beautiful man. I was (starstruck). (There’s) an emotional reaction when you meet somebody who’s a clever guy like that.”

In YOU WILL MEET A TALL DARK STRANGER — a shaggy, ambling tale about a group of unhappy, anxious people — ANTHONY shares the screen with the sort of all star cast typical of WOODY’S films: NAOMI WATTS, ANTONIO BANDERAS, FREIDA PINTO, JOSH BROLIN and LUCY PUNCH.

It’s a comedy and ANTHONY hasn’t appeared in many movies of that particular genre. So he kept to a simple strategy: don’t try to be overtly amusing.

“It’s a very funny film and the part I play is a sad, pathetic man, full of illusions or delusions. I thought I’d just play it straight and see how it goes.”

WOODY heartily approved of his plan. He also encouraged him to improvise.

“I love improvising,” ANTHONY remarked.

“I think the danger, the vanity of the ego, is to start falling in love with some of the improvisation.”

ANTHONY couldn’t really afford to be narcissistic in this particular role. Alfie is portrayed as waffling, feeble and desperate, a man whose crisis of confidence sends his entire family into a tailspin.

“Well, he’s rather sad,” ANTHONY agreed.

“(A) nervous, frightened man. Fear of death. Fear of mortality.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, WOODY conceded during his visit to the Toronto fest that Alfie is, in part, autobiographical.

But ANTHONY is in a different space. He said that if he ever suffered through a midlife crisis, he’s well past it now.

“In a philosophical allegory, we become addicted to the news. I was watching something the other day and it was the same old stuff: the doom and gloom.”

His solution? He simply tuned it out.

“I don’t care any more because we’re all going one day…Whatever’s going to happen is going to happen. I can’t worry about it. There’s nothing I can do. So, (I) just enjoy my life.”

He paused before bringing the discussion back to the topic at hand.

“With Alfie, he keeps getting older. Things start slowing down, things start falling off. And you think: ‘Well, that’s the way it is.'”

“I’m at that stage in my life now. I’m going to be 73 at the end of the year — it’s the best time in my life. ‘Cause I’ve been around, I’ve done this and I’ve done that. And it’s just an extraordinary feeling to still be here, working.”

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