Anthony Hopkins Plays 'The Father' With Dementia — Is His Character Based on a True Story?

Toni Sutton - Author

Feb. 26 2021, Published 11:22 p.m. ET

Anthony and his daughter sitting in the Dr. office
Source: Lionsgate Films / Sony Pictures Classics

The dramatic movie The Father is centered around Anthony Hopkins, who plays Anthony, an 80-year-old father with a strained relationship with his daughter, Anne (Olivia Colman). Anthony and Anne will go through one of the toughest challenges life can offer. Based on the play Le Père, the film is directed by playwright and novelist Florian Zeller. As Anne tries her best to help her ailing father, viewers are shown the mind of Anthony, who’s struggling to know sometimes where and who he is.

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As her father starts to lose touch with reality, Anne struggles to convince him to accept the help he desperately needs, leaving her frantic and at her wit’s end. The Father is written by Florian and British playwright Christopher Hampton, and also stars Mark Gatiss, Imogen Poots, Rufus Sewell, and Olivia Williams. The Father is a heartbreaking and touching movie that lies in the truth of everyone's lives. It makes you wonder if The Father is based on a true story.

Source: Lionsgate Films / Sony Pictures Classics
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Is 'The Father' a true story?

The Father is not based on a true story. However, the story was inspired by Florian’s grandmother. In an interview with Deadline back at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, Florian talked about his film. He said, “I wrote it seven years ago, and it was [inspired by] a personal issue. My grandmother raised me, and she started to suffer from dementia when I was 15. So, I was directly and personally touched by this issue.” 

Even though the project was created around his own experiences, Florian hoped it would be a work of art that felt universal. He shared, "Everyone has a father or a grandfather; everyone will have to deal with this dilemma. What do I do with the people I love, when they are losing their bearings? I think it was important to make a film about something that is also universal because it’s not about just telling your own story. It’s about sharing emotions. To me, films [are] done for that.”

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Source: Lionsgate Films / Sony Pictures Classics

Cast members of 'The Father' also brought their own life experiences to the set.

Olivia Coleman and Anthony Hopkins both have had their own experiences with the elderly. Olivia’s mother was a National Health Service nurse, so for her, this story had quite a personal connection with her childhood. According to the Daily Express, she said in an interview: “My mum was a district nurse for the NHS for 40 years, and her passion was geriatric care. I would go in the car with her on school holidays and I would see lonely people in their homes when they didn’t have family around them."

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She also stated, "My mum’s an ambassador for dementia care so it’s always been a big part of my family’s life and the people she has cared for.” 

Anthony also had experience with helping ailing parents. He tried to take care of his father when he was very sick and talked about how after reading the first pages of The Father's opening scene, it was reality for him.

Anthony noted, "There was a belligerence in the character that was so close to me because my father, who died slowly of heart disease, had a year of decline from a major heart attack and depression. He just put his hand up like that, and he would be very short-tempered with my mother, and she would cry. And the 'I'm not going to leave my flat,' [line from in The Father] my father was a tough old guy but he was frightened, and he could give me a look which would freeze me. He was not cruel, but he was tough."

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Source: Lionsgate Films / Sony Pictures Classics

According to Gold Derby, Anthony is currently the second-place favorite to win the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama for his role in The Father. 

The Father premieres in select theaters in New York and Los Angeles Feb. 26, and will be available to stream via premium on-demand on March 26. 

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