'The Father': Florian Zeller made the film in English for Anthony Hopkins (exclusive)

·Contributor
·3-min read

Watch: Florian Zeller on the process of adapting The Father

Florian Zeller has revealed that his decision to adapt his French play into English for The Father was driven by his desire to cast Sir Anthony Hopkins in the lead role.

Zeller co-wrote and directed the movie, which is based on his 2012 play Le Père, and won the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar alongside Christopher Hampton.

Sir Anthony Hopkins — who scooped his second Academy Award for Best Actor — leads the cast as Anthony, who is struggling with the onset of dementia.

Read more: Olivia Colman reveals joy of working with Hopkins on The Father

"The reason why I did it in English is because, when I started dreaming about the film — because everything starts with a dream — the one and only face that came to my mind for that part was Anthony's," Zeller tells Yahoo Entertainment UK. 

Sir Anthony Hopkins plays a man struggling with the onset of dementia in 'The Father'. (Sean Gleason/Lionsgate)
Sir Anthony Hopkins plays a man struggling with the onset of dementia in 'The Father'. (Sean Gleason/Lionsgate)

"The only way to make that happen was to do it in English. The play has been performed in London and in New York, so it gave me the opportunity to make that dream maybe realistic. 

"So I started to dream about approaching Anthony, and that's why I wrote it with Christopher in English." 

Read more: Hopkins and Hayek celebrate his Oscar win

The original theatrical production was previously adapted for the screen — without Zeller's direct involvement — for the 2015 French-language comedy-drama Floride.

Zeller says he chose to re-adapt the story as the 2015 movie was "so far from the play that you cannot tell it's from the play".

Imogen Poots joins Olivia Colman and Anthony Hopkins in 'The Father'. (Sean Gleason/Lionsgate)
Imogen Poots joins Olivia Colman and Anthony Hopkins in 'The Father'. (Sean Gleason/Lionsgate)

In The Father, Olivia Colman appears alongside Hopkins as his daughter, Anne, who moves him into her home when his illness means he can no longer live in his own flat.

The movie's complex use of repetition and staging thrusts the audience right into Anthony's psyche as his mental faculties begin to abandon him.

Read more: Hopkins pays tribute to Chadwick Boseman in Oscar acceptance video

Zeller says: "The idea of The Father was to put the audience in a unique position, as if the audience was going through a labyrinth questioning everything — what is real, what is not real? — as if we were, in a way, in Anthony's mind. 

"I wanted The Father to be not only a story about a man losing his bearings, but an experience — and the experience of what it could mean to lose everything, including your own bearings as a viewer. 

"I thought that the cinema, thanks to its language, could be more effective [than the stage]. It could turn this experience into an even more immersive experience — an impactful, disturbing and powerful experience."

Florian Zeller won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for 'The Father', alongside co-writer Christopher Hampton. (Lewis Joly-Pool/Getty Images)
Florian Zeller won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for 'The Father', alongside co-writer Christopher Hampton. (Lewis Joly-Pool/Getty Images)

The Father is due to arrive in British cinemas having earned rave reviews all over the world, with a current approval score of 98% among critics on Rotten Tomatoes.

At the Oscars, the movie was nominated six times — including for Best Picture — and won two awards, with Hopkins and Zeller both securing statuettes.

Read more: Hopkins says actors are "pretty stupid"

Hopkins also won the BAFTA for Best Actor for his performance — his fourth competitive BAFTA, as well as the Fellowship he was given in 2008.

The Father is released in UK cinemas from 11 June.

Watch: Trailer for The Father

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