On November 7, 1964, passing time at the piano in the green room in the Liverpool Playhouse, he dreamed up a waltz. He can even remember now the smell of stale coffee and how the weather was that day – “rainy, damp and cold”.
Someone came in and asked what he was playing. “Oh, just something I’m making up, fiddling around with,” said the actor.
“It’s beautiful,” said the other guy. “You should write it down.” And that was it. The actor put it on paper, stored it away, and got on with his performing career. He would go on to become the much feted Sir Anthony Hopkins.
Half a century later, watching a classical show on TV, he saw music maestro Andre Rieu conducting one of his spectacular Strauss performances. And suddenly thought that here was the man who could bring his old waltz to life. Hopkins had never heard it played and wondered if he could possibly make it happen.
He picked up the phone.
Rieu constantly hears from composers convinced he will love their work and was about to say no, yet again, when he realized who was making this request. “Send the notes over,” he said.
The notes arrived, Rieu liked what he saw, and in time Hopkins was invited to Vienna to hear his own piece played in public for the very first time.
As the video shows, Hopkins is overwhelmed, his wife Stella is in tears, the audience is rapturous.
Richard Wilkins interviewed the famous actor about that moment for Australia’s Today Show back in 2011.
Hopkins revealed deep modesty as he talked about how he felt that night: “I thought, this is extraordinary. I can’t believe I wrote this. I’m sitting here, this little boy from South Wales… this doesn’t figure.”
I love stories like this about deep surprises, about bolts from the blue. Hopkins’ music came to him out of the blue that day in 1964 – and the experience was so vivid he can remember every detail.
When, half a century later, Andre Rieu got a call from the famous actor it was a bolt from the blue for him too. “I almost fainted,” he said as he introduced the piece to his audience.
Rieu also let slip that Hopkins had never pushed his music out into the world before because he’d been “too scared”.
Scared? One of the world’s most admired actors? What a good thing it is for the rest of us far less accomplished people to know… that even the brightest amongst us have their own fears and insecurities. And that maybe all we need to do too is pick up the phone, like he did.
This story is a few years old but even old stories are worth repeating. I latched onto it only because it got posted on Facebook, a “blue” institution (what other colour could its logo be?). Sometimes Facebook drives us crazy but in its most stellar moments it allows millions of people to connect around the world in the best possible way.