We proceeded to have a decent, friendly conversation. He told me he had been in England filming The Wolfman and was now at his home in Malibu, California. We talked about Slipstream Dream, the movie he produced, wrote, directed, starred in, and composed the music for that disappeared quickly after it was released in the fall of 2007. We talked about his paintings and some of the exhibitions he’s had in various states. And we agreed to meet for breakfast at the Peninsula Beverly Hills.

Was he interested in reviving the project he had been enthusiastic about? I wasn’t sure, and I didn’t want to ask. That had been a typical Hollywood story of a star reading something he liked and saying he wanted to do it on-screen. Hopkins had brought his agent in. Meetings had been taken, hands shaken. Phone calls had been made, ideas exchanged. Everything had been moving forward, and then suddenly, the door just closed shut. The agent had called to say that Hopkins had had a change of heart. But why hadn’t he called to tell me himself?

“It was just nerves,” he tells me when we meet. “I was afraid I couldn’t pull off the character, and so I backed out. But it was a cheap thing to do not to phone up. I should have called you.”

I only partially hear his excuse because I am so distracted by the way he looks. Hopkins has always been a robust, physically imposing man, his typical stature not unlike the way it looked when he played Richard Nixon in Nixon and John Quincy Adams in Amistad and Lieutenant William Bligh in The Bounty. But the man who enters the Peninsula today is a much trimmed-down version of those men. His sports jacket looks like something borrowed; it’s at least two sizes too big for him. His face is thin, his neck as well. When he sees me staring, he says, “I’ve lost 95 pounds.” All I can mutter is, “Why?”

“I just didn’t like the way I looked,” he says. “So I decided to do something about it. I didn’t feel well. My energy was gone, and I was eating bad food. I knew I was overweight, but I thought, ‘This is the way I am because I’m now 70, and you get to a certain age.’ But I realized that was codswallop. Now I’ve got the weight down, and I took it off very quickly.”

Having interviewed him a few times over the years, I know he is a determined and disciplined man, and this transformation is clearly an example of how steadfast he can be when he sets his mind to something. Before he lost the weight, Hopkins admits to me, he had been suffering from self-doubt.

“I felt like I was in bathwater that was draining away. I had turned away from your project, from one about Hitchcock. I was just fed up. I thought I had my music, my painting -- I didn’t care anymore about the acting,” he says. “But [my wife] Stella said, ‘Those are Band-Aids.’ But I didn’t care. I had this passive-aggressive rage about the business. Then when I lost all this weight, things changed. I feel I’m back in it.”