Anthony Hopkins received his second Oscar nomination for portraying head butler James Stevens in The Remains of the Day.
Anthony Hopkins plays the lead butler in this film, and the butler is an extremely calm and unemotional character. The butler himself never has a big scene where he breaks down, or even a scene where he really shows any overt emotions. The butler always stays completely calm and controlled basically throughout the whole film. This is not a description of Hopkins performance as the butler but rather that the part of the butler would have been incredibly restrictive no matter who played him.
Hopkins in this performance always keeps almost through the film the same distinct way of speaking and face throughout the film. He plays the part just as it should be played despite how simple in some ways that part is. He always seems to be the butler perfectly attuned in his way of speaking and his completely perfect way of moving about. He is always just following orders, doing what needs to be done at the manor, and never striving from his duties and sensibilities. Hopkins never truly breaks from this therefore he mostly just needs to find the right tone for this performance, which Hopkins does very well.
There are a few scenes though where Hopkins very very carefully shows just a little more to the butler, never a show of emotion though but just a little more depth to the butler. He gives little physical indicators to some other thoughts of the butler, one can never tell what exactly but Hopkins does show with incredible understated subtlety that there is a little more to the butler. He never exactly says there is more but Hopkins shows that is something perfectly.
There is one scene though where the butler shows a different side to him that is quite interesting. He still keeps his manner and speaking but he changes to showing a little more confidence, and strength in his character. That is the scene where he talks at a bar about politics. Hopkins in very strong in this one scene showing that the butler does wish to be recognized a little more, and listened to. He still keeps his method of speaking and his manner but shows a little more overtly that the butler perhaps wanted a little more in life than he had. Hopkins is always consist in this performance, and finds the right tone throughout. The fact that his character is so restrained makes his performance seem a little underwhelming at times, but that is the way the character should have been played. Hopkins still though exceeds as much as possible in the short moments in the film that allows the butler to be more than just a perfect butler.