With his win in the Best Actor category for his performance in The Father, Florian Zeller’s devastating exploration of the continual heartbreaks of dementia, Hopkins made history as the oldest winner in the show’s history. Previously, Hopkins—83—won in the same category for his portrayal of Hannibal Lecter in the 1991 thriller classic The Silence of the Lambs.
Though Hopkins wasn’t in attendance for the ceremony, which this year ended with the Best Actor announcement, the actor—who was also previously nominated for The Remains of the Day and Amistad, among other entries—did share a video reaction to Instagram early Monday.
In it, Hopkins paid tribute to the late Chadwick Boseman, who was also nominated for Best Actor this year for his performance as trumpeter Levee Green in his final film, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.
“Good morning, here I am in my homeland in Wales,” Hopkins said. “And at 83 years of age, I did not expect to get this award. I really didn’t. I’m very grateful to the Academy and thank you and I want to pay tribute to Chadwick Boseman, who was taken from us far too early. And again, thank you all very much. I really did not expect this so I feel very privileged and honored. Thank you.”
While Hopkins’ turn in The Father was indeed brilliant (and particularly moving for anyone who’s experienced dementia and progressive memory loss at a close distance), some were critical of the fact that Boseman—whose Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom performance was also brilliant and notably marked his last role—wasn’t given the Best Actor honor instead.
Further bolstering this criticism was the restructuring of the category announcement order for the 2021 ceremony. As Indiewire’s Chris Lindahl pointed out, this year’s ceremony marked the first time since 1972 that the Best Picture category wasn’t announced at the end of the broadcast. For many viewers, this gave the impression that the ceremony was building toward a Boseman win.
Boseman was featured in this year’s In Memoriam segment, which also featured DMX and Joel Schumacher, among others. However, multiple names were missing from the tribute segment, including prolific songwriter (and previous nominee) Adam Schlesinger. The founding Fountains of Wayne member died last April due to complications from COVID-19.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, meanwhile, picked up two awards at Sunday night’s ceremony. Ann Roth received Best Costume Design, while Best Makeup and Hairstyling went to the team of Mia Neal, Jamika Wilson, and Sergio Lopez-Rivera. Notably, Neal and Wilson are the first two Black women to ever win the award.
Boseman died in August of last year at the age of 43, four years after being diagnosed with colon cancer. The Black Panther and Da 5 Bloods actor continued working while receiving treatment and kept his diagnosis largely private. Earlier this year, he was posthumously awarded Best Actor in a Motion Picture (Drama) at the Golden Globes.