Stage, film and television actor Bo Hopkins, who was born in Greenville and spent part of his youth in Taylors and Ware Shoals, is teaming up with filmmaker Ron Howard for a new film to be aired on Netflix.
Hopkins and Howard have a long history. Hopkins appeared in an episode of “The Andy Griffith Show” during the 1960s, a television sitcom on which Howard played the iconic Opie Taylor.
The two appeared on screen together again in the film “American Graffiti,” directed by George Lucas, in 1973.
The Index-Journal spoke with Hopkins via telephone during recent filming in Atlanta for a film directed by Howard that is based on the best-selling memoir by J.D. Vance titled “Hillbilly Elegy.”
The memoir is about a man who recalls his life growing up in the Midwest that is influenced by his family’s Appalachian values. The memoir chronicles Vance’s journey from his addiction-torn family, with roots in Kentucky, who moved to Ohio, to his own acceptance to Yale Law School and beyond.
In the Howard film, Hopkins plays Papaw, grandfather to Vance. His fellow cast members include Amy Adams, Haley Bennett, Glenn Close, Freida Pinto and teen actor Owen Asztalos, who plays a young J.D. Vance, along with a host of other actors.
“The best seller this is based on is a true story,” Hopkins said. “Glenn Close plays my wife in this and Amy Adams plays our daughter. It’s about a poor family and one man’s struggle to overcome circumstances. He goes into the Marines and is honorably discharged and he gets a scholarship to Yale. There’s trouble and he has to go back home.”
Hopkins said he is waiting to read Vance’s memoir once the film project wraps. He said a definite release date has not been decided yet.
“I’m just bringing what I can to the role, trying to bring out both his gruffness and likability,” Hopkins said, noting he has been filming for about a month. “My character drinks too much and fights with his wife, but he works hard and quits drinking later in life.
“He tries to make up for things. This cast and crew is great. It’s a real honor to work with Amy and Glenn.”
Hopkins recalls that he received his Screen Actors Guild card when he was on “The Andy Griffith Show” at a time when he and a then young Ron Howard would “throw the baseball.”
“We became very close,” Hopkins recalled. “I’ve been so proud of him and always wanted to work with him again. I was kind of semi-retired until Ronnie called and he wanted me to do this. ... We’ve come a long way together. He’s a great director to work with. Thank God I’m still here.”
Hopkins said he is also in the process of working on an autobiography about his life, which includes joining the United States Army, where he was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division.
Among his early feature films is “The Wild Bunch” in 1969. He had recurring roles in television including “The Rockford Files” and “Dynasty.”
Hopkins got started in acting through community theater and summer stock. After a move to Hollywood, he won a scholarship to acting school.
“Greenwood is very close to my heart and I wear my Clemson T-shirt around L.A.” Hopkins said. “I’m a big Clemson fan.”