Kenneth Branagh Stopped Anthony Hopkins From Retiring While Making Thor

Sir Anthony Hopkins won his second Oscar for Best Actor this year for his performance in "The Father," but it might never have happened had another knight of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire kept him from retiring ... with a role in a Marvel movie. That's right: it was Sir Kenneth Branagh, the director of the first "Thor" film, who convinced Hopkins not to retire by having him play Odin the Allfather.

This is just one of the behind-the-scenes tidbits from the production history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that is revealed in the new book, "The Story of Marvel Studios." In the book, Hopkins himself cites Branagh and his infectious enthusiasm as the reason he didn't leave show business. He says:

"Ken Branagh gave me back the chops to work. I was gonna give it up, really. But, you see, he won't let you do that. Working with Ken was quite an injection of new energy into my life. He seems to have that same infectious quality on everybody in the crew. His enthusiasm, his attitude, is so positive that he brings out the best in everybody."

"He Could Convey a Kingly Responsibility"

Hopkins has had a long acting career, but as a true-blue movie star, he was something of a late bloomer. He won his first Oscar at the age of 54 for playing the iconic role of Hannibal Lecter in "The Silence of the Lambs." When Thor was first released in May 2011, he was already 73, but since then, he's had other high-profile roles such as Pope Benedict in "The Two Popes" (for which he also received an Oscar nomination) and Robert Ford, the co-founder of the eponymous theme park in HBO's "Westworld."

Branagh had a background in Shakespearean film adaptions like "Henry V" and "Hamlet" before he came to the MCU. For him, it sounds like there was no better choice to play Odin than an actor with Hopkins' supreme gravitas. In the book, he's quoted as saying:

"Anthony brought a world of depth, intelligence, and feeling to Odin that set up the possibility of a really affecting family drama. He can command, but he can also be very personable. His human qualities kept the dynamic powerful, but not overwrought. He could convey a kingly responsibility and still make you feel that he loved both his errant sons."

Of all the Phase One MCU films, "Thor" is arguably the most "out there" in that it involves gods from Norse mythology. The movie tried to keep itself grounded, applying the Arthur C. Clarke rule, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." However, the performances of seasoned thespians like Hopkins are also a big part of what kept it anchored to some semblance of reality even as it costumed people in gold space armor.

"The Story of Marvel Studios" is in bookstores now.