There were a number of historic victories at Sunday’s Oscars ceremony: Chloé Zhao became the first woman of color to win Best Director (for Nomadland), while Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson became the first Black women to accept the award for Best Makeup and Hairstyling (for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom). And Anthony Hopkins’ surprise Best Actor upset—winning for The Father in a category expected to go to the late Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom star Chadwick Boseman—makes him the oldest actor ever to win an Academy Award. But while many Oscar buffs have noted this historical facet of his win, the 83-year-old also achieved another, quieter milestone: He is apparently the first openly autistic actor to win.
Hopkins revealed in 2017 that he has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder. Asked how his late-in-life diagnosis affects him as an actor last year in a CBC interview, Hopkins responded:
It doesn’t affect me—I am obsessive. It’s a great gift, actually. I was a bit slow as a school kid, and so I made up for it by working hard, and I became, you know, a successful actor. Obsessiveness about the details. I will work and work and work on the script and I learn every single line. […] But I’m not quirky. I think I’m a bit—actually, I’m an absent-minded professor. I forget things, and I get obsessed with stupid details. My father was like that.
Hopkins previously won Best Actor in 1992 for The Silence of the Lambs, but his award for The Father marks his first Oscar since he publicly revealed he is autistic. (It’s certainly possible that other autistic actors have previously received Academy Awards, but we could not identify any who are openly so.) Opportunities for autistic actors in Hollywood remain rare—Sia clashed with critics last year over casting Maddie Ziegler as a young autistic woman in Music, among the movie’s many, many other problems—making Hopkins’ visibility all the more notable.
Hopkins did not attend Sunday’s Oscars in Los Angeles, which switched up the usual order of awards so that the ceremony concluded with Best Actor, the category expected to go to Chadwick Boseman, who died last year. Hopkins later acknowledged Boseman in a video from his home country of Wales, in which he thanked the Academy for the award and said the 43-year-old actor was “taken from us far too early.”