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Anthony Hopkins, 'The Rite' premiere possess Hollywood

January 27, 2011 |  2:25 pm

This post has been corrected. See the note at the bottom for details.

A cold, hard half-moon rose above Hollywood on Wednesday night as the supernatural thriller "The Rite," starring Anthony Hopkins, celebrated its premiere at Grauman's Chinese Theatre.

Father-gary-thomas-the-rite Hopkins, dressed in a smart, striped suit, his white hair cropped short and his fingers laced with those of his wife, Stella Arroyave, was the man of the hour. A black carpet -- the color of the heart of the demon that possesses Marta Gastini in the film -- had been rolled out for the cast members, who made leisurely rounds on the way into the theater.

Hopkins deftly avoided questions of faith. In "The Rite," which is based on "true events," he plays Father Lucas, a Catholic priest who has performed thousands of exorcisms and works with a young seminary student played by Colin O'Donoghue with a particularly stubborn -- and exuberantly evil -- case of possession.

"I don't know what I believe in," the 73-year-old actor said. "I believe in everything really and I doubt everything."

Hopkins -- who made a legend out of himself, and won an Oscar, based on his portrayal of Dr. Hannibal Lecter in "The Silence of the Lambs" -- doesn't place much stock in a universal attraction to ultimate evil.

"I don't think there's anything appealing about it at all," he said. "I really don't. I think it's obnoxious."

Another man on the carpet was not so quick to dismiss the dark side. Father Gary Thomas, the priest on whom O'Donoghue's character is based, and who is one of just more than a dozen Vatican-certified exorcists in the U.S., said exorcisms are very much en vogue these days. (Click the pic of Thomas, above right, for more pictures from the carpet.)

"There's more and more of a need for it," Thomas said. "There are more and more people who practice paganism and idolatry, and that's a doorway to the demonic."

And does he think that the film did a good job of portraying the reality of exorcism. Absolutely. "They really got the physicality of it right."

Thomas can thank Gastini for that feat, as in the role of a possessed woman she was responsible for a lot of twisting, flailing and hissing.

"It's not only one character, it's thousands of characters," said the young beauty, nervous because it was her first Hollywood "red" carpet. "So it was pretty difficult to find the different feelings." To do so she studied Linda Blair's star turn in "The Exorcist," but after that she did her own work.

Also on the carpet: director Mikael Hafstrom, who said it was a dream come true to work with Hopkins, and the adorable O'Donoghue, who said that after working on "The Rite" he is leaning toward believing  possession is real.

Although O'Donoghue then took a cue from Hopkins and hedged: "I guess it's something you don't think about daily -- whether exorcism is real or not."

Not unless you're Father Thomas.

"The Rite" opens Friday.

For the record, 4:20 p.m. Jan. 27: A previous version of this post referred to Marta Gastini as Alice Braga. Gastini is featured in the video above.


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-- Jessica Gelt

Photo: Father Gary Thomas, a Vatican-trained exorcist and adviser on the film "The Rite," at the film's premiere in Hollywood Wednesday. Credit: Fred Prouser / Reuters

Top video: Anthony Hopkins. Credit: Jessica Gelt

Middle video: Marta Gastini. Credit: Jessica Gelt

Bottom video: Colin O'Donoghue. Credit: Jessica Gelt