Hannibal the Ripper

SIR Anthony Hopkins is returning to horror - as Britain's most notorious killer.

He will be paid US$3.25 million (HK$25 million) to play Jack the Ripper in a Hollywood film which he will also co-produce.

American film-makers are overjoyed at signing the actor who won an Oscar for his chilling portrayal of mass murderer Hannibal Lecter in The Silence Of The Lambs.

Richard Saperstein of New Line Cinema said: 'He's the only actor in my mind who can portray the complexities of the Ripper.' Hopkins will play James Maybrick, reputed to be the Victorian serial killer after a book claiming to be his diaries was published in 1993.

'Maybrick was seen as an upstanding, stalwart member of the upper class, a Mason and loving father,' Saperstein said.

'While maintaining that veneer, Sir Anthony must portray this slow, hideous, descent into barbaric madness.' The search is now on to find an actress to play Maybrick's wife. Sharon Stone, Jodie Foster and Julia Roberts are all being considered.

Hopkins is currently working on Nixon, a film about the life of the late, disgraced US president Richard Nixon being made by controversial director Oliver Stone.

Nixon has a star-studded cast including James Woods and Bob Hopkins as FBI boss J. Edgar Hoover.

The Diary Of Jack The Ripper is scheduled to start filming in London at the end of the year after Hopkins completes Nixon and Merchant Ivory's Surviving Picasso.

Oscar winner William Friedkin, who will direct the film, said: 'I see it as a really warped love story. It's a twisted love that resulted in the murder of five prostitutes.'