‘The Silence Of The Lambs’: 7 Things You Didn’t Know About The Iconic Film The internet is abuzz with the news of Sir Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster virtually reuniting to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their film “The Silence Of The Lambs”. The physiological horror film tells the tale of an FBI cadet who must resort to receiving help from an incarcerated cannibal to catch another serial killer. The rest of course is movie history.
“The Silence of the Lambs,” opened in theaters on Feb. 14, 1991 and became an immediate hit for Hollywood. The film grossed more than $270 million worldwide, an astonishing amount of money at the time for an R-rated feature. At the 1992 Oscars, “The Silence of the Lambs” swept the five biggest awards — a feat that had only previously been achieved by It Happened One Night (1934) and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) — including Best Picture, Best Actor for Hopkins and Best Actress for Foster (her second Academy Award for acting after 1989’s The Accused). And Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter became cultural touchstones, two frequently mimicked characters (though never matched), as prototype for what it took to lift the genre of the psychological thriller into art.
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On Jan 20, Hopkins and Foster reunited for a video chat for Variety’s Actors on Actors Series. They started by talking about their latest projects — “The Father” for Hopkins; “The Mauritanian” for Foster (both performances could earn them an invitation back to the Oscars) — and they eventually moved on to reminiscing about their most famous movie. Here are the seven things revealed about the iconic film from their conversation.
1. Hopkins believed it to be a Children’s Movie.
When Hopkins first received the screenplay for “The Silence of the Lambs,” he initially thought it was for a film for kids. “I was in London in 1989, doing a play called ‘M. Butterfly,’” Hopkins recalls. “My agent sent the script.” After 10 pages, he called his agent back, asking if it was a real offer because — as he declared at the time: “This is the best script I’ve ever read.” Eventually, Hopkins finished the script and had dinner with the director Jonathan Demme to discuss the role.
“I couldn’t believe my luck, and I was scared to speak to you,” Hopkins tells Foster. “I thought, ‘She just won an Oscar.’”
2. Hannibal’s wardrobe choice and metallic voice was Hopkins’ idea.
“I knew what the character looked like,” Hopkins says, who asked the wardrobe team to give him a fitted prison suit — not just a drab orange jumpsuit. He wanted Lecter to be dressed in white because it would remind people of dentists and doctors, people who made them feel automatically apprehensive.
“The voice had come to on the first reading.” Foster recalled how Hopkins sounded. “I remember that specific voice you had, the metallic tinge to your voice.” And he got a vocal upgrade thanks to a member of the sound team. “Chris Newman was sound mixer, and he also enhanced that,” Foster says. “He was able to bring up that up a little bit.”
3. Foster relied heavily on diction to lend voice to Clarice.
In Foster’s interpretation of Clarice, she spoke slowly and with trepidation. “For me, with Clarice, it was also about her voice, mostly because she was somebody that had been scarred by the bleeding of the lambs, the sound and how there was nothing she could do to help them,” Foster says. “My mom said to me, ‘Why do you want to play this character who’s kind of quiet and mousy?’”
4. Hopkins stayed in character between takes as Lecter.
The actor stayed in character as Hannibal Lecter in between takes, and one crew member on the lighting team got to be on the receiving end of one of Hannibal’s chilling threats. Hopkins snapped at a crew member in character, “What are you doing in my cell?”, which left director Jonathan Demme shocked in the best way possible.
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Demme was thrilled. “Oh my god,” the director told him. “You’re so weird.” Demme asked Hopkins about blocking Lecter’s first meeting with Clarice in his jail cell. “I said, ‘I’d like to be standing there. I can smell her coming down the corridor,’” which once again prompted Demme to remark on Hopkins’ weirdness. Hopkins, of course, took it as a compliment.
5. Hannibal’s cell was different than other cells in the prison.
Hannibal’s cell was one of the scariest prison cell ever seen in a film and not because it was dimly-lit or dark, rather it was quite the contrary. The perspex cell was invented because Demme thought shooting through prison bars would ruin the scene. “It was such an eerie set,” Foster says. “All the different inmates, all very dark and moody, and then we come to Lecter’s: It’s kind of bright and fluorescent lighting and two-dimensional.”
6. Inspiration for creating Lecter came from a man and a machine.
Hopkins cites two inspirations for creating the character of Hannibal Lecter. First, he borrowed from HAL 9000, the A.I. antagonist from “2001: A Space Odyssey.” “He’s like a machine,” Hopkins says of Lecter. “He just comes in like a silent shark.”
The other source of his inspiration was Christopher Fettes, a withering teacher who taught Hopkins at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. “He had a cutting voice, and he would slice you to pieces,” Hopkins says. “His analysis of what you were doing was so precise; it’s a method that stayed with me for all my life.”
7. Lecter almost never blinks.
Hopkins barely blinks in the film, and he explained that he did it to keep the audience mesmerized. “It’s not so much not blinking, it’s just being still,” he said. “Stillness has an economy and it has a power about it.”
Source Credit: Variety