In the annals of cinema, there are few roles as celebrated as Anthony Hopkins' villainous turn as the cannibalistic serial killer Doctor Hannibal Lecter in 1991's The Silence of the Lambs, opposite Jodie Foster. In a recent interview for Variety, Hopkins and Foster reminisced about their time spent making the film, during which Hopkins amusingly revealed that the title of the movie made him think it was going to be a children's story.
"My agent sent a script. He said, "Why don't you read this? It's called Silence of the Lambs." I said, "Is it a children's story?" It was a hot summer afternoon, and the script came over and I started reading it. After 10 pages, I phoned my agent. I said, "Is this a real offer? I want to know. This is the best part I've ever read." I read the rest of the script, and [director] Jonathan [Demme] came over on a Saturday afternoon and we had dinner. And I said, "Is this for real?" And he said, "Yeah." I said, "OK." He was such a wonderful guy to work with. I couldn't believe my luck, and I was scared to speak to you [Foster]. I thought, "She just won an Oscar."
It is amazing to consider that Anthony Hopkins felt intimidated by Foster when the whole of The Silence of the Lambs sees Foster's character Clarice visibly nervous and jumpy in the presence of Lecter in all his scenery-chewing mad glory. According to Foster, the reason why she wanted to play the role of Clarice despite her timid exterior was that she represented a new kind of vulnerable hero.
"For me, with [finding a way to play] 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. My mom said to me, 'Why do you want to play this character who's kind of quiet and mousy?' [Clarice] had this quietness [when she enters an elevator, where she's surrounded by other male FBI agents who tower over her]. There was almost a shame that she wasn't bigger, that she wasn't stronger, this person trying to overcome the failure of the body they were born in. I understood that was her strength. In some ways, she was just like the victims - another girl in another town. The fact that she could relate to those victims made her the hero."
While the legend of Hannibal the Cannibal has been reinvented several times since, The Silence of the Lambs remains one of the most iconic thrillers ever made. The movie also served to put Hopkins on the map as a master actor and cemented Foster's status as an A-list actress who was capable of delivering the kind of complicated roles that actresses rarely got at the time. And to think all of that might never have happened if Hopkins had read the title of the movie script, decided he did not want to do a children's movie and tossed it in the garbage. This news comes from Variety.