It was actually Hannibal Lecter’s second appearance on the silver screen
Even though the film is often credited with launching the courteous cannibal into popular culture, The Silence of the Lambs was actually Dr. Hannibal Lecter’s second outing on the silver screen. The first was Michael Mann’s Manhunter, a 1986 flick that saw the brilliant Brian Cox take on the mantle of the infamous killer. The film was a flop at the box office however, making back just over half of its initial $15 million budget.
And so the producers got the rights to Hannibal Lecter for free
Given that the character has gone on to become a bonafide icon on the big screen, it seems almost impossible to imagine that no money actually changed hands in order for the producers of The Silence of the Lambs to acquire the on-screen rights to Hannibal Lecter. And yet, after Manhunter flopped at the box office, the film’s producer Dino De Laurentiis gave away the character’s rights for free and was no doubt kicking himself when Lecter went on to scoop more than $272 million during his next appearance at the multiplex.
Gene Hackman was originally going to star and direct
Amazingly the man responsible for bringing The Silence of the Lambs to the big screen is Gene Hackman. The Superman star, alongside Orion pictures, fronted the $500,000 needed to buy the big screen rights to Thomas Harris’ novel. Hackman had planned to direct the film and possibly star as Lecter himself, but decided he couldn’t follow up his bad guy performance in Alan Parker’s 1989 hit Mississippi Burning with another unlikeable character.
Jodie Foster tried to buy the rights too
Hackman wasn’t the only actor who was interested in the rights to Harris’ novel however. Jodie Foster was also interested in developing it for the big screen and actually tried to buy the rights, only to discover that Hackman had beaten her to it.
But she almost wasn't cast in the film
Despite her early interest, the actress who would later go on to make the role of Clarice Starling her own almost wasn’t cast in the film. Director Jonathan Demme had initially earmarked Michelle Pfeiffer for the role after working with the actress on Married to the Mob, however Pfeiffer stepped back on account of the film’s violence. Demme would go on to audition scores of actresses including Meg Ryan, Gina Davis and Melanie Griffith before eventually returning to Jodie Foster, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Hannibal Lecter could have looked very different too
Hard as it is believe, Hannibal Lecter almost looked very different too. It’s almost impossible to imagine anyone but Anthony Hopkins playing the part, but Demme had initially wanted Sean Connery for the role, and only settled on Hopkins after exhausting a list of possible leading men that also including Jack Nicholson, Jeremy Irons, Derek Jacobi, Daniel Day-Lewis and Robert Duvall.
It’s one of the most misquoted films of all time
Despite what people might think, Lecter never actually said “Hello, Clarice,” the line was actually "Good evening, Clarice."
And some of its most memorable moments were improvised
Some of the film’s most memorable moments were actually never even in the script. For example the infamous scene where Buffalo Bill dances naked was actually the on-the-spot invention of actor Ted Levine who thought it was essential for defining his character. Likewise the moment in which Hopkins’ Lecter critiques Starling’s southern accent during the characters’ first meeting was also entirely improvised, and Foster’s shocked and defensive reaction is entirely genuine as a result.
The FBI used the film as a recruiting tool
The FBI offered their full support to the production in the hope that Foster’s portrayal of Clarice Starling would attract more female agents to the bureau.
Hopkins used our fear of dentists to ramp up the terror
Lecter’s all-white wardrobe didn’t just happen by accident, you know. It was actually the invention of Anthony Hopkins who wanted to remind audiences of the apprehension they normally experience when visiting doctors and dentists.
He also channelled Dracula
The oft-parodied sucking noise that Hopkins’ Lecter makes after discussing his love of flesh, fave beans and fine Italian wine, was inspired by Bela Lugosi’s 1931 adaptation of Dracula.
It’s only the third film to win the big five at the Oscars
In 1991 The Silence of the Lambs became just the third film to win the Big Five Oscars - which include Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director and Best Screenplay. The previous two were It Happened One Night (1935) and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1976). No film has managed to achieve the feat since.
Even if Hopkins didn’t spend that long on screen
For a character that’s indelibly inked onto every film fan’s consciousness, it’s remarkable to think that Anthony Hopkins didn’t actually spend that long on screen during The Silence of the Lambs. In fact the Welsh actor appears for just over 16 minutes of screen time, and only shares a total of four scenes with Foster’s Clarice Starling. Talk about making an impact.
Recommended for you