1991: 10 Things You Might Not Know About THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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1991: 10 Things You Might Not Know About THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS

Geek Dave boils-up some fava beans, uncorks the Chianti, and waits for the census man.
1. The Silence of the Lambs was the second film to feature the character Hannibal Lecter; the first being 1986's Manhunter produced by Dino De Laurentiis. Manhunter was based on Thomas Harris 1981 novel Red Dragon, and part of De Laurentiis deal when securing the screen rights to the book was that his production company owned "all characters" included within the novel, including one Dr Hannibal Lecter (although Manhunter adapted the character's surname to Lecktor). When Orion Pictures began negotiations to secure the rights to adapt Harris' sequel novel The Silence of the Lambs they subsequently discovered they would also need to negotiate with De Laurentiis to acquire the screen rights to the one-time respected forensic psychiatrist and now FBI consultant, Hannibal Lector.

Manhunter had not been a commercial success, to put it mildly. De Laurentiis had seen just an $8.6 million return on his $15 million budget. Owing to this financial failure, De Laurentiis felt there was no worth in the character so lent Orion the rights to Hannibal Lecter for free! The Silence of the Lambs went on to make $272 million on just a $19 million budget, De Laurentiis was no doubt kicking himself.

As an aside to this, after The Silence of the Lambs became a success, the rights to Lecter returned to De Laurentiis and he became eager for a new Harris novel featuring the notorious serial killer that he could adapt. After a lengthy wait, De Laurentiis received a call from Harris telling him he had finished a new novel and De Laurentiis purchased the rights to the story for a record $10 million. Eventually producing the belated sequel Hannibal in 2001.
2. But back to The Silence of the Lambs - Orion Pictures originally partnered with Gene Hackman to adapt Harris' novel for film, with Hackman set to both direct and star as FBI agent Jack Crawford, the Agent-in-Charge of the Behavioral Science Unit of the FBI in Quantico, Virginia. Hackman was also stumping up half of Harris' $500,000 payment for the rights to adapt the novel, and was to split the final budget costs, with a 50% return on any eventual profit from the film.

However, this was all negotiated before Thomas Harris had actually finished writing the novel. When it was complete, and screenwriter Ted Tally had finished his first draft for the adaptation, Hackman withdrew from the project feeling it was too violent, and Orion funded the picture through other resources.

Had he stayed with the production, Hackman would've banked in excess of $100 million from the deal.
3. Jonathan Demme was the new director signed to helm the project, and given that she'd won the Best Actress Oscar for her role in The Accused just two months earlier, you'd think that when Jodie Foster reached out to him in May 1989 expressing an interest in playing FBI agent Clarice Starling he'd have snapped her up for the role. This was not the case at all.

Demme did not think that Foster was right for the role, he envisioned Clarice to be played by Michelle Pfeiffer. Having just collaborated with her on Married to the Mob she was interested in working with Demme again, but Pfeiffer later revealed,
"It was a difficult decision [to turn it down], but I got nervous about the subject matter."
Demme then approached Meg Ryan, who also turned it down for its gruesome themes. I have to say, I think she would've been very wrong for the role. Demme also spoke with Laura Dern who was actually very interested in playing Agent Starling, but Orion didn't feel she was a bankable choice for the part and pushed Demme to think again about Jodie Foster. He did, and Foster was eventually awarded the role due to her passion towards the character.

Goes to show just how little value an Oscar can be for your career.
4. For the role of Hannibal Lecter, Demme originally approached Sean Connery. After Connery turned it down, many other actors were considered for the role including Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Derek Jacobi and Daniel Day-Lewis.

Eventually Demme reached out to Sir Anthony Hopkins after being shown his performance in The Elephant Man. But when Hopkins's agent told him a script was en route titled The Silence of the Lambs, Hopkins wasn't sure it was his thing, responding,
"Is it a children's story?"
Hopkins called his agent back after reading the first 10 pages, thinking it the best part he'd ever read. He had dinner with Demme and accepted the role.

5. Not exactly 'Mr Hollywood', Anthony Hopkins later revealed that he was initially scared to talk to Jodie Foster on-set as she had just won an Oscar (maybe Foster should've told him what little good it had done her in getting the role?) and so only really spoke with her initially at the table read.

Hopkins created his interpretation of Lecter's voice prior to this, basing it upon the voice of the HAL 9000, as voiced by Douglas Rain in 2001: A Space Odyssey, as well as the vocal cadences of both actor Katharine Hepburn and writer Truman Capote. Debuting his vocal creation at that table read, his voice sent a chill down the spine of everyone in the room, and something of a role reversal happened, with Foster later stating she was terrified of Hopkins when he was in character.
6. To add to the tension between the stars, Jodie Foster later revealed that when The Silence of the Lambs began filming, during the first meeting between Dr. Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling, Hopkins's imitating of her southern accent was improvised on the spot, and had not been part of any table read or rehearsal. Foster stated she felt mocked and personally attacked. Demme fortunately captured Foster's genuine horrified reaction, keeping that shot in the finished movie.

Hopkins and Foster did make-up after this, and Foster later thanked him for eliciting such an honest performance from her.

7. As for the iconic Lecter mask Anthony Hopkins wore in the film, it was created by Ed Cubberly, of Frenchtown, New Jersey, who primarily at the time was making masks for NHL goalkeepers.
8. To complete the iconic look, along with the mask, Lecter was to be dressed in a jumpsuit when moved from Baltimore. The costume department had originally sourced Hopkins a bright orange one-piece design, but he convinced Demme and costume designer Colleen Atwood that the character would seem more clinical and unsettling if he was dressed in pure white. Everyone agreed.

Hopkins later revealed that he got the idea from his fear of dentists and their white scrubs.

9. When Gene Hackman left the project, Scott Glen was cast to play Jack Crawford, the Agent-in-Charge of the Behavioral Science Unit of the FBI in Quantico, Virginia. In preparation for the role, Glenn met with real life FBI agent and criminal profiler John E. Douglas. Douglas gave Glenn a tour of the Quantico facility and also played for him an audio tape containing various recordings that serial killers Lawrence Bittaker and Roy Norris had made of themselves raping and torturing a 16-year-old girl. According to Douglas, Glenn unsurprisingly wept as he listened to the recordings, and changed his stance on the death penalty.
10. The Silence of the Lambs went on to win the Big Five Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director (Demme), Best Actor (Hopkins), Best Actress (Foster), and Best Adapted Screenplay (Ted Tally), making it one of only three films in history to accomplish this feat (the other two being 1934's It Happened One Night and 1975's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest).

Those accolades were just the tip of the iceberg. Along with Golden Globes and Baftas, The Silence of the Lambs wasn named Best Horror Film during the Horror Hall of Fame telecast, with Vincent Price presenting the award to the film's executive producer Gary Goetzman. Hannibal Lecter (as portrayed by Hopkins) was later named the number one film villain of all time by the American Film Institute, and in 2006, at the Key Art Awards, the original poster for The Silence of the Lambs was named best film poster "of the past 35 years"...
No doubt everyone toasted the film's success with a nice Chianti!

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