Anthony Hopkins reveals the strangely brilliant inspiration for his Hannibal Lecter

Ben Arnold
·Contributor
·2-min read
Silence of the Lambs (Credit: Orion Pictures)
Silence of the Lambs (Credit: Orion Pictures)

While Succession's Brian Cox played him first, Sir Anthony Hopkins immortalised the cannibalistic psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter in the Oscar-trawling Silence of the Lambs in 1991.

But his inspiration for the alarmingly blank character came from an unusual source.

Speaking on the occasion of the movie's 30th anniversary, Hopkins and his co-star Jodie Foster interviewed each for Variety magazine.

Read more: Oscar buzz for Hopkins’ new movie The Father

“The voice had come to me on the first reading. [Director] Jonathan [Demme] asked me, and I said, 'He’s like a machine. He’s like HAL, the computer in 2001: ‘Good evening, Dave.’ He just comes in like a silent shark,” says Hopkins.

Hal 9000 (Credit: MGM)
Hal 9000 (Credit: MGM)

“I was naturally nervous, an Englishman — a limey like me, a Welshman — playing an American serial killer. And I remember Jonathan, when the camera picked me up, he said, 'Oh, my God. That’s it. Hopkins. You’re so weird!' And I said, 'Why, thank you.'

“And they wanted the lighting girl to come into my cell, and I said, 'What are you doing in my cell?' And [Jonathan] said, 'Oh, my God.' So I knew I had pressed the right button. Once you got that button, hold on to it — and go with it.”

Frightening lighting crew aside, Foster adds that the project was 'a life-changing adventure, that movie, for both of us'.

120528 04: Best Actor recipient Anthony Hopkins, Best Actress recipient Jodie Foster and Best Director recipient Jonathan Demme hold their Oscars at the 64th annual Academy Awards March 30, 1992 in Los Angeles, CA. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded five Oscars to the film "Silence of the Lambs." (Photo by John Barr/Liaison)
Anthony Hopkins, Jodie Foster and Jonathan Demme at the 64th annual Academy Awards March 30, 1992, in Los Angeles (Credit: John Barr/Liaison)

Hopkins won the Oscar for Best Actor for the role, Foster won Best Actress for her role as FBI rookie Clarice Starling, Demme won Best Director and the movie won Best Picture.

Ted Tally also won for his adapted screenplay, netting the movie the top five categories.

The world of Clarice Starling will soon be back on screens, with Silence of the Lambs prequel series Clarice set for CBS.

Rebecca Breeds will play Starling in a series set a year after the events of the movie.

Watch: Anthony Hopkins in The Father trailer