Al Pacino and Robert De Niro Considered to Play Hannibal Lecter Before Anthony Hopkins

Sir Anthony Hopkins played Hannibal Lecter in three different films, with his first attempt at the character in Silence of the Lambs earning him an Academy Award for Best Actor. Despite Hopkins being the defining performer for the character, co-star Jodie Foster recently revealed other actors who were considered for the part, which included Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman.

When introducing the film at the British Film Institute, Foster shared a variety of insider information about the production, pointing out that the aforementioned actors were considered for the role but that director Jonathan Demme specifically wanted a British actor.

"Lecter is a manipulator and has a way of using language to keep people at bay… you wanted to see that Shakespearean monster. That's why we jumped the pond," Foster pointed out.

Despite the relationship between Foster's Clarice and Lecter being intrinsic to the plot, Foster also revealed she hadn't even met Hopkins until halfway through the film's shoot.

"I did the whole first part of the movie without him; he went off [after rehearsal] to go and shoot another movie," she admitted. "He only shot for seven or 10 days or maybe even less. I never saw him until halfway through the movie."

Demme was able to use editing to mask the fact that the two were rarely interacting with one another, adding to the disconnect between the characters.

"Much of the dialogue is straight to camera, a Hitchcock technique so some days I never even saw him," Foster explained. "It was the last day of shooting and I was eating a tuna fish sandwich and I said, 'I was a little scared of you,' and he said, 'I was scared of you,' and then we had a big hug."

The actress also went on to explain what drew her to the role, with the film giving her an opportunity to play a hero as opposed to a victim.

"For me, it was so important to make sure there was a healing process, to finally playing a woman who saves the women," Foster detailed. "The film is still relevant today. We are moving forward and we're at a very painful and interesting place in our conscience, whether it's about violence or race."

Actor Mads Mikkelsen has gained a large following for his portrayal of the serial killer in the TV series Hannibal, which ran for three seasons on NBC. While the series never earned big ratings, it gained a fervent following, with talks regularly circulating about continuing the character with a film or new season.


[H/T Deadline]