Sir Anthony Hopkins is arguably one of the most celebrated cinematic actors in history, which includes earning multiple awards for various performances, yet the actor recently detailed how he was nervous to play Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs, as it would require him to act opposite Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling, who had recently won an Academy Award for her performance in The Accused. The actor was also apprehensive to take the part because he was an American serial killer, requiring Hopkins to disguise his Welsh accent. After overcoming that anxiety, Hopkins would go on to earn an Academy Award for his performance as the villain.
"I couldn't believe my luck, and I was scared to speak to you," Hopkins revealed to Foster during a video chat hosted by Variety. "I thought, 'She just won an Oscar.'"
Hopkins continued, "I was naturally nervous, an Englishman — a limey like me, a Welshman — playing an American serial killer. And I remember [director] Jonathan [Demme], 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."
The pair went on to recall Hopkins' influences developing the character and how a member of the sound department helped create an otherworldly tone.
“I knew what the character looked like,” Hopkins pointed out. “The voice had come to on the first reading.”
Foster confirmed, "I remember that specific voice you had, the metallic tinge to your voice. Chris Newman was the sound mixer, and he also enhanced that. He was able to bring up that up a little bit.”
This audio manipulation surely helped the character, as Hopkins pointed out that he drew inspiration from 2001: A Space Odyssey's HAL 9000 for his character's mindset.
“He’s like a machine,” Hopkins detailed of the role. “He just comes in like a silent shark.”
Hopkins did point out that he also had real-world inspiration for the character, but from an unlikely source.
“[Royal Academy of Dramatic Art teacher Christopher Fettes] had a cutting voice, and he would slice you to pieces,” the actor admitted. “His analysis of what you were doing was so precise; it’s a method that stayed with me for all my life.”
A sequel TV series focusing on Clarice Starling is coming to CBS later this year.
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