Anthony Hopkins Originally Thought Silence of the Lambs Was a Children's Story

In the 30 years since Anthony Hopkins' debut as Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs, the villain remains one of the most unsettling figures in all of pop culture, though Hopkins himself recently detailed that he initially thought the project would be intended for kids, based solely on its title. After overcoming the seemingly misleading title, Hopkins only got minimally invested in the script before becoming overwhelmed with its quality, ultimately leading towards a meeting with director Jonathan Demme before taking on the role. Hopkins would go on to earn the Academy Award for Best Actor for the part.

"Is it a children's story?" Hopkins remembers thinking during a conversation for Variety. "I was in London in 1989, doing a play called M. Butterfly. My agent sent the script."

He noted that he called his agent back after reading 10 pages, recalling that he told his agent, "This is the best script I've ever read."

The film was written by Ted Tally and based on the novel of the same name by Thomas Harris. Hopkins wasn't the only one to earn acclaim for the project, as the horror film ultimately took all of the top honors at the Academy Awards, including Best Director, Best Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Picture, along with Hopkins' Oscar.

"I read the rest of the script, and Jonathan came over on a Saturday afternoon and we had dinner," Hopkins explained. "And I said, 'Is this for real?' And he said, 'Yeah.' I said, 'Okay.' He was such a wonderful guy to work with."

Despite Hopkins arguably being the most famous person to play the character, he's far from the only one, as Mads Mikkelsen also played a version of the character in three seasons of Bryan Fuller's Hannibal on NBC. Prior to Hopkins, Brian Cox played Lecter in the 1986 Harris adaptation Manhunter.

While he may have only played the character once, Cox previously detailed that he thinks the character's strength comes from his mystique and that the less he's seen, the more of an impact he has.

"The problem has always been, to me, that Hannibal Lecter works in relief," Cox detailed to in 2019. "When you start focusing on him, you give away his mystery. The great thing about Hannibal Lecter, when I played it, was he was a mysterious character. You didn't know where he was coming from, so that meant that he was even more dangerous, because of his mystery. And of course, Tony [Hopkins] was wonderful, and he did a wonderful job on it, but the scripts became more and more about, 'Who is this guy Hannibal Lecter?' And I think the strength of Hannibal Lecter is that we don't know who he is, that the audience has to make their own conclusions. They have to draw their own conclusions in a way, and I think that's much more interesting."


A sequel TV series focusing on Clarice Starling is on the way from CBS.

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