Classic Scene: The Silence of the Lambs

Hello Clarice. As we enter October our thoughts inevitably turn to Halloween and subsequently horror films and then the realisation that sometimes the scariest monster is our fellow man. Jonathan Demme’s 1991 psychological horror, The Silence of the Lambs, introduces us to not one but two inhumane, yet still very human, killers: Buffalo Bill and Dr Hannibal Lecter. Sir Anthony Hopkins dazzles as the intellectual cannibal toying with Jodie’s Foster’s fresh-out-of-the-academy FBI agent Clarice Starling, who has been sent to work with Lecter to locate Bill and save his next victim. The film was a huge success financially and critically, with Hopkins rightfully winning a Best Actor Academy Award for his work and also netted Foster, Demme and screenwriter Ted Tally their own awards too, as well as claiming Best Picture.

But did you know…

1) Gene Hackman was originally attached to both helm the project and star in the lead role. He optioned the rights (a 50/50 split with Orion), but eventually dropped out just as Tally was about to finish the first draft of the script. Apparently it was Hackman’s daughter, who convinced him to rethink his involvement in the film.

2) With its 14th February 1991 release date, the film went against the unspoken Oscar rule of releasing the film as close to the awards show as possible to keep momentum, and put over a full year between its first screening and the awards ceremony. It didn’t hinder the film’s chances at all, and it became only the third film to date to have won all five major categories (Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress and Screenplay). The other two films are It Happened One Night (1934) and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975). 

3) Hopkin’s performance, as impactful and memorable as it was, only amounts to 16 minutes of total on-screen time (out of a 1 hour 58 minute run time), which makes it one of the shortest performances by an Academy Award winner in history. The Best Actor category record is held by David Niven in Separate Tables with 15 minutes and 38 seconds.