Thomas Harris’ most famous literary creation is going to provide fertile creative ground for movies and TV shows for a long time yet, but no matter how great any of them could potentially turn out to be, Anthony Hopkins will always remain the definitive interpretation of Hannibal Lecter.
He wasn’t the first actor to play the role, or the last, but when audiences think of the cold-blooded cannibal, nine times out of ten it’ll be Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs that comes to mind. The Hollywood legend won the Academy Award for Best Actor despite spending less than sixteen minutes onscreen, and while his two subsequent performances in Hannibal and Red Dragon couldn’t match the initial levels of acclaim, Dr. Lecter became a cinematic and cultural icon nonetheless.
In a recent interview conducted by co-star Jodie Foster, Hopkins went into detail about how he got into the mindset of the character, revealing that he drew plenty of inspiration from some unusual places including 2001: A Space Odyssey‘s HAL 9000 when it came to the voice.
“I said, ‘I’d like to be standing there. I can smell Clarice coming down the corridor’. I knew what the character looked like. The voice had come to on the first reading. He had a cutting voice, and he would slice you to pieces. His analysis of what you were doing was so precise. It’s a method that stayed with me for all my life. He’s like a machine. He just comes in like a silent shark.”
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Based on the complicated rights issues surrounding the property, it could be a long time before we see another adaptation of The Silence of the Lambs. That is, if anyone’s even brave enough to try and follow in the footsteps of an all-time great psychological thriller that swept the boards at the Academy Awards by winning the trophies for Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress and Screenplay.
After all, Bryan Fuller’s acclaimed Hannibal couldn’t feature Clarice Starling or Buffalo Bill because the studio weren’t legally allowed to incorporate those elements of Harris’ most well known story, while CBS’ upcoming procedural Clarice can’t even mention Dr. Lecter by name.