The Role Of Hannibal Lecter Could’ve Gone To Al Pacino, Robert De Niro Or Dustin Hoffman

via Orion Pictures

If you enjoy movies of a darker nature, then you may agree with us in saying that not only was The Silence of the Lambs one of the best horror/thriller flicks the 1990’s produced, but perhaps one of the greatest of all time. Admittedly, we could probably talk about the many things that made it special all day, chief among which were Anthony Hopkins’ chilling performance as Hannibal Lecter and Buffalo Bill’s legendary dance scene set to “Goodbye Horses” by Q Lazzarus – but let’s talk about the good doctor for a moment, shall we?

As you may know, this wasn’t the first of Thomas Harris’ series of books to have been adapted to film, with Manhunter preceding it in 1986. Furthermore, Brian Cox originally inhabited the role of Lecter, although it was spelled “Lecktor” the first time around.

Anyway, when it came time to get the followup off the ground, recasting was on the agenda of the filmmakers, with director Jonathan Demme looking over a short list consisting of some of the best actors the industry had to offer when it came to filling Hannibal the Cannibal’s shoes.

According to actress Jodie Foster, Hollywood heavyweights like Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman were all considered. And while each one of them would’ve brought something unique to the role, Demme wanted someone British for the job, as she recalled his reasoning when introducing the movie to an audience at the British Film Institute over the weekend:

“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.”

Speaking of which, it’s also worth noting that Sean Connery, Derek Jacobi and Daniel Day-Lewis were also looked at before Hopkins landed the gig. And while the Hannibal Lecter – Clarice Starling dynamic remains among one of the best in the annals of cinema, it may shock you to learn that Hopkins and Foster didn’t actually film together much, as she had this to add:

“I did the whole first part of the movie without him; he went off [after rehearsal] to go and shoot another movie. He only shot for 7 or 10 days or maybe even less. I never saw him until halfway through the movie.

“Much of the dialogue is straight to camera, a Hitchcock technique so some days I never even saw him. 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.”

Fortunately, it all worked out for the better, with The Silence of the Lambs cleaning up at the Academy Awards. Not only did it win Best Picture, but Hopkins and Foster earned Best Actor and Best Actress honors, respectively. Regardless, it’s fun to ponder what might have been.