The legacy created by The Silence of the Lambs cannot be understated, with my audiences considering it one of the best horror films of all time and with Anthony Hopkins' portrayal of Hannibal Lecter being regarded as one of the best villains in all of fiction.
Sadly, the film's director, Jonathan Demme, passed away today at the age of 73. The director was also responsible for films like Philadelphia, Rachel Getting Married, the remake of The Manchurian Candidate, and many concert films, such as Stop Making Sense.
Despite the many successes Demme had, Silence of the Lambs continues to terrify audiences and no one has looked at fava beans the same way again.
Hannibal Lecter has had many iterations over the years, from novels to movies to TV shows, but Silence of the Lambs always stands out as the definitive story of a serial killer leading a detective on a deadly game of cat and mouse.
Scroll down to learn some facts you might not have known about Demme's legendary film!
Truth is Stranger than Fiction
The tale of an FBI Agent collaborating with a prisoner to gain knowledge that could help a case isn't too far from reality, but the specifics of real-life murderers that were incorporated into the film's story are downright creepy.
One of the main inspirations for the story of Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) and Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) was the relationship between University of Washington crimonology professor Robert Keppel and serial killer Ted Bundy. before Bundy's execution in 1989, he helped advise Keppel in the investigations of the Green River Serial Killings. The crimes were eventually solved in 2001.
This isn't the only occurrence of Bundy influencing the film.
The film's killer, Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine), would kidnap women, starve them for several days, and then skin them. He's then use that skin, which would be slightly easier to remove after starving victims, to create a "skin suit."
Bundy was said to have used a fake cast on his hand to lure women to help him with various activities, then springing upon them in their moments of weakness.
Other serial killers also tied into the film's storyline and actions of its killer. Ed Gein, who has also been cited as inspiration for the events of Psycho, was known to skin his victims, and serial killer Gary Heidnick also kidnapped women and kept them in a pit in his basement.
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Spur of the Moment
Some of the film's most memorable scenes and sequences weren't actually in the script, a credit to the performers and the ways in which they explored their characters.
When Clarice first meets Lecter, he mocks her southern accent, something that Hopkins did on the spot without warning Foster. Her reaction in the scene is genuine, thinking Hopkins was personally attacking her for her performance. However, she went on to thank Hopkins for inspiring such a reaction.
Anyone who has seen Silence of the Lambs will forever picture Buffalo Bill dancing naked to the Q Lazzarus song "Goodbye Horses" whether they like it or not. The sequence was in the novel, but was cut from the screenplay. Ted Levine demanded that the scene be included, as he thought it was defining of his character.
An often-mocked trait of Lecter's is a fast slurping sound he makes, which Hopkins came up with. Everyone on the set thought it was perfectly fitting of the character, although it eventually wore on director Demme.
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Going for Gold
Horror movies get a bad reputation for not being quality films, with this story of a cannibal and a serial killer sometimes being referred to as a "psychological thriller" as to not lump it in with other genre fare.
Despite the stigma of horror not being deserving of accolades, Silence of the Lambs is one of only three films to win Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Picture at the Academy Awards. The other two are It Happened One Night and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
Only four other horror films have been nominated for Best Picture, including The Exorcist, Jaws, The Sixth Sense, and Black Swan.
The film is also one of only three films to win Best Picture that's a sequel, along with Return of the King and The Godfather: Part II.
With less than 25 minutes of screen time, Hopkins has the second shortest performance of any other winner of the Best Actor award.prevnext
Hopkins Dove Deep
Hopkins' performance might be one of the shortest of a Best Actor winner, but the performer put lots of time and energy into preparing the character and all of his quirks.
To accurately portray a serial killer, Hopkins researched many of them and even visited prisons to study convicted murderers. He went so far as to attend court hearing about the grisly details of violent murders.
Hopkins found many similarities between the character of Lecter and the HAL computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey, as they were both highly intelligent and highly logical killing machines. To heighten that character trait, Hopkins borrowed a quirk of a friend of his, who always made people uncomfortable from their lack of blinking.
One sequence involved Lecter brutally murdering someone and was originally supposed to do so in a colored jumpsuit. Instead, Hopkins asked for all white clothing to appear more clinical, heightening the carnage, which he claimed was an idea that came from his fear of dentists.prevnext
The Safety of Moths
One of the signature elements of all of the Buffalo Bill murders if that he would place the cocoon of a specfic type of moth into the throats of all of his victims.
When the cocoon is removed from the first victim's throat, it was a real actress, so an edible cocoon was created. It was made of gummy bears and Tootsie Rolls so that, if accidentally swallowed, the actress wouldn't have been harmed.
The moth in question is supposed to be a Death's-head hawkmoth, but the Tobacco Horn Worm moth was used in its place.
These moths would be flown first class on the way to filming locations, stayed in special living quarters with controlled humidity and head, and even wore specially designed costumes that featured a more prominent skill painted on the back.prevnext
Dual Thoughts From the FBI
Considering the film mostly saw the portrayal of the FBI and their processes as a positive one, the FBI were happy to co-operate with the production in whatever ways necessary.
The FBI felt so strongly about the effectiveness of Agent Clarice Starling, the organization saw it as a potential recruiting tool, hoping more women would join their team.
Despite the mostly positive response from the FBI, one scene, in particular, they passionately rejected.
The scene in question features Starling going to a suspect's house all by herself, which the FBI claims would never have happened. An inexperienced agent, like herself, would always bring backup with her in case things turned bad.0comments
Demme explained to the FBI that this scene played out in this way as to heighten the film's drama, but the FBI said it would be one of the most egregious errors of depicting the agency's reaction to the situation.
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