The Silence of the Lambs is a 1991 American suspense film that won the Academy Award for Best Picture for the first time since Rebecca (1940). Thanks to its tight direction and superb storyline, as well as Anthony Hopkins’ iconic portrayal as a cannibalistic serial killer, the film swept the five major Oscars (best picture, best director, best lead actor, best lead actress, and best screenplay [original or adapted]).
As The Silence of the Lambs begins, FBI trainee Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) is summoned to Jack Crawford, the chief of the Behavioral Science Unit (Scott Glenn). Crawford believes Starling will be more forthcoming with Lecter than he has been with more seasoned interlocutors, therefore he wants her to question Hannibal “the Cannibal” Lecter (Hopkins), an imprisoned serial killer, for information to aid current investigations.
When Starling arrives at the Baltimore State Hospital, Dr. Chilton (Anthony Heald) informs her of the rules to follow when speaking with the resourceful and dangerous Lecter.
The FBI is searching for Lecter’s help in solving the case of “Buffalo Bill,” a serial killer who kills his victims by stabbing them. Lecter agrees to help the investigation in return for being sent to a different hospital. While everything is going on, Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine) kidnaps Catherine Martin (Brooke Smith), the daughter of a US senator.
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The film is based on Thomas Harris’s best-selling novel of the same name from 1988. In the Hannibal Lecter series, that was the second (of four) novel. The original film, Red Dragon (1981), was remade as Manhunter in 1986.
Gene Hackman was intended to direct The Silence of the Lambs, but he dropped out, and Jonathan Demme decided to helm the picture after reading the novel. Hopkins reprised his character in the films Hannibal (2001) and Red Dragon (2002), both of which were based on Harris’s novels but failed to chart.
Cheers to a healthy 2022 🥳 pic.twitter.com/dEsO6FobZJ— Anthony Hopkins (@AnthonyHopkins) December 31, 2021
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After It Happened One Night (1934) and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), The Silence of the Lambs was the third picture to win all five Oscars.
The cast of The Silence of the Lambs
Clarice Starling, Jodie Foster
Clarice Starling, played by Jodie Foster, enlists the help of cannibal Hannibal Lecter to track down a serial killer. Michelle Pfeiffer was contacted for the role, but she turned it down owing to her concerns over the film’s darker themes.
Hannibal Lecter, Anthony Hopkins
Dr. Hannibal Lecter is a psychologist, cannibal, and eloquent psychopath who helps Starling solve her serial killer case. He is played by Sir Anthony Hopkins. Gene Hackman was cast in the part and was set to helm the film as the script turned more aggressively grim, but he declined. Now, watch Thor: The Dark World.’ As Thor’s father, Odin, Hopkins reprises his role. He recently appeared in the film ‘Hitchcock,’ in which he played Alfred Hitchcock, and will next be seen in Darren Aronofsky’s historical epic ‘Noah.’
Ted Levine, Jame “Buffalo Bill” Gumb
Ted Levine rose to prominence as a serial killer and crossdresser Jame Gumb, also known as Buffalo Bill. The legendary naked dancing moment was originally in the novel but not in the script, but director Jonathan Demme added it to the film at Levine’s request.
Scott Glenn, Jack Crawford
The roles of FBI Behavioral Science Unit head Jack Crawford were considered by Michael Keaton, Mickey Rourke, and Kenneth Branagh. Scott Glenn, who starred in ‘Apocalypse Now’ and ‘The Hunt for Red October,’ was chosen for the part.
Anthony Heald, Frederick Chilton, Frederick Chilton, Frederick Chilton, Frederick Chilton, Frederick Chilton, Frederick Chi
Anthony Heald played Dr. Frederick Chilton, the head of the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, where Dr. Lecter is incarcerated.
Now: Heald is a stage actor who has appeared in a number of Broadway productions as well as television shows such as ‘Boston Public’ and ‘Boston Legal.’ Heald has recorded over 60 audiobooks, including ‘The Pelican Brief’ and ‘Jurassic Park.’
Brooke Smith, Catherine Martin
Brooke Smith gained 25 pounds as Catherine Martin, the overweight girl abducted by Buffalo Bill.
Smith is now a series regular on ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ and was a series regular on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ from 2006 to 2008. She has also acted in the films ‘In Her Shoes’ and ‘Fair Game.’
Kasi Lemmons, Ardelia Mapp
Clarice Starling’s roommate at the FBI Quantico training school, Kasi Lemmons.
Now: Lemmons also acted in the horror film ‘Candyman,’ but decided to pursue a career as a filmmaker instead. Her directing credentials include ‘Eve’s Bayou,’ ‘The Caveman’s Valentine,’ and the upcoming feature ‘Black Nativity.’ Her husband is Vondie Curtis-Hall, a fellow director and actress.
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