The Silence of the Lambs: 13 Things You Didn’t Know

Hannibal Lecter wearing mask

Orion Pictures

One of the most adored horror/thriller movies of all time, The Silence of the Lambs made household names of Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster. FBI trainee Clarice Starling is tasked to consult imprisoned cannibal Hannibal Lecter, to gain insight on an at-large serial killer named Buffalo Bill.

Here are some things you didn’t know about the film…

1) Hannibal’s white clothes came from Hopkins’ fear of dentists

When Hannibal is in his temporary cell whilst being transferred, he wears pure white. Originally, the idea was to have him wearing a bright orange prison jump suit. Hopkins managed to convince the director and costume designer to switch over to pure white, though; telling them it would look more clinical. Hopkins said later that his fear of dentists inspired this thinking. Plus you can’t deny – the blood wouldn’t have contrasted quite so well on an orange jumpsuit!

2) Hopkins offended Foster and her reaction is kept in the film

Hannibal Lecter mocking Starling’s southern accent wasn’t in the script. Anthony Hopkins ad-libed it. This caused Jodie Foster to take it as an attack on her acting, and so her shocked reaction is completely real.

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3) Hopkins visited prisons and attended court hearings of serial killers

To really get into the mind of Lecter, Hopkins put a huge amount of research into the role. He studied the profiles of serial killers, visited psychopaths in prisons, and he even sat in courtroom hearings of serial killers, so that he could absorb their world, and give an accurate portrayal. That clearing paid off, as he won the Oscar for best actor!

Orion Pictures

A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.

Hannibal Lecter

4) Second shortest appearance to win Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role

Although his appearance isn’t quite as short as some iconic movie villains (Darth Vader is only onscreen in A New Hope for eight minutes), Anthony Hopkins managed to bag himself the Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role with just twenty-four minutes of screentime. Only one actor has ever scored that Oscar with less screentime, which was David Niven in 1958’s Separate Tables.

5) Buffalo Bill’s kidnap method was inspired by Bundy

You’ll remember the scene where Buffalo Bill traps Catherine in the back of his van by wearing an arm cast and pretending to struggle with getting a sofa into the back of a van. Catherine takes pity on him, and climbs into the back of the van to help him lift it up there. Bundy actually used very similar methods, and would wait around outside libraries in an arm cast. When he saw a girl he liked, he’d drop a stack of books so that they’d come over to help him.

It rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again.

Buffalo Bill

6) The scene where Starling cries by her car was inspired by a real FBI agent

During her preparation for the role, Foster spoke a lot with a female FBI agent named Mary Ann Krause. The agent explained that whenever the job got too much for her and she needed an emotional release, going out to the car to cry was a good way to get one.

7) The story was inspired by a true relationship between a profile and a serial killer

Ted Bundy’s arm-in-a-cast trick wasn’t the only inspiration this serial killer had on the story. Lecter’s relationship with Starling was inspired by Bundy’s real-life relationship with criminal profiler Robert Keppel. Keppel consulted an imprisoned Bundy about the Green River Killings, and Bundy helped him with the case.

Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the lambs
Orion Pictures

8) Ted Levine insisted on including Buffalo Bill’s dance from the novel

The famous dance scene to ‘Goodbye Horses’ where Buffalo Bill tucks his penis between his legs does appear in Thomas Harris’ novel, but was absent from the script. Ted Levine, who had read the novel, insisted on including it in the film; stating it was important for defining the character.

9) Brooke Smith had to squeeze into the pit through a tiny secret door

Brooke Smith, who plays Catherine Martin in the film, spends most of her time onscreen at the bottom of a well-like pit. But she wasn’t hoisted down there each day in that bucket; she had to crawl through a tiny door, which was then covered over with dirt. The actress gained 25 pounds for the role.

10) The moth cocoon was made from gummy bears

One famous scene in The Silence of the Lambs features a moth cocoon being removed from a corpse’s windpipe. The prop guys planned ahead in case the cocoon was accidentally swallowed, and made it completely edible! The cocoon was fashioned out of gummy bears and Tootsy Rolls.

11) Gene Hackman bought the rights to The Silence of the Lambs

After reading the novel by Thomas Harris, none other than Jodie Foster tried to buy the rights for the film. However, she had been beaten to the punch by Hollywood legend Gene Hackman. Hackman intended to direct and star in the film but after his daughter read the novel she allegedly said, ‘daddy, you’re not making this film.’ and that was that. Hackman sold his rights to Orion Pictures.

Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs
Orion Pictures

12) Foster described Starling’s lamb trauma so well, a flashback scene was cancelled

The famous scene where Starling describes how she saw slaughtered lambs screaming when she was younger was supposed to be accompanied by a flashback scene that showed Starling flee the farm onscreen. The crew had planned a trip to Montana to film the flashback. However, the director soon came to realise that Foster simply describing the scene was vivid enough, and that to cut away from her would be a shame, and so the flashback was cancelled. He announced this by saying, ‘I guess we’re not going to Montana.’

13) Author Thomas Harris wanted nothing to do with the film

Shy and reclusive, Thomas Harris – the author behind the novel The Silence of the Lambs – wished the filmmakers all the best with the movie, but made it clear that he wanted nothing to do with its making or promotion. He did, however, send each of the film’s Oscar winners a case of wine.

There you have it – 13 pieces of The Silence of the Lambs trivia.

The Silence of the Lambs Trailer

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