25 Things You Didn’t Know About The Silence Of The Lambs

Believe it or not, a full 25 years have passed since the release of The Silence of the Lambs. In other words, you’ve had plenty of time to learn everything there is to know about Jonathan Demme’s landmark horror classic. However, on the off chance that you haven’t done your homework, here are 25 little-known facts that should give you a new appreciation for one of the most unsettling Best Picture winners of all time.


1. Thomas Harris’ novel was inspired by serial killer Ted Bundy’s attempts to help criminology professor Robert Leppel solve the Green River killings.


2. After losing money on Manhunter, producer Dino De Laurentiis briefly lost faith in Hannibal Lecter movies and gave away the rights to The Silence of the Lambs.


3. When Jodie Foster read the novel, she tried to buy the rights—but they had already been secured by another actor: Gene Hackman.


4. Hackman intended to play Hannibal Lecter and direct the film, but he abruptly bowed out after seeing himself in a violent clip from Mississippi Burning—at the 1989 Oscars.


5. Having just starred in Jonathan Demme’s Married to the Mob, Michelle Pfeiffer was his first choice to play Clarice Starling, but she had the same complaint as Hackman: too much violence.


6. Hundreds of other actresses were considered for Clarice, including Kim Basinger, Halle Berry, Melanie Griffith, Nicole Kidman, Andie MacDowell, and Meg Ryan.


7. Sean Connery and Ed Harris both turned down key roles in The Silence of the Lambs, only to join forces four years later for a far less accomplished serial killer movie: Just Cause.


8. The list of actors considered for Hannibal Lecter included Robert De Niro, Robert Duvall, Louis Gossett Jr., Dustin Hoffman, John Hurt, Jeremy Irons, Christopher Lloyd, Jack Nicholson, and Patrick Stewart.


9. When Anthony Hopkins first heard the film’s title, he thought it was a children’s movie.


10. Demme cast Hopkins because of his warm-hearted turn as Dr. Frederick Treves in The Elephant Man. When Hopkins responded that Treves was a good man, Demme insisted that Lecter is also a good man, but one “trapped in an insane mind.”


11. Hopkins attributed his unique manner of blinking in the film to two inspirations: reptiles and one of his friends in London.


12. For the voice of Lecter, Hopkins took inspiration from two very different models: Truman Capote and Katharine Hepburn.


13. If Hopkins’ Lecter strikes you as somewhat robotic, there’s a good reason for that: he modeled the character on HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey.


14. The FBI extended a great deal of support to the film, as they hoped it would attract more female recruits.


15. Ted Levine (who played Jame Gumb) and Brooke Smith (who played kidnapping victim Catherine Martin) were pitted against one another onscreen, but they hit it off behind-the-scenes.


16. The Silence of the Lambs features appearances by at least six directors, including Roger Corman, Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Kasi Lemmons, and zombie mastermind George A. Romero.


17. In order to finance the film’s Oscar campaign, Orion had to delay the release of Blue Sky, a film starring one of Foster’s perceived Oscar rivals, Jessica Lange. When Blue Sky was finally released three years later, Lange won the Oscar for Best Actress.


18. During awards season, gay organizations protested the film’s depiction of Jame Gumb. Demme commended the protestors for their efforts and promised he would make up for this infraction with his next film—which turned out to be Philadelphia.


19. At just over 16 minutes, Anthony Hopkins’ performance is the second shortest ever to win the Best Actor Oscar.


20. The Silence of the Lambs is one of only five horror films ever nominated for Best Picture. Unlike the other four (Black Swan, The Exorcist, Jaws, The Sixth Sense), Silence managed to win.


21. If viewed as a follow-up to Manhunter—the two films have several characters in common—The Silence of the Lambs is only the second sequel to win Best Picture (after The Godfather: Part II).


22. The Silence of the Lambs is one of only three films to sweep the top five Oscars: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actress, and Best Actor. The other films that earned this distinction are It Happened One Night and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.


23. Reclusive novelist Thomas Harris had nothing to do with the making of the film, but he called it “a great movie” and sent cases of wine to all the film’s Oscar winners.


24. Jodie Foster has regularly stated that The Silence of the Lambs is her personal favourite of all her films.


25. Wondering where The Silence of the Lambs stands today, in terms of public opinion? IMDb users currently rank it as the 23rd best film of all time.

If you haven’t seen the trailer for The Silence of the Lambs in a while, check it out below. By all accounts, it goes great with fava beans and a nice chianti.