Few movie villain performances are as memorable as Anthony Hopkins turn as Hannibal Lecter in the classic thriller movie The Silence of the Lambs. You might think Hopkins looked to real-life serial killers for inspiration for this role, but he was actually influenced by a science fiction movie icon.
The ‘90s movie won five Academy Awards, including a Best Actor win for Hopkins. Suffice to say, the actor did something right when portraying the monstrous maneater Hannibal Lecter. Turns out Hopkins had some doubts over how to play the character, until he had a brilliant idea.
“The voice had come to me on the first reading. Jonathan [Demme] asked me, and I said, ‘He’s like a machine. He’s like HAL, the computer in 2001. Good evening, Dave.’ He just comes in like a silent shark,” Hopkins said.
“I was naturally nervous, an Englishman – a limey like me, a Welshman – playing an American serial killer. And I remember Jonathan, when the camera picked me up, he said, ‘Oh, my God. That’s it. Hopkins. You’re so weird!’ And I said, ‘Why, thank you,'” the actor added.
On another occasion, Hopkins terrified a member of the crew. He recalled: “They wanted the lighting girl to come into my cell, and I said, ‘What are you doing in my cell?’ And [Jonathan] said, ‘Oh, my God.’ So I knew I had pressed the right button. Once you got that button, hold on to it — and go with it.”