Famous Screen Killers Lady Gaga Studied to Play The Countess in ‘AHS’

Before American Horror Story: Hotel, Lady Gaga appeared in Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill for and Machete Kills, yet her role as The Countess in Ryan Murphy’s anthology marked her first significant foray into acting. And, capturing the ruthless, blood-sucking, sex-crazed vampire with ease earned the “Shallow” singer a Golden Globe. Gaga prepared immensely for the role, studying a few memorable on-screen killers to discover her character. 

Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga | Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

Variety noted that Ryan Murphy wanted Gaga’s character to be “more of a bitch, be meaner, be more restrained.” And, Gaga yearned to make such a part appear “effortless.” Hence, she took to analyzing some of the greatest on-screen murderers in cinematic history. She studied Anthony Perkins’ Norman Bates of Pyscho and Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter of Silence of the Lambs. She also studied Robert Durst of The Jinx — a six-part documentary series that followed a real-life millionaire suspected of three killings. So, let’s take a look at each.

Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates in ‘Psycho’

Psycho laid the groundwork for the many psychological thrillers with twist endings that would follow suit. Hitchcock’s masterpiece starred Perkins as a man with Dissociative Identity Disorder (then-labeled Multiple Personality Disorder). As the film’s final moments revealed, he dressed up like his mother whose dead body remained mummified in the fruit cellar. 

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Though disturbed and murderous, Bates was quite calm and collected as a hotel manager. He could both charm and intimidate — seamlessly shifting between a sweet young man and a frightening and unpredictable aggressor. Thus, it made sense that Gaga would study Bates’ performance, as The Countess is a modernized and feminized version of similar duality — shifting between flirtation and violence. 

Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter in ‘Silence of the Lambs’ 

Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter is a cannibalistic serial killer in The Silence of the Lambs. Thus, there’s one immediately obvious connection to Gaga’s character in AHS. Both The Countess and Lecter feed on their victims. And, it’s easy to imagine Lady Gaga delivering a scene similar to the “fava beans” moment that many remember from Silence, in which the killer discusses preparing a meal with a victim’s liver as the main course. 

Yet, it is Hopkin’s menacing stare — one that seems to look through the camera and into the soul of the viewer — that makes his performance chill-inducing. It’s a stare that likely sat with Gaga when discovering The Countess’ resting expression for verbal combat. 

Gaga also studied suspected three-time murderer Robert Durst of ‘The Jinx’

The Jinx, unlike the above movies, was based on the true story of American real estate heir and suspected killer Robert Durst. Gary Napoli portrayed a version of the man in the HBO miniseries, The Jinx. 

The six-part documentary series featured the real-life Durst, as well as actors portraying the man, and it is based on about a decade of research. Such an individual likely gave Gaga a different perspective — a viewpoint outside the fully fictional and into the less cut-and-dry, guilty not guilty world of true heinous crime.