‘The Silence of the Lambs’ Star, Anthony Hopkins, Reveals His Inspiration for Hannibal Lecter

Anthony Hopkins is one of the most celebrated actors of his time. While he had worked steadily from the 1970s onward, fans largely remember him for his chilling portrayal of Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs. The movie, which turns 30 next month, was an instant success and is still discussed today. Hopkins found inspiration for his iconic character in two rather unlikely places.

Hopkins treated Hannibal Lecter like a machine

When he signed on to portray Lecter, Hopkins knew exactly what he was getting into after the script’s initial shock wore off. The famed actor told Variety that he had initially thought the film would be a children’s movie, based on the title alone. Once he finished reading the script, he knew he wanted to be a part of it. He said that the character instantly had a feel for him, and he drew inspiration from a rather unlikely source.

Scott Glenn, Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster in 'The Silence of the Lambs '
Scott Glenn, Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster in ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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Hopkins said that he treated Hannibal as if he were a machine, pulling his inspiration from the film ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’. He used the machined voice of HAL to develop the character. HAL, the AI that controlled the spacecraft in the movie, was capable of speech, facial recognition, language processing, and automated reasoning. He was still a machine, though, and Hopkins drew from the character when developing his take on Hannibal.

Hopkins borrowed his voice from an acting teacher he once worked with

When it came to the voice, Hopkins admitted he found inspiration in someone he once had as a teacher. He told Variety that he worked with Christopher Fettes at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. The teacher had a lasting effect on him. Hopkins noted that Fettes’ analysis was spot on and often cutting. He said the teacher’s demeanor, cutting commentary, and voice stuck with him for years. He later employed it while working on the film.

Anthony Hopkins next to a poster for the movie 'Hannibal'
Anthony Hopkins| Lucy Nicholson/AFP Via Getty Images

Several other famed actors have worked with Fettes over the years. Pierce Brosnan has discussed his time as one of his students, for example. In 2002, Brosnan told the Independent that Fettes taught him that he would need to learn to direct himself. He said the lesson has stuck with him, and he’s referenced it multiple times during his career.

The Silence of the Lambs will celebrate its 30th anniversary next month

Hopkins and Foster reuniting for an interview had a purpose. The horror film that defined a generation will celebrate its 30th anniversary on Feb. 14. The movie turned into a runaway success, grossing 272 million at the box office.

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2021 isn’t just the 30th anniversary of the movie’s release. It is also the year that fans will reconnect with Clarice Sterling, this time in a television series. The series, Clarice, will begin about a year after the events of The Silence of the Lambs. The first episode is set to air on Feb. 11 on CBS.