Wednesday, February 17, 2016


“Do you spook easily, Starling?”

This month marks the 25th anniversary of Jonathan Demme’s THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS.

A mash-up of a chilling horror tale with a police procedural, THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS was based on Thomas Harris’ novel of the same name, and was the second film to feature the character Hannibal Lecter, with the first being MANHUNTER (1986). With MANHUNTER a financial failure at the box office, enthusiasm to bring another Harris novel to the big screen was met with resistance. The project floated around Hollywood for nearly three years with actor Gene Hackman looking to direct and star as Hannibal Lecter.

By late 1987, Hackman would depart the project, and when the rights went to Orion Pictures, a screenwriter by the name of Ted Tally would come on board. Young director Jonathan Demme agreed to direct after reading the novel and before the script was completed.

The story, in which a young FBI trainee named Clarice Starling seeks the advice of an imprisoned Dr. Hannibal Lecter to catch a serial killer, required acting of the best caliber. Actress Jodie Foster was interested in playing the role of Agent Clarice Starling immediately after reading the book, and was hired despite Demme looking to cast Michelle Pfeiffer. For the role of Hannibal Lecter, Demme originally wanted Sean Connery, who turned it down. Daniel Day-Lewis was also considered. The role would eventually go to Anthony Hopkins, who was offered the part based on his performance in THE ELEPHANT MAN (1980). Also signing on was Scott Glenn and Ted Levine.

Filming would take place in Pennsylvania over a period of five months. Howard Shore provided the score. Upon released, the film was a quiet hit which flew under the radar for most of the year, but did well at the box office and gained critical acclaim.

The rewards would come over a year after release at the 64th Academy Awards. THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS would become only the third film to win Oscars in all top five categories; Best Actor (Hopkins), Best Actress (Foster), Best Director (Demme), Best Screenplay (Tally), and most importantly…Best Picture. It was the first, and to this day, the only film widely considered to be a horror film to be nominated for Best Picture, after THE EXORCIST (1973), and JAWS (1975).

Its legacy would go on past the Oscars. THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS appears on several Top lists by the American Film Institute, including 100 Years, 100 Movies (#65), 100 Thrills (#5), and Villains (#1). In 2011, the film was selected to be preserved in the National Film Registry by the U.S. Library of Congress.


This Blogger enjoys looking at a film through the eyes of his friends. It is a useful method which can offer new perspective and new light on a movie. This Blogger has one friend who is scared silly over the film, while another friend, who happens to be a young female FBI agent, loves to be called Clarice; that speaks to the range that the movie reaches. This Blogger also has an appreciation for films which can handle the burden of carrying two different genres, and THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS strikes the perfect balance between a cops-and-robbers flick and straight-up horror; especially horror since the idea of serial killers in our own backyards is much more believable than ghosts and goblins. But perhaps the true legacy of the film comes from the quiet yet epic showdowns between Clarice and Hannibal; a war of carefully-chosen words in which each combatant tries to get under the opponents' skin and inside their heads. In doing so, THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS gets under our skin and inside our heads. In an age of filmmaking where showdowns between characters are done over and over, the industry can learn a lot from revisiting the battles between a Starling and a madman.

“Have the lambs stopped screaming?”

1 comment:

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