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SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, The
(Jonathan Demme, 1990)

 

“I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.”

 

THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS

Jonathan Demme . 1990  

 

Gene Hackman beat all-comers to the rights of Thomas Harris' novel for the firstfilmhe thoughtofdirecting... Thebookwas highly cinematic,"the movie was just clicking inmy mind."It starred Michelle Pfeiffer as the young FBI agent,JohnHurt or Robert Duvall as Hannibal the Cannibal and,busy enough behindthe camera, Hackman would take the small role of Clarice's FBI boss, Jack Crawford.

That was the plan until Hackman joined the Oscarnight audienceinside LA's Shrine Civic Auditorium on March 9, 1989.He was nominated (again) forplaying anotherFBIagent dealing with racism at its murderous worst in MississippiBurning. Hackman kept seeing clips from AlanParker's filmthatnightand realising that Lambs would be evenmore bleakand violent, he knew he could not hack it and he walked away...

Clarice Starling .  Jonathan Demme was keen to pick up the pieces-and keep one in place.Having had her Married To The Mob, Demme also saw Michelle as Clarice. She soon had second thoughs.Like Hackman,she was "unable to cometo terms with the overpoweringdarknessof the piece."

Becoming notorious for turning down excellent material (like Jodie Foster’s roles in Taxi Driver and The Accused) Debra Winger refused. (There was talk of a back injury from a bicycle accident). Meg Ryan was next to drop out. "The script was great but the milieu scared me.   Such a dark world." Andie MacDowell also  "had a hard time with the subject matter."

 

“Those kind of movies disturb me, they terrify me.

I don’t want those images in my head.”

 

Demme was seeing Madeleine Stowe and Emma Thompson among others whenJodie Foster lobbied for the role - "for personal reasons, not just because it's a good part."

Hannibal Lecter .  Demme followed Michael Mann's lead - he chose Brian Cox for the role in Manhunter, 1986 - and went British first. Kenneth Branagh,JohnHurt, Jeremy Irons did not gell. Thinking American, he considered both sides of the age equation: Robert Duvall and Mickey Rourke. Plus John Lithgow - who had been on Mann’s list for Lecter... then, Lektor.

  

He  decided on Oscar-winner Louis Gossett Jr.

“It got very close,” recalled Lou. “Then they had 

… about a  black man as a cannibal!”

 

 

Demme's next notion  - naturally! -  was Jack Nicholson.   Then back to m ore Brits: Anthony Hopkins, Derek Jacobi and Daniel Day-Lewis. "They were determined to have a Brit for their villain - I'm not sure what this says about us," related Jacobi in his autobiography, As Luck Would Have It.   "Goodness knows how it would have turned out if I had played the part, but I would have been malevolent in a very different way. Tony has harder eyes than I have. He was wonderful."

 

Demme chose Hopkins because he  projected "extreme intelligence,  great humanity and compassion." He also came up with an eerie voice a mix of Katharine Hepburn,  Truman  Capote  and 2001’s robot, HAL. Tony was on-screen for, maybe, 17 minutes - shortest ever  performance winning a  Best Actor Oscar.?

Jack Crawford . Ed Harris felt Jodie’s FBI boss was not interesting enough. Michael Keaton was suggested - and sure enough, he did join the FBI (as Agent Ray Nicolette) inJackie Brown, 1997, and Out of Sight. Scott Glenn inherited Crawford. Harris later played aFBI man in The Firm,1993."More interesting." Well, more bald.

During the 1989 Oscarnight when Hackman made his fateful decision, he did not win anything - but Jodie Foster did. In 1992, shewon her second Oscar for the film Hackman let go.  In all, Lambs won five Academy Awards (Actor, Actress, Adapted Script, Director, Picture) from seven nominations.There werea lot of wringing of hands that March 30 night in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.






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