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Anthony Hopkins Thought ‘Silence of the Lambs’ Was a Children’s Story When Script Arrived

Jodie Foster says she was too scared to talk to Hopkins after the first "Silence of the Lambs" table read.

"The Silence of the Lambs"

“The Silence of the Lambs”

Everett Collection

Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster reunited for the 30th anniversary of “The Silence of the Lambs” as part of Variety’s “Actors on Actors” video series, and it didn’t take long for Foster to admit she was too scared to speak with Hopkins after the first table read of the script. Both actors won Academy Awards for their performances, while the film also took home trophies for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay.

“We didn’t get to speak too much before the actual read-through,” Foster said. “We just sort of kind of waved from across the room and then sat down at the table. And as you launched into Hannibal Lecter, I felt a chill come over the room. In a way, it was like we were almost too scared to talk to each other after that.”

Foster wasn’t the only one terrified of Hopkins on the set. The actor stayed in character as Hannibal Lecter in between takes, and one crew member on the lighting team got to be on the receiving end of one of Hannibal’s chilling threats. Hopkins snapped at a crew member in character, which left director Jonathan Demme shocked in the best way possible.

“I was naturally nervous, an Englishman — a limey like me, a Welshman — playing an American serial killer,” Hopkins said. “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.’ And 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.”

Hopkins got the script for “The Silence of the Lambs” sent to him in 1989 while he was in the London production of “M. Butterfly.” Hopkins thought the script was for a children’s story at first, and it took less than a dozen pages for the actor to want to star in the film.

“After 10 pages, I phoned my agent. I said, ‘Is this a real offer? I want to know. This is the best part I’ve ever read,'” Hopkins said. “I read the rest of the script, and Jonathan came over on a Saturday afternoon and we had dinner. And I said, ‘Is this for real?’ And he said, ‘Yeah.’ I said, ‘OK.’ He was such a wonderful guy to work with. I couldn’t believe my luck, and I was scared to speak to you. I thought, ‘She just won an Oscar.'” Foster had already won Best Actress in 1989 for “The Accused.”

Head over to Variety’s website to read the full transcript of Hopkins and Foster’s “Silence of the Lambs” reunion.

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