ANTHONY HOPKINS. Red Dragon. September 1, 2002
  • Golden Globe Awards

Oral History: Anthony Hopkins on Creating Hannibal Lecter

For over 40 years the HFPA has recorded famous and celebrated actresses, actors and filmmakers. The world’s largest collection of its kind – over 10,000  items – is now in the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences Margaret Herrick Library. In 2001, Golden Globe winner and future Cecil B. deMille recipient Anthony Hopkins (nominated once again this year for The Two Popes) revisited the character that had made him an international star – The Silence of the Lambs‘ cannibal psychiatrist Dr. Hannibal Lecter – for the first of Lambs‘ two sequels, director Ridley Scott‘s Hannibal. This is his take on building one of the screen’s most terrifying villains.“Hannibal Lecter is described as a  psychopathic monster. My decision was to play the non-psychopathic side of him,  to play him very quiet, very charming,  not dripping blood. Let the audience do the work.  The audience knows he’s a psychopath because they’re told that he is. You know, you don’t have to act out everything that is described.  As an actor, your job is to select and edit. You don’t have to play everything. The audience does the acting for you.  Jonathan Demme asked me how I would like to be discovered because they spend 15 minutes talking about Hannibal before the audience sees me. ‘Do you want to be sitting in the corner or reading  a book?’ I said,  ‘No,  I’d like to be standing right in the middle of the cell. That’s enough to give anyone fright.’ Jonathan said, ‘Okay, we’ll do it your way’. And that’s all that was required. I played King Lear once and the trick of the mad scenes is not to play them – not to play him mad. The lines that Shakespeare wrote for him are mad enough that you don’t have to act madness, just play it normally but the audience is listening to this madness coming out of the lines.What Hannibal does, what he says, speaks of madness, speaks of cruelty. What he does to those two guards is cruel and violent, terrifying and insane but you don’t have to act that out. That makes him more frightening. It’s the old maxim of less is more.”