Hopkins received the script from his agent when he was doing a play in London in 1989
Thirty years after making The Silence of the Lambs, Anthony Hopkins says Hannibal Lecter is still “one of the best parts I’ve ever read.”
Speaking with PEOPLE, the 86-year-old, who won his first Best Actor Oscar for playing the psychiatrist and psychotic cannibal in the 1991 film based on Thomas Harris’s 1988 bestseller, reveals he hasn’t seen the movie in “years.”
But he still recalls receiving the script from his agent when he was doing the play M. Butterfly in London: “He said, ‘I want you to read this.’ I said, ‘Is it an offer?’ He said, "It’s a film with Jodie Foster called The Silence of the Lambs.’”
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“So I opened it. I sat in the dressing room in the theater, and I read through the first scene of Lecter. I said, ‘Is this an offer?’ He said, ‘I'm not sure.’ I said, ‘I'm not going to read anymore, because this is one of the best parts I've ever read.’”
Turns out, director Jonathan Demme did want Hopkins for the role, and flew to London from New York to see Hopkins in the play, according to Hopkins.
“We went out afterwards and we had some dinner. And I said, ‘Why'd you cast me?’ He said, ‘Why? Have you got problems?’ I said, ‘No, no. Why did you cast me?’” recalls the actor.
“So we talked, but I knew how to play the part,” continues Hopkins. “And I don't know. I do have an instinct about these roles. I could understand Lecter. I could understand the mystery of the man, the loner, the isolated voice in the dark, the man at the top of the stairs who's not really there.”
In the movie, his character, locked up an institution for the criminally insane, is interviewed by FBI trainee Clarice Starling (Foster), who is hoping to gain insight into another serial killer known as Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine), who kidnaps women and skins them.
They two develop a strange rapport and respect for each other, despite their glaring differences.
Hopkins says working with Foster was a joy.
“She's lovely,” he says. “What's wonderful about Jodie is that great actor that she is, she has no entourage. She just comes on the set and does it. Very laid back. Very cool. What I like about her, she's very practical.”
Freud’s Last Session is in theaters now.
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