'Just One More Thing: Love Your Suit'
While aiming for horror on screen, cast and crew members lightened the atmosphere on the set of "The Silence of the Lambs" with dark comedy. They feasted on lamb and invented a board game called the Gumb Game—named after serial killer Jame "Buffalo Bill" Gumb—which included penalties like "Liposuction: Go back two spaces." Anthony Hopkins spoke in the voice of Dr. Hannibal Lecter even off camera.
'Good Evening, Clarice'
Jodie Foster wasn't a shoo-in for the role of FBI trainee Clarice Starling. Director Jonathan Demme's first choice was Michelle Pfeiffer (he'd worked with her on "Married to the Mob"), but the "Silence of the Lambs" screenplay made her squeamish. Meg Ryan, Gina Davis and Melanie Griffith had similar reactions, and finally, after lobbying hard, Foster landed the part.
Before Jonathan Demme stepped in as director, Gene Hackman and Orion Pictures paid $500,000 for rights to "Silence of the Lambs." Hackman originally planned to direct the film adaptation of the novel himself ("As I read it, the movie was clicking in my mind") and co-star as FBI agent Jack Crawford. But the actor abruptly changed his mind, deciding he didn't want to follow up "Mississippi Burning" with another dark project.
Agent Jack Crawford
The role of Jack Crawford ended up going to Scott Glenn. To prepare for it, he spent time with FBI agent John E. Douglas, the real-life model for his character. At one point Douglas, a pioneer of criminal profiling, played a recording that two serial killers had made while torturing a teenage girl. Glenn wept while listening to the tape. Previously opposed to capital punishment, he said the experience "changed my mind about that for all time."
'It Rubs the Lotion on Its Skin'
Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine) is a composite character based on three serial killers: Ted Bundy (who wore a cast on his arm as a ruse to lure victims into his car), Gary Heidnick (who held women captive in a pit in his basement) and Ed Gein (who skinned his victims). Gein also inspired Anthony Perkins' character in "Psycho."
'I Wanna Go Home!'
Like Robert De Niro in "Raging Bull," Brooke Smith deliberately put on weight—25 pounds—to play Catherine Martin, the "roomy" young woman held captive by Buffalo Bill.
Ted Levine improvised Buffalo Bill's dance scene—and then urged Demme to keep it in the film. This led to protests from gay rights leaders, who denounced the director for equating gay men and transexuals with serial killers. Demme, who never viewed Buffalo Bill as gay, said his only regret about "The Silence of the Lambs" was that he hadn't explained the self-loathing character more clearly.
Moth wranglers brought Death's-head hawkmoths, a species sometimes associated with evil and the supernatural, onto the set, but it was too chilly and the insects quickly died. The wranglers replaced them with moths of another species, using fake nails and Crazy Glue to give the new moths a Death's-head look.
The image of a skull over the moth that covers Jodie Foster's mouth on the "Silence of the Lambs" poster is actually a photo of seven naked women. Titled "In Voluptas Mors" ("Voluptuous Death"), it's a 1951 work conceived by Spanish surrealist Salvador Dali and photographed by Philippe Halsman.
"The Silence of the Lambs" was the the third film in history to win the "big five" Academy Awards—Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director and Best Screenplay. It remains the only horror movie ever to win the Oscar for Best Picture.
Photo by John Barr/Liaison/Getty Images
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