Action, Mr Hopkins!


Anthony Hopkins, Ridley Scott and Julianne Moore on the return of everyone’s favourite cannibal

From Film Review March 2001

Ever since the news broke that Thomas Harris was writing a sequel to his best-selling novel Silence of the Lambs, there was immediately eager anticipation for a big-screen adaptation. In February, it finally arrives, directed by Ridley Scott in the wake of his 2000 blockbuster Gladiator. Ten years have passed since Dr Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) escaped from custody, ten years since FBI Agent Clarice Starling (now played by Julianne Moore) interviewed him in a maximum-security hospital for the criminally insane. The doctor is now at large in Italy, gloriously at liberty in an unguarded world. But Starling has never forgotten her encounters with Dr Lecter as his cold voice still haunts her dreams.

There have been arguments that the creation of Hannibal Lector has led to the 20th Century’s greatest human monster – but he’s one that audiences secretly want to win.

“We like Hannibal Lecter because, like a contemporary Nosferatu, he is essentially charming and seductive at the same time he is terrifying us,” argues Scott. “As with all the great monsters of literature, there is a perverse curiosity that makes us want to know what makes them tick. Hannibal’s appeal is less mystical than some of these others. He exists and functions in our lives – which makes him all the more frightening. With Hannibal, there is a strong possibility he is walking on the street right next to you.”

“I suppose Jungian psychoanalysts would say it’s the shadow that we have in all of us,” adds Hopkins. “Or maybe it’s his certainty, his calmness that we probably envy. Some of the most colourful figures in classical literature, Iago, Richard the Third, Faust all have those qualities. They’re so brilliant. They have no doubts. They have no uncertainty. That’s what makes them charismatic: they’re always in control.”

And while Hopkins knew better than anyone on set all about Dr Lecter, he wasn’t about to let his knowledge take over the direction of the movie.

“Anthony is one of those intuitive natural talents who seems to keep forever growing in his capabilities, which makes working with him a real pleasure,” explains Scott. “And Tony truly understands this character. There is a very sensitive comprehension and even compassion toward human nature in Hannibal that makes him both more sympathetic and more dangerous. Tony instinctively grasps that.”

Although there was never a question of who would play Dr Lecter, when Jodie Foster turned down the role, there was a massive question on everyone’s lips. Who could step into her shoes?

Ridley Scott and Julianne Moore on set “When you meet an actor who is as capable and talented as Julianne, it is a great find,” says Scott. “Every move she makes is a constant surprise. This is what directors hope and pray for. She had the honesty, sincerity and strength of character that I was looking for in Starling. I knew almost immediately she would be wonderful in this role.”

“Ridley’s incredibly detail-oriented in knowing precisely where he wants every item in a room to appear in his frame,” says Moore. “But working with actors, he gives you a lot of creative liberty. There were a million different tones in this movie. One day we’d be doing stuff that’s action-oriented. Another week we’d do an intense interview scene, like with Frankie Faison or someone. Then Ridley would move us into something tense and suspenseful. It was a big challenge but that constantly changing pace also made it a lot of fun.”

But how does she see her ultimate enemy? “Lecter has a sort of admiration for her because she is so steadfast in her pursuit of him,” the actress explains. “And she has a real respect for him, what a dangerous person he truly is, so, the courage of her pursuit is even more admirable. But her strict sense of right and wrong compels her to, at one point, become his protector. This intense morality may even be what makes her most appealing to him...”

Image copyright: UIP
Feature © Visual Imagination Ltd 2001. Not for reproduction.

Film Review Feb 2001 issueMore from Hopkins, Scott and Moore in this issue, plus our preview of HANNIBAL

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