Sir Anthony Hopkins: I thought Silence Of The Lambs was a children's story

The actor said he did not expect to be playing a serial killer before he read the script.

Sir Anthony Hopkins has said he thought Silence Of The Lambs was a children’s story before he read the script.

The actor won an Oscar for his chilling portrayal of serial killer Dr Hannibal Lecter in the film, which was released 30 years ago.

He has reunited with his co-star, Jodie Foster, who also won an Oscar for her role as Clarice Starling, the FBI trainee who seeks his help in order to catch another serial killer, for trade magazine Variety’s Actors On Actors series.

Sir Anthony told Foster: “I was in London in 1989, doing a play called M. Butterfly.

“My agent sent a script. He said ‘Why don’t you read this? It’s called Silence Of The Lambs.’

“I said ‘Is it a children’s story?’ It was a hot summer afternoon, and the script came over and I started reading it.

“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.’

“I read the rest of the script, and Jonathan (Demme, the director) 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 (for The Accused)’.”

Anthony Hopkins – Heathrow Airport – London
Sir Anthony Hopkins with his Oscar for Silence Of The Lambs in 1992 (Tim Ockenden/PA)

Foster replied: “We didn’t get to speak too much before the actual read-through.

“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.”

She added: “It was such an eerie set. All of the different inmates, all very dark and moody, and then suddenly we come to Lecter’s (cell): It’s very bright and kind of fluorescent lighting and two-dimensional.”

Recalling the first day, Sir Anthony said: “I was naturally nervous, an Englishman – a limey like me, a Welshman – playing an American serial killer.

“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.”

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