MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: Anthony Hopkins never blinks in The Silence of the Lambs.
Anthony Hopkins' Academy Award winning turn as the brilliant cannibal serial killer, Hannibal Lecter, in The Silence of the Lambs, who advises Jodie Foster's FBI Agent Clarice Starling in the capture of another serial killer, is one of the most affecting turns that you'll see from an actor.
Hopkins was on screen for less than 20 minutes and yet absolutely captured audience's attentions.
However, did he seriously not blink in the film?
WALTERS: You have said that you really understood Hannibal, and that he was not a difficult part for you to play. Why?
HOPKINS: I've no idea. I read the first script many years ago and I knew that it was one of those parts, that I could slip into like a glove. I think he is a little like me in a way. He's a person in solitude and isolation. I am a bit of a solitude person — a solitary personality. I like being on my own. I don't have any major friendships or relationships with people.
WALTERS: You never blink.
WALTERS: As Hannibal.
HOPKINS: It's a trick I learned because, if you don't blink, you know you can keep the audience mesmerized. It's not so much not blinking, it's just being still. Stillness has an economy and it has a power about it. And I have learned that by watching other great American actors.
Here's the screenwriter of the film, Ted Tally, asked about whether he liked Hopkins' portrayal of Lecter...
Yes. I was worried he might be hammy. When filming began, I ran into him when he was having dinner in the hotel in Pittsburgh, all by himself. I actually had the temerity to ask him how he was going to play the part: “Do you think you’ll choose moments where his madness shows through?” He looked at me and said, “Oh, no. I think if you’re mad, you’re mad all the time.” I didn’t find it reassuring, performance wise. But he’s right. You don’t get to choose when you’re mad and sane.
Ultimately, it’s an incredible performance. I don’t know if you would notice this even, but he blinks only one time in the entire movie, and he does it very slowly and dramatically when he evokes some incredibly painful memory in her about the death of her father or something. It’s like sipping a glass of wine. Otherwise, his eyes are completely wide open. He trained himself to do that.
Seems straightforward, then, right?
Not really, since of COURSE Hopkins blinks in the film. He blinks many times.
He even blinks in the classic "Fave Beans and a Nice Chianti" scene...
However, it is clear that he does, indeed, blink a lot LESS than people do normally and it is also clear that there are times when he blinks when it a purposeful blink, like when he is savoring Clarice's memory of her dead father in the famous "Quid Pro Quo" scene...
But he DOES blink a few other times. It's still impressive, to be sure, but it's a far cry from "he never blinks in the movie."
The legend is...
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