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Movie Trivia: The Silence of the Lambs

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Since the Oscars are tonight, I thought it would be fitting to do today's Movie Trivia post on one of the most-celebrated films of all time. And if you don't know what I mean, (I didn't know this, 'til I started doing the research) you'll see when you read the very first factoid.

  • Of the seven Academy Award nominations Silence of the Lambs received, it took home five - the Oscars Grand Slam of Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director and Best Screenplay (or Best Writing). Only two other movies have ever done this: It Happened One Night in 1934 at the seventh Academy Awards, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest in 1975 at the 48th Academy Awards.

  • Just before the Oscars, a group of gay activists crashed into the New York Film Critics Circle Awards to protest The Silence of the Lambs. They claimed it made drag queens and crossdressers look bad; that the movie implied that men who dress up as women must be sick and deranged. The matter was handled peacefully, though - no arrests were made.

  • MGM sort of accidentally garnered a lot of Oscar buzz. In 1992, it was still pretty common for films that were up for Oscars to avoid a video release until after the ceremony. But a horror movie hadn't won a major award since 1941's Rebecca, so MGM didn't think they had a shot and figured it was no big deal if they released to VHS. This may have inadvertently been what earned it such Oscar support - Academy voters were able to watch the movie in their own homes.

  • The movie came out on Valentine's Day in 1991. Perfect date movie, don't you think?

  • Gene Hackman originally wanted to direct and write the screenplay for the movie based on the novel. He was also going to play Dr. Lecter himself. But time passed and he lost interest; Jonathan Demme picked it up and wanted Michelle Pfeiffer to play Clarice Starling. She, however, thought it was too dark. Of course, all three roles that were replaced - director, actor and actress - won Academy Awards.

  • Despite the fact that most people will forever link Anthony Hopkins with Dr. Lecter, Hopkins is only in the movie for 16 minutes. It's the shortest lead role to ever win an Oscar.

  • The movie is one of only two Oscar winners Gene Siskel ever gave a thumbs-down to. The other was Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven.

  • Anthony Hopkins improvised a couple of really memorable moments in the movie. When Clarice and Lecter first meet, Hannibal the Cannibal mocks her Southern accent. This wasn't scripted and Jodie Foster had no idea he was going to do it, so when she appears to be offended and shocked, she really is. He also improvised the slurpy noise Lecter makes after describing his meal of human flesh, fava beans and a nice chianti.

  • Horror movie veteran George Romero has a little cameo in the movie - he is with Chilton when the two guards remove Clarice from the area after her last meeting with Dr. Lecter. Roger Corman also has a cameo, as does Jonathan Demme himself. Corman plays FBI Director Hayden Burke and Demme can be spotted at the very end of the movie in the crowd scene wearing a blue cap.

  • Brooke Smith, who plays Buffalo Bill's victim, was actually really good friends with Ted Levine (Buffalo Bill) on set. Because of this, Jodie Foster referred to her as "Patty Hearst." Until recently, you could find both of these actors on T.V. - Brooke Smith was on Grey's Anatomy, and Ted Levine is still on Monk. This disturbs my husband every time we see him on Monk.
  • The moth cocoon found in the victim's throat was made from Tootsie Rolls and gummy bears, so it wouldn't be a big deal if the actress accidentally swallowed it.

  • Dr. Lecter was based on several people, but he was largely inspired by Ted Bundy and the relationship he had with a criminology professor at the University of Washington. Anthony Hopkins also based some of Hannibal's mannerisms on Charles Manson - specifically, he noticed that Manson very rarely blinked when giving an interview, and strived to do the same when on camera.

  • Likewise, Buffalo Bill is a combination of Ed Gein, Ted Bundy, and Gary Heidnick. Ed Gein skinned his victims, Ted Bundy tricked people into his van by acting like the cast on his hand was hampering him, and Gary Heidnick kept women in a pit in his basement.

  • The icon on the movie posters - the moth covering Jodie Foster's mouth - has an element of Salvador Dali incorporated into it. The back of the Death's-Head Hawk Moth is actually made up of naked women if you look closely; it's Female Bodies as a Skull, which was later made into a portrait of Salvador Dali by famous photographer Philippe Halsman. Check out the whole story here.

  • Anthony Hopkins has said that his Hannibal voice was a mix of Truman Capote and Katharine Hepburn.

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    Actually Anthony Hopkins' performance is not the shortest to have won an Oscar for acting in the lead category. That honor goes to David Niven in "Separate Tables" (1958) with 15 minutes and 38 seconds of screen time. Hopkins' screen time in "Silence of the Lambs" is just over 16 minutes.
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    I was wondering If I could use the picture you have og The Silence of the Lambs for my school newspaper. I would really appreciate it. thank you.
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    The difference between Beatrice Straight and Judi Dench's Oscar wins are that they both won in the Supporting Category. Anthony Hopkins does hold the record for shortest screen time to win in the Lead category.
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