The cinematic world is brimming with infamous horror icons, but few characters have made such a subtle, bloody impact in the past 30 years than Hannibal Lecter. Despite being brought to horrifying life by several actors in multiple films and a TV series, there’s no doubt that the actor responsible for the most iconic depiction of the brilliant psychopath was Sir Anthony Hopkins in 1991’s Silence of the Lambs. The film wowed critics and even garnered Hopkins an Academy Award for Best Actor. However, his dual return in Hannibal and Red Dragon, in 2001 and 2002 respectively, were met less favorably, and this week, the Welsh actor confessed that it was a mistake to reprise the role.
During an interview with the Wrap, Anthony Hopkins admitted that he no longer has an interest in playing the character, and this is because of the mixed response to both Hannibal and Red Dragon.
“I did it once. Made the mistake of doing it twice – three times. The Silence Of The Lambs is okay. It was a good film.”
When asked if he wanted to portray the iconic serial killer again, his answer was simple.
“No. I don’t want to do that. Done with that.”
It seems that Hopkins appears to regret playing Dr. Hannibal Lecter, possibly his most iconic role, and the experience has left a foul taste in his mouth. Not only that, but it seems the experience has tainted his feelings for Silence of the Lambs too, which is a huge shame. Directed by Jonathan Demme, Silence of the Lambs was a critical and financial success on release, receiving near universal acclaim from multiple critics while grossing $272.7 million at the box office. For a horror film, on a $19 million budget, that’s pretty impressive.
Hannibal was directed by Ridley Scott in 2001, and drew a mixed response from viewers. One major reason for this reception included the “romance” storyline between Lecter and Clarice Starling. Rumor stated that Jodie Foster refused to reprise the role in this sequel because of this, something that has never been confirmed. Hollywood.com detailed a more plausible explanation. Julianne Moore would be cast in the role instead.
In 2002, Red Dragon was adapted for the second time, and directed by Brett Ratner. A prequel to Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal, the film was actually received positively by the majority, but many exclaimed that Lecter had lost his shine, due in part to Anthony Hopkins overplaying the character. It was a solid performance, but with his superb debut effort as the character overshadowing him, it was always going to fail in comparison.
The Silence of the Lambs was also a rarity at the Academy Awards — it was one of only three films to have won the top five categories at the show. At the 64th Academy Awards, Anthony Hopkins won Best Actor, Jodie Foster earned Best Actress, Jonathan Demme picked up Best Director, Ted Tally scooped the Best Adapted Screenplay, and the film also won the prestigious award of Best Picture. The fact that Hopkins labelled the movie as a “good film” is down to personal perspective, but its a shame to see one of the greatest performances of the last 30 years shadowed by these comments.
Of course, Anthony Hopkins wasn’t the first — or last — actor to star as the beloved character. Brian Cox got the ball rolling in Michael Mann’s 1986 thriller Manhunter, an early adaptation of Red Dragon. Following the Hopkins movie trilogy, a younger version of Lecter was portrayed by French actor Gaspard Ulliel in prequel Hannibal Rising, in 2006. Most recently, Mads Mikkelsen portrayed the cannibalistic serial killer in NBC TV show Hannibal, which ran for three seasons. Despite these solid outings, Hopkins’ original performance is still regarded as the definitive portrayal of Hannibal Lecter, and this doesn’t look to be changing any time soon.
Will Anthony Hopkins change his mind on returning to the role? Will Hannibal Lecter return in any medium? Much like the character, the answer will be shrouded by mystery for the foreseeable future.
[Image via Orion Pictures]