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How Gene Hackman Nearly Became the Iconic Hannibal Lecter!

Key Points:

  • Gene Hackman acquired the rights to Thomas Harris’ novel The Silence of the Lambs with plans to direct and potentially star as Hannibal Lecter.
  • Hackman dropped out before the script was completed, paving the way for Jonathan Demme to direct and cast Anthony Hopkins in the role.
  • Despite missing out on the iconic horror film, Hackman went on to achieve further success in the 1990s with acclaimed performances.

The Silence of the Lambs, released in 1991, is widely regarded as one of the most iconic and terrifying films of all time. Directed by Jonathan Demme and featuring unforgettable performances by Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins as Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter, respectively, the movie has left an indelible mark on cinematic history.

How Gene Hackman Almost Played Hannibal Lecter?

The French Connection (W. Friedkin, 1971) - Gene Hackman Interview
The French Connection (W. Friedkin, 1971) – Gene Hackman Interview

According to Collider, actor Gene Hackman was initially attached to The Silence of the Lambs project. Hackman, a highly acclaimed actor known for his roles in films like The French Connection and Superman, had acquired the rights to Thomas Harris’ novel together with Orion Pictures. He was considering not only directing the adaptation but also playing the lead role of the brilliant yet psychopathic Hannibal Lecter.

Hackman’s vision for the film was clear from the moment he read the book.

“It’s one of the most cinematic books I’ve ever read. As I read it, the movie was clicking in my mind,” he said.

Impressed by the novel’s cinematic potential, Hackman secured the rights and hired screenwriter Ted Tally to adapt the script.

READ MORE: Apex Legends Pros Hacked Live at ALGS Event

Gene Hackman’s Departure and the Rise of Jonathan Demme

However, before the first draft of the script was completed, Hackman unexpectedly dropped out of the project. According to Tally, Hackman’s daughter had read the book and advised her father against making the film, citing its dark and violent content. Hackman then relinquished his rights to Orion Pictures, who decided to move forward with the project.

Fortunately, Orion Pictures quickly found a suitable replacement for director Jonathan Demme. Despite his background in comedic and avant-garde films, Demme was captivated by the script and saw the potential for a terrifying yet compelling cinematic experience. He cast Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling and, famously, Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter, bringing the iconic characters to life on the big screen.

READ MORE: Sydney Sweeney Unfazed by ‘Madame Web’ Flop: “I Was Just Along for the Ride”

The Silence of the Lambs was released in theaters on February 14, 1991, and is currently available for streaming.

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