The Welsh actor, 83, is due to return cinema screens with The Father, in which he plays a man battling with Dementia. The new film, which also stars The Crown’s Olivia Colman, led the character to reflect on his near six decades as a performer. Sir Anthony, who was knighted by the Queen 18 years ago, gave candid confessions about his chilling portrayal of Hannibal.Sir Anthony brought the psychopath to life more than two decades ago in a three-part film franchise.
His haunting performance in the first installment, The Silence Of The Lambs alongside Jodie Foster, earned him a BAFTA for Best Actor.The 1991 hit cleaned up at the Academy Awards, winning Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay.
Sir Anthony and Foster, who played Clarice Starling, also won Academy Awards for Best Actor and Best Actress.
The film was followed by Hannibal in 2001 and Red Dragon one year later.Ahead of the second film’s release, Sir Anthony described the character as a “sort of Robin Hood of killers” during an interview with CBS News.
He continued: “He kills the… what do they call them? The terminally rude.”But recently, in later life, Sir Anthony has revealed the considerable thought that went into playing Hannibal.
Parallels between the struggles he experienced during addiction and playing the infamous cannibal were explored by New Yorker journalist Michael Schulman.
Sir Anthony, who has been sober for 45 years, previously described his struggles as a “great gift” because “where I go the abyss follows me”.But last week, he admitted there was a “gaping abyss behind” him, which prevented him from “looking back”. Mr Schulman questioned whether that “sense of the abyss” helped to “inform” him for “a role like Hannibal
He told Sir Anthony that the character was “obviously someone who lives with a certain kind of abyss”.But the actor dismissed the claim and argued that with “99.9 percent perfect screenplays” he didn’t need to channel his own emotional experiences.
Sir Anthony added: “You don’t have to do anything… You don’t have to act. It’s there for you, all written down.
“But we tend to make mincemeat of it by wondering what it all means.”He rejected the suggestion that he had to “dig into the depths of human evil” to find inspiration for Hannibal.
Sir Anthony admitted he struggled to finish The Silence Of The Lambs’ script because the material was so dark.At the time, he told his agent: “This is a wonderful part. I don’t want to read anymore.”
When Sir Anthony met then film’s director, Jonathan Demme, the actor couldn’t believe he wanted him for the roleHe recalled: “I said, ‘Is it for real? You want me to do it?’ He said, ‘Yes.’”
Sir Anthony claimed to “know how to play” Hannibal as soon as he read the script.He also admitted to being influenced by the US serial killer Ted Bundy, who confessed to killing 30 women in the Seventies
When Sir Anthony read the murderer’s book he thought: “I don’t want to read any more of this stuff. It’s hideous.”He concluded: “I didn’t want to make Hannibal Lecter a hero.”
On Sir Anthony’s first day of filming, he recalled Mr Demme asking him how he “wanted to be seen” for the first time when Foster’s character approached him.He said: “Standing in the middle of the cell.”
Mr Demme was shocked by his response and said: “Standing? You don’t want to be reading? Why?”Sir Anthony explained that Hannibal would be able to “smell her coming down the corridor”
Mr Demme branded him “weird” for thinking in that way but the actor maintained that was “what he is”.Sir Anthony continued: “[Hannibal] is a lover because he’s impressed that this young, physically vulnerable woman comes to visit the monster.”
He believed Hannibal would consider Agent Starling “courageous” for talking to him but also had an ulterior motive.Sir Anthony continued: “‘I’m going to take the mask off her now, so she can learn from me’ – he strips her down to make her a better person.”