Q&A: Jodie Foster on The Silence Of The Lambs

WHERE?: BFI

WHEN: 3/11

It’s hard to believe that Jodie Foster wasn’t the first choice to play rookie FBI agent Clarice Starling but it was a part she lobbied hard to play.

  • Read on for reasons including why Jack O’Connell is the hardest working actor Foster’s met

‘In my life I’d played a lot of victims – that’s a big part of women’s history – but for me it was important, like a healing process or growing up, to finally play the woman who saved the woman.’

Foster’s speaking at the BFI because Jonathan Demme’s 1990 chiller is returning to cinemas in a new 4k transfer as part of the BFI’s Who Can You Trust? series of thrillers.

For those unfamiliar with the five-Oscar winner, it is the story of Starling, on the hunt for psychopathic murderer Buffalo Bill before his female body count rises. She adopts a high-risk strategy in visiting the imprisoned, dangerous and highly intelligent psychiatrist Dr Hannibal Lecter, played by Anthony Hopkins, for his insight.

‘It came from such a wonderful book that inspired people to do their best ever work in film,’ remembers Foster. ‘It’s timeless. Like the little pot at the end of the rainbow that you hope for but never get. I got it when was 29 and I didn’t realise it would never happen again.’

Foster won a Best Actress Oscar in 1988 for The Accused shortly before Silence. ‘Originally it was going to be the first film that Gene Hackman directed but he dropped out because it was too violent. I thought: ‘I’ve just won an Oscar, I might have a shot at this’.

Hopkins was chosen to play Lecter because Demme wanted a ‘Shakespearean monster’.

Hopkins and Foster didn’t speak during shooting other than when they were acting together. Foster remembers a New York rehearsal: ‘He was petrifying. So scary that I couldn’t bring myself to talk to him.

‘Anthony only shot for between seven and 10 days, maybe less.’

Foster went on to direct after The Silence Of The Lambs and she speaks eloquently of her love for the camera rather than for theatre.

‘I started work when I was three years old and was in features from when I was six. The camera has always been a big part of my life. it’s magical when all the elements required to make a film come together.’

She directed British actor Jack O’Connell recently in Money Monster and is full of praise for the star who recently wowed the West End in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof.

‘We saw every actor in the US and Jack has an English accent I can’t understand. I think he really brought something amazing to it. He brought a working class understanding to it. I don’t think I’ve ever met anybody who works as hard as that guy.’

Does she think things have moved backwards since The Accused? ‘I really don’t think so.’

  • Pictures courtesy BFI. Tickets for events like these.
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