In an interview on “The Dick Cavett Show,” Anthony Hopkins revealed what inspired the character’s disturbing trait of not blinking. “I actually met a madman who was on the loose in London and that’s pretty scary,” Hopkins recalled for Cavett. “I had coffee with him one day and I realized how nuts he was. He never blinked, so basically [he] never kept asking me questions. And before you could ask him one, he would ask me another one and another one. In the end, it made me feel [like I was in] a different reality.”
As such, Hopkins doesn’t blink in the scenes where he is speaking in “The Silence of the Lambs.” He explained in an interview with ABC News reporter Barbara Walters in 2001 that there’s a certain power that comes with the ability not to blink. “It’s a trick I learned because, if you don’t blink, you know you can keep the audience mesmerized,” he said. “It’s not so much not blinking, it’s just being still. Stillness has an economy and it has a power about it.”
Just as chilling in the film was Hopkins’ voice. In a joint Vanity Fair interview with Foster in 2021 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the release of “The Silence of the Lambs,” Hopkins revealed for the first time that Lecter’s voice was inspired by Christopher Fettes, a “charismatic” teacher the actor studied under at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. “This teacher had stayed in my conscience all my life. I got a phone call afterwards: ‘Tony, it’s a wonderful performance. Did you base that on me, by any chance?'” Hopkins recalled.
Hopkins also based Lecter’s voice on “In Cold Blood” author Truman Capote, legendary actress Katharine Hepburn, and HAL 9000, the AI character from “2001: A Space Odyssey.”