The Silence of the Lambs – Acting Types

Title: The Silence of the Lambs

Writer:  Thomas Harris and Ted Tally

Director: Jonathan Demme

Year: 1991

Actors: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins and Anthony Heald

The Movie: The Silence of the Lambs is, in my opinion, the be all/end all to movies about serial killers.  Clarice Starling, a trainee FBI agent played by Jodie Foster, is tapped to help gather evidence on a serial killer case.  She is chosen to speak with the most notorious serial killer ever caught – Dr. Hannibal Lecter, played by Anthony Hopkins, to help the FBI get intelligence on Buffalo Bill – the serial killer they are trying to catch.  Starling is chosen because of her naivety and because she is a young woman – both characteristics that the FBI think will help get Lecter to talk. The movie is filled with great dialogue scenes between Lecter and Starling, and even better action scenes that sets the bar for all mystery thriller movies made since. I chose this movie selfishly to talk about acting styles as Hopkins gives one of the most memorable acting performances I have ever seen.  Foster is also incredibly believable in her performance as well.  Both Hopkins and Foster won Oscars for their performances (I just tend to really like really good bad guys).  This blog discusses the acting styles of three actors in this film.  Hopkins and Foster are obviously two of the three and I chose Anthony Heald as the third.  Heald plays the part of Dr. Fredrick Chilton, the head of the state hospital that houses Lecter.

Jodie Foster: Jodie Foster in her role as Clarice Starling would be seen as a character actor.  According to Goodykoontz (2014), character actors are “able to fit invisibly into a wide variety of disparate characters, adapting to the needs of each script and director they work with”.  Foster plays the role of Starling incredibly well and is very believable, just as the script intended:

Very believable, eh?

Anthony Heald: Heald’s acting performance as Dr.Chilton could also be classified as a character actor.  He is amazingly creepy as his motifs reveal themselves as the films plays out.  As viewers, we initially get the sense that he is very chauvinist towards Starling and then realize he is all about power.  He is met with a very gruesome (and as we learn to hate him and appreciate Lecter for what he is) and celebrated ending.  An example of Heald’s character acting in Silence of the Lambs:

Anthony Hopkins: Hopkins role as Hannibal Lecter can be also be classified as character acting, as he is so incredibly believable in the role.  I believe his acting in this move could additionally be put in the personality type of acting category, because if it were any other actor portraying Dr. Lecter it wouldn’t work nearly as well.  According to Goodykoontz (2014), “personality actors are, at some level, playing themselves (or at least that is the perception). Films with strong personality actors can make it difficult for audiences to differentiate between the actor and the character.”  The reason I refer to his acting as Lecter in the personality category is that he makes Hannibal Lecter’s character with his style of acting and his acting has since become synonymous with talking about this film.  Here is the proof:

Anthony Hopkins, given his full film credits, can be classified in any category because of his success in the many roles he has played.  The category of wild card, or “an actor who is difficult to classify as one certain type, often because he or she can play a wide variety of characters equally well without becoming typecast“. (Goodykoontz, 2014)  Even above that, he is a much loved actor and can also be classified as a star.  Period.


Goodykoontz, B., & Jacobs, C.P. (2014). Film: From Watching to Seeing (2nd ed.). San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.

Orion Pictures (1991 Feb 14). The Silence of the Lambs Official Trailer [Video File]. Retrieved from:

Orion Pictures (1991 Feb 14). The Silence of the Lambs (9/12) Movie CLIP – Screaming Lambs (1991) [Video File]. Retrieved from:

Orion Pictures (1991 Feb 14). The Silence of the LambsDr. Chilton [Video File].  Retrieved from:

Orion Pictures (1991 Feb 14). The Silence of the Lambs (3/12) Movie CLIP – Fava Beans and a Nice Chianti (1991) HD [Video File]. Retrieved from:


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