Tag Archives: Hannibal

The Silence of the Lambs: discover screenwriter Ted Tally’s key scenes (part two)

8 Dec

Slightly delayed, here is the final part of screenwriter Ted Tally talking us through the key scenes of The Silence of the Lambs, from a live screening at the London Screenwriters’ Festival. To read part one, click here

lambs van

Buffalo Bill tricks his next victim into his van: This shows Jonathan Demme’s sensitivity as a film-maker. He’s about to knock his victim out with his fake cast, and Demme doesn’t show it, it’s off-camera. It’s partly a matter of taste, but also that an audience’s imagination is more powerful than anything you can show them.

The coroner scene: We shot this in Rural Valley, Pennsylvania. It was 10 degrees Fahrenheit, we were stood around waiting for trucks in the mist, all 100 townspeople gathered to wait for the circus to arrive, and Jonathan looked at me and said, “So you think you want to direct?” The elderly coroner was one of the producers, Kenny Utt (above right). The head in a jar was another of the producers (above left). I’m not kidding! With Jonathan it’s like family, he likes to get everyone involved. Roger Corman, Jonathan’s mentor, plays the head of the FBI.

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Buffalo Bill tucks his penis between his legs and dances around the basement: It was very courageous of Ted Levine to take this part. He didn’t work for years after this. True! He was only offered slasher parts. The character of Buffalo Bill was more fleshed out in the book than in the script, unfortunately. In the movie we never get the inside into his tormented childhood, and how he was created. There was controversy because a lot of people thought it was homophobic. But he’s not meant to represent a group of anything. He’s a unique, strange specimen. A lot of the controversy was because he had a white poodle named Precious – with hindsight it should have been a different breed or a different name.

screaming lambs

The screaming of the lambs story: Now we’re getting on to Memphis which is almost like a different movie, it starts to be an action movie. This scene about the spring lambs originally called for a flashback – it was going to be the last thing we shot, in May. But after shooting this scene, Jonathan sent me the rushes and said, “If I cut away from their faces, I’ll be drummed out of the Directors’ Union. Look at Jodie Foster – she could win an Academy Award for this scene [as indeed she did].” I said if I had known there would be no flashback, I would have written it differently. But Jonathan said “It’s all there.”

finger

Lecter touches Clarice’s finger: It’s one of my favourite moments in the movie. You also see Jonathan and the cinematographer pushing the camera further and further through the bars, until there is no distance between them. Jonathan did challenge me on this whole scene. He said, “It’s the climactic scene, but – we’ve had dinner, I know you like a rack of lamb, and so do I. Why are we going to care?” I said, “I don’t care about the lambs, but she does, and I care about her.” Jonathan accepted that.

escape

Lecter escapes: Again, Jonathan said to me, “How can we cut away from Clarice for so long? It breaks your own rule about focusing always on her.” I said “I know, but the escape in the book is such a great scene there is no way we could not have it in.” You can break all the rules, except for one: “Don’t bore the audience.” Jonathan used to say, “I’d rather have the audience confused for four minutes than bored for four seconds.”

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Clarice and Buffalo Bill play cat-and-mouse in the dark: That sequence was shot in one continuous evening, we finished at 5am. It had to be done in one night. Jodie is as exhausted as she looks. Everything you can get out of an actress came out of her.

tropics

A change of ending, in which Lecter phones Clarice from somewhere tropical: The original ending had Chiltern hiding out in his Chesapeake home, and the camera travels over his grounds, and you see dead security guards, Chiltern taped to his desk, and Lecter’s there. Jonathan said “No, he’s a scumbag but he’s a human being; we have to give at least the illusion that he might get away.” So I said, “We can have him on some tropical island, with Chiltern on holiday.” Jonathan said, “You mean we’d have to send a production crew, including you and me, to somewhere hot and tropical, in February? This is a good idea!”

That’s my last of many posts from the London Screenwriters’ Festival. What a wonderful three days that was. For info about next year’s, click here

Down the Tube with Eddie Izzard, would-be Mayor of London

31 Jul

IEddie Izzard Time Out covert’s not often you bump into movie stars on the Tube, dressed to kill in lipstick, earrings, black trouser-suit and high heels. Especially not the male ones.

But there, click-clacking just ahead of me in a tunnel underneath Oxford Circus, his broad shoulders the only clue to his real gender, is the inimitable Eddie Izzard. “Eddie,” I stop him. “Fabulous to bump into you again.” I’d met Britain’s greatest stand-up comic a few times when I was editing Time Out in the ‘90s. “I wouldn’t expect to find you down here.”

Eddie raises a quizzical eyebrow above his shades and smiles: “Well, you’ve got to be using public transport if you’re going to be running for Mayor.”

I shepherded Eddie through his first self-penned magazine piece on his transvestism, and later put him on the cover dressed in a bowler hat and single false eyelash like Alex from Clockwork Orange. But when he told me at a party that he was off to crack America, I was dismissive: they might not “get” his surreal, free-wheeling humour. Ha! He not only became a huge stand-up hit, but a Hollywood and US TV star. This year alone he’s been in several episodes of Hannibal, taken the lead in a Gilles McKinnon movie about the pioneer of Radar, acted alongside Dustin Hoffman and Kathy Bates in next year’s Boychoir, and joined in with his beloved Pythons on Terry Jones’s new film Absolutely Anything.

And let’s not forget that, in 2009, he completed 43 marathons in 51 days for Sport Relief. So when he assures me now, of his political ambitions, “I’m a fighter, and we need fighters,” it’s clear that you have to look beyond the red nail polish.

“People often want a simple yes or no answer in politics,” he talks as we walk, “when the answers aren’t simple. The extremists are popular because they give simple answers, like ‘Everything will be fine if we just get out of Europe.’ But things weren’t fine before that, so why should that suddenly solve everything?”

And if Boris bows out as expected in 2016 [Update: Boris has just announced he will run for MP in 2015, standing down as Mayor in 2016], might Izzard run for Mayor then? “I couldn’t. I’ve always said it would be in 2020. I’ve spent time building this career, and anyway, politics is a fiendishly complex business and I need to learn.”

After a slight wobble on the escalator – those killer heels can be murder – we stand talking for a while above ground at Oxford Circus. “I might fuck up, at first. But the way I see it, everyone fucks up. Boris does all the time and it doesn’t hurt him; even Obama does. It’s the way you deal with your fuck-ups, your approach to fucked-up-edness, that counts.”

It’s endearingly Izzard, to coin a word like “fucked-up-edness”. It’s not a concept many politicians would admit to, let alone a term they might use. He takes off his shades, and it appears they are neither a style statement nor a disguise: he has a touch of red-eye. “I expect I’ll get raked over by the press, though, about the dress thing,” he says thoughtfully.

Really? It’s not exactly a secret. And besides, it’s a great look. In the early days Eddie resembled a trucker in drag; now he’s more Hillary Clinton than Anne Widdecombe.

“No, but apart from me, and then [the artist] Grayson Perry, there aren’t exactly many transvestite role models. That said, I did some campaigning recently in bright red lipstick, and no one turned a hair, no one mentioned it. It had to be bright red, for Labour! That was the only joke I was allowed to put in the speech,” he adds, a little ruefully.

Boris has his trademark floppy hair. Would lipstick and heels really be such a stretch for voters?

I shake Eddie’s immaculately manicured, surprisingly delicate hand, and wish him well. “Enjoy the sunshine,” he says cheerily, and strides confidently into the churning crowds of London’s busiest intersection, thin black heels clacking.

Eddie Izzard for Mayor? I was wrong about his chances once. I won’t be betting against him again.