2. His Calculated, Cat-Like Movements
Often when preparing to take on a character an actor will
look to the animal kingdom for inspiration to inform their performance. Hopkins’
animal of choice when preparing for Hannibal Lecter was the cat – a creature he
interpreted as constantly on the prowl and simultaneously very graceful yet
also very dangerous.
Granted, Hopkins doesn’t get to move a great deal given that Hannibal is confined to a prison cell for much of the movie but his body language – just like his affected blinking – is very calculated and cat-like. Take his third scene with Clarice, for example, in which she makes him an offer that’ll see him transferred to a much nicer institution in exchange for his help capturing Buffalo Bill and he scoffs at the proposition with a dismissive and distinctly feline flip of his hand.
Even as he’s bashing a guard’s head in with a baton just before he makes his great escape there’s something graceful about his movements in spite of the violence occurring, like he’s a cat playfully swatting at a mouse and carefully padding around his victim before stealthily creeping out of the cell.
Hopkins maintains Hannibal’s cat-like prowl until the very end of the film where we see him finally free of his confines and furtively sauntering through the busy streets of Bimini stalking his next unsuspecting victim – his former captor Dr Chilton – who he creepily informs Clarice he is having for dinner. And we all know what that means.