For every minute that he was on film, Anthony Hopkins doesn’t blink once during Silence of the Lambs. This is a remarkable achievement, as simply managing to keep ones eyes open while under the intense pressure of both giving a powerful performance and bright lights glaring down on him could have been a big enough distraction to cause a blink at some point.
Blinking is one of those involuntary body functions that we can learn to control. There are quite a few of them that we can control, and under most circumstances we go about our daily lives hardly even noticing that we are actually doing them. Some of the functions that are completely involuntary, yet we can control if needed are breathing and blinking just to name a few. Just as with breathing, blinking is necessary. Without it our eyes would become dry and prone to foreign objects entering them on a regular basis. So it’s a pretty important thing to be able to do, and not absolutely necessary to be able to control. So why is it that Anthony Hopkins doesn’t blink while portraying Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs?
Anthony Hopkins portrayal of Hannibal Lecter can be described as nothing short of terrifying. For the limited time that he actually spent on film, he made the standard run of the mill psychopathic killer seem like an angel when compared to Dr Lecter. One of the techniques used to capture this ghastly effect was by not blinking even once. While this was never a part of the script, or directed upon Hopkins, it was something that the actor himself improvised on, and was proud of. He felt that the utter lack of blinking and minimal body movement kept the audience mesmerized, which it certainly did.
Now, in all fairness, the blinking we’re talking about here is the involuntary type of blinking. You know, the humanized 15 to 20 blinks per minute. If you watch the movie closely you’ll notice a distinct lack of involuntary blinking, instead, there will only be a handful of scenes where momentary blinks are recorded, often being slow, uneasy and unnatural blinks used with precision and skill to create tension. Just watch it and you’ll see. It’s creepy. All up there were 17 blinks in the total of 16 minutes on screen. That, my friends, is well and truly below the minimum natural number of 240 for the same length of time.
Clearly it worked with an amazing effect, making the cold blooded cannibalistic killer seem all that more frightening and unnerving. For his effort he won the Academy Award for Best Actor.