Some easter eggs and other little facts from Boogie Nights, Pulp Fiction, Captain America, Silence of the Lambs, Shawshank Redemption and RoboCop. “Pulp Fiction” and “Kill Bill” connection to “Fox Force Five” In “Boogie Nights”, Don Cheadle is extremely dedicated when Luis Guzmán asks him to ‘watch the phone.’ Nick Fury’s tombstone in “Captain America: […]
There has never been another television show quite like Hannibal, which redefined what a horror television show could look and feel like across three grand, glorious, and gory seasons. But even the show’s most ardent fans must have realized that the writing was on the wall when the third season went full arthouse Grand Guignol – you don’t venture down a rabbit hole that weird and twisted without scaring off the normals. The series died as it lived: brilliantly, in front of a tiny audience.
But series creator and showrunner Bryan Fuller still hasn’t given up on Hannibal quite yet and is still talking about a potential miniseries follow-up that would adapt The Silence of the Lambs.
I think the film adaptation is a perfect film, but there’s a lot of interesting nooks and crannies to explore in a television series. I hope we get to tell the story. I think, ideally for the cast, it would be as a miniseries, here and there. Let’s do 6 to 8 episodes of that, and 6 to 8 episodes over here. And do it as an irregular thing.
While I’m certainly not getting my hopes up for more Hannibal (and I remain pretty happy with the near-perfect final episode), I will say that my skin gets tingly when I think about this team taking on this source material. Fuller and his writers were never precious about Harris’ work, taking what they loved, jettisoning what wouldn’t work on television, and remixing the events and characters to create something that felt profoundly unique. Jonathan Demme’s Oscar-wining film adaptation of The Silence of the Lambs is a brilliant movie that adapts the novel in a fairly straightforward fashion, so the thought of watching the Hannibal team tread on that ground is pretty exciting stuff.
Of course, this is just Fuller talking. He’s currently busy with his television adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, a gig that cost him his role as the captain on CBS’ Star Trek: Discovery. If more Hannibal comes our way, it will have to arrive when he finds a gap in his ever-busy schedule. And then he has to convince someone to give him money to make more challenging, beautiful, and beautifully inaccessible horror. Not an easy feat.
Two flashbacks to Clarice as a young girl are critical to the narrative.
The 1991 movie The Silence of the Lambs won all 5 major Academy Awards: Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Picture. For good reason. It’s a tremendous movie.
IMDb plot summary: A young F.B.I. cadet must confide in an incarcerated and manipulative killer to receive his help on catching another serial killer who skins his victims.
There are two flashbacks which provide a deep insight into Clarice’s psyche. The first one is right after she has had her initial meeting with Lecter and had a disturbing experience with the prisoner in the next cell Miggs. As Clarice leaves the prison and heads toward her car, she revisits a moment in her past: Her father, dressed in his sheriff’s outfit, coming home from work, Clarice, then 11 years old, surprising him, then as he swoops her up into his arms, she asks, “Did you catch any bad guys today, Daddy?”
The second flashback occurs at a funeral parlor where the body of one of Buffalo Bill’s victims has been laid out for an autopsy. Here is the scene in the screenplay written by Ted Tally:
EXT. SIDEWALK OF THE FUNERAL HOME — POTTER, WEST VA. — DAY
SOUND of organ music, as Clarice, carrying her fingerprint kit, mounts some steps to the sidewalk. She stops, seeing —
in their somber best, filing into the mortuary for a service. The music — “Shall We Gather At The River?” — is issuing from the open double doors. Several of the mourners glance over at her curiously.
ANGLE ON CLARICE
staring back at the mourners, hearing the music, as a sense memory is triggered in her…
IN FLASHBACK — LOW ANGLE, MOVING
as we approach, down the aisle of a country chapel, an open wooden coffin. Sad country faces turn, looking at us from the flanking pews. The b.g. organ hymn is “Shall We Gather…?”
THE SAD, 10 YEAR-OLD CLARICE
in her best dress, is reluctantly approaching the casket. Her hands are held by the plump hands of unseen matrons.
on the looming coffin… closer and closer… until finally she can see, lying inside it… her dead father, arms folded, his marshal’s badge still pinned to his lapel.
CRAWFORD (V.O.) Starling…?
NEW ANGLE (PRESENT DAY)
as the grownup Clarice turns towards the impatient Crawford. Like her, he carries a large case.
CRAWFORD We’re around back.
Here is the movie version of the scene:
This flashback reveals that her father died when Clarice was a young girl, but also demonstrates how Clarice’s issues about her father’s death lie close to the surface of her consciousness. It drives home a key point: She has never recovered from the loss of her father. His death dictated her choice of vocations (he was in law enforcement, she followed in his footsteps). His death has haunted her as she has subconsciously equated his ‘slaughter’ with the slaughter of the lambs in Montana she witnessed (with horror) as a child. His death made her a victim and fuels her identification with Buffalo Bill’s kidnap victim Catherine Martin. All of that melds together in this evocative flashback scene.
Interesting to note, the script called for a third flashback, but was scrapped. Here screenwriter Tally explains why:
I could see that if we were going to have flashbacks, they should culminate, there should be some climactic thing, and we should see the child Clarice encountering the slaughter of the lambs and trying to save one of them. Jonathan was willing to shoot them, it was going to be the last thing we shot as we had to wait for the lambing season in spring, and it was going to cost a million dollars to set up the whole thing. Then Jonathan shot the scene where Clarice tells Lecter about the killing of the lambs. He sent the dailies to me and said to watch them and give him a call. So I watched these performances, and they were extraordinarily powerful, and Jonathan, said, “How can I cut away from these performances to a flashback? It’s all there: she’s [Jodi as Clarice] telling us the entire story in her face, in her words, we don’t need to see it as well.” He said it’s just primary rule of filmmaking that if you can show it instead of telling it, you show it, but don’t show it and tell it. He was right, but it was scary to me.”
Here is that scene. Foster’s performance is so incredible, it’s easy to see why they chose NOT to film that third flashback:
To read more on Ted Tally and his experiences adapting the Thomas Harris novel “The Silence of the Lambs,” go here.
Screenwriting is scene-writing, so the more we study scenes — how they are constructed, how dialogue gets handled, when to enter and when to exit — the better off we are as writers. That’s the point of the Great Scene series. If you have a suggestion for a Great Scene, please post a RESPONSE with it.