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DR. HANNIBAL LECTER
Dr. Hannibal Lecter is a fictional character appearing in four novels by author Thomas Harris and their film adaptations. The American Film Institute calls Lecter (as portrayed by Sir Anthony Hopkins) the most memorable villain in film history.Lecter is a brilliant and cultured psychiatrist turned cannibalistic serial murderer, nicknamed "Hannibal the Cannibal".
The first book of the Hannibal Lecter series, Red Dragon, was published in 1981. It was filmed in 1986 under the title Manhunter. A second adaptation was released in 2002 under the original title. The sequel, The Silence of the Lambs, was published in 1988, and filmed in 1991. The next installment in the series, Hannibal, was published in 1999, and filmed in 2001. The latest in the series, Hannibal Rising, was published in 2006 and its film adaptation has just been released.
Lecter was played by Brian Cox in Manhunter (though he was named "Lecktor" in that film), by Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs, Red Dragon and Hannibal, and by Aaron Thomas and Gaspard Ulliel in the prequel Hannibal Rising.
Hannibal Lecter was born in Lithuania in 1933 to a wealthy aristocratic family; his father, simply known as Count Lecter, was a descendant of the warlord "Hannibal the Grim" (1365-1428) who defeated the Teutonic Order at the Battle of Grunwald, in 1410, while his mother, Madame Simonetta Sforza, descended from both the Visconti and Sforza families who separately ruled Milan for a total of 250 years. He is the eighth in his blood-line to bear his ancestor's forename.
It has been suggested that Lecter was also descended from Giuliano Bevisangue ("Bevisangue" means "Blood-Drinker"), a feared and ruthless figure in 12th-century Tuscany, and from the Machiavelli bloodline. In the book Hannibal, Lecter himself would pursue this subject, to determine from the records of the Capponi Library if there was any true connection to Bevisangue, but he was unable to answer the question. Hannibal also asserted that Lecter was a distant cousin of the artist Balthus.
Lecter's childhood was first alluded to in Hannibal, but was fully detailed in Hannibal Rising. When Lecter was six years old, he was introduced to his sister, Mischa, who was born in 1939. The two formed a strong, affectionate bond. When he was eight, his family left their estate to live in a lodge in the forest in order to escape Hitler's Blitzkrieg. Three years later, his parents, tutor, and family retainers died by a German bomber attempting to disable a Soviet tank (decades later while flying between Europe and the United States, Hannibal dreams of being six at the time of these events).
The lodge was invaded by a group of former Lithuanian collaborators turned looters. Lecter and Mischa were held captive by said looters. Mischa was cannibalized, but Lecter escaped, only to be severely traumatized by his sister's death and was rendered mute. Mischa's death would haunt Lecter for the rest of his life; Hannibal explains that it destroyed his faith in God, and thereafter he believed that there was no real justice in the world. It is also implied in Hannibal that, years later, he saw his rival Clarice Starling, as a surrogate for his sister.
After the looters fled, he wandered the forests until he was found by a tank crew. The soldiers cut the shackle from his neck, which had stripped away pieces of his skin, leaving a scar that would never truly heal. He was also carrying, at this time, his father's binoculars: the binoculars stayed with him for many years and featured again later.
The Soviets returned Lecter to his family's castle, which had been converted into an orphanage. The war had many lasting effects on the children, and many of them became bullies. While living there, he frequently attacked and severely wounded many of his fellow orphans, but only those who bullied, hurt or insulted others. Lecter called on his memories of the leader of the group of looters, Vladis Grutas, to inspire the anger necessary to hurt the bullies. He was well-behaved around the younger orphans, often letting them tease him a little, letting them believe him to be a crazed deaf-mute, and giving them his treats that he rarely received. In Red Dragon, Harris wrote that Lecter tortured animals as a child, though this is not mentioned in Hannibal Rising.
Transition to murder
When Lecter was 13 years old, his uncle (the new Count Robert Lecter) brought him to his home in France. He formed a close relationship to his aunt, the Lady Murasaki, with whom he instantly fell in love. He was educated at home on his uncle's estate on the banks of the Essonne; his uncle encouraged him to take-up painting while his aunt taught him aspects of Japanese culture. Still mute and disturbed by his sister's death, he saw the psychiatrist, Doctor Rufin. At age 13, he attacked a local butcher, Paul Momund, in retaliation for an obscene insult to his aunt. Robert Lecter died from a heart attack during a further confrontation with Momund. An enraged Lecter then committed his first murder, slashing Momund with a Tanto that had belonged to his aunt's samurai ancestor, Date Masamune. He then beheaded Momund and, after receiving a tip from his aunt's chef whilst they prepared a fish, sliced off his victim's cheeks and ate them, his first willful act of cannibalism. He then presented the decapitated head to Masamune. The murder brought Lecter to the attention of Inspector Pascal Popil, who intuitively grasped that he was guilty and pressed him to confess. Lecter proved impenetrable, however, even passing a lie-detector test; thanks to Lady Murasaki's intervention, he escaped any blame. Following her husband's death, Lady Murasaki moved to a flat in Paris, where Lecter attended a boarding school. Popil, who was fascinated by both Lecter and Lady Murasaki, remained in close contact with them.
Lecter excelled at the Lycée and graduated early, becoming the youngest person admitted to a medical school in France, where he was mentored by a Doctor Dumas. He had been alerted to the survival of the Totenkopfs who had held him prisoner, when he found a painting looted from his father's collection on sale in a Paris gallery.
In 1951, he returned to Lithuania and the scene of his sister's murder. He excavated the ruins of the lodge where his family died, and upon finding Mischa's remains, he gave her a proper burial. He also unearthed the dog-tags of the group of deserters who had killed her. One member of the group, Enrikas Dortlich, now an officer in the Soviet Border Guards, arrived at the scene intent on killing Lecter. Lecter, however, was not caught off guard and instead murdered Dortlich. Once again, Lecter consumed his victim's cheeks.
Dortlich's murder put the group in alert and, due to the similarity of Lecter's first murder, placed him under renewed suspicion from Popil. Grutas dispatched a second member of the group, Zigmas Milko, to eliminate the problem by either bribing Lecter or killing him. Lecter killed Milko instead, drowning him in formaldehyde. Both Popil and Lady Murasaki try to dissuade him from hunting the gang. During a confrontation with Lady Murasaki, Lecter almost had sex with her, but relented at the last minute, claiming he had made a promise to Mischa. He attacked Grutas in his home but Grutas was rescued by his bodyguards. Grutas kidnapped Lady Murasaki and used her as a lure to draw Lecter to his death. Lecter, donning the Tanto, tracked Grutas to his houseboat. In a final confrontation, Grutas claimed that Lecter too had consumed his sister in broth fed to him by the soldiers, and it was to keep this fact secret that he was killing them. Enraged, Lecter eviscerated him by repeatedly carving his sister's initial into his body. Lady Murasaki was disturbed by his behavior and fled from him even after he told her that he loved her.
Popil arrested Lecter for the murders, but there was little incentive for a trial; no evidence could be conclusively tied to him, and all the victims had been slavers and war criminals. His victims' association with the Nazis led Lecter to become something of a cause celebre in France, with communists and students marching for his release. Lady Murasaki visited him one last time while he was being held by the police, and saw that he had become completely emotionless. After receiving references from Doctor Dumas and from the head of the Police Forensic Laboratory, for whom he has worked as a volunteer, Lecter was released. He left France, killing the final member of the group, Bronys Grentz, while on a vacation in Montreal, before returning to his internship in Baltimore.
Lecter's drawings led to an internship at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland, where he graduated with a degree in medicine and eventually settled. As written in Red Dragon, Lecter established a psychiatric practice in Baltimore in the 1970s. He became a leading figure in Baltimore society and indulged his extravagant tastes, which he financed by influencing some of his patients to bequeath him large sums of money in their wills. He became world-renowned as a brilliant clinical psychiatrist, but he had nothing but disdain for psychology; he would later say he didn't consider it a science, criticizing it as "puerile", and comment that most psychology departments were filled with "ham radio enthusiasts and other personality-deficient buffs".
Lecter killed at least nine people before his capture. Only three of his victims survived, including Will Graham, an FBI profiler who was Lecter's captor and who figures largely in the plot of Red Dragon. Another one of these, Mason Verger, figures largely in the plot of Hannibal.
Only two of his nine pre-incarceration victims after he came into the United States are known by name in the books: Benjamin Raspail and Verger, the scion of a meat-packing empire. Verger went through psychiatric counseling with Lecter as part of a court-order after being convicted of child molestation, and for viciously raping his own sister, Margot, who also went to Lecter for counseling. Verger invited Lecter to his home in Owings Mills one night after a session. Lecter drugged Verger and suggested he try cutting off his own face with a mirror shard. Verger complied and, again at Lecter's suggestion, fed some of his face to his Dobermans and ate his own nose. Lecter then broke Verger's neck with a rope used for auto-erotic asphyxiation and left him to die. Later, the dogs were taken to an animal shelter to have their stomachs pumped which led to the retrieval of Verger's nose, lips and parts of his forehead; however, the skin graft was unsuccessful. Verger survived, but was left hideously disfigured and forever confined to a life support machine.
Raspail was Lecter's ninth and final (known) victim in the Chesapeake series before his incarceration. Raspail was a not-so-talented flautist with the Baltimore Philharmonic Orchestra, and it is believed that Lecter killed him because his musicianship, or lack thereof, spoiled the orchestra's concerts; he was also a patient of Lecter's. Lecter would claim to Clarice Starling that the reason for Raspail's death was that Lecter "got sick and tired of his whining" during their appointments. Raspail's body would be discovered sitting in a church pew with his thymus and pancreas missing, and his heart pierced. It is believed Lecter served these organs at a dinner party he held for the orchestra's board of directors. Raspail claimed to have killed a man whose head was found years later in Raspail's rented storage garage in Baltimore, but Lecter suspected him of covering up for Jame Gumb, who would later be involved in Lecter's life as the serial killer dubbed "Buffalo Bill".
Raspail's role in the film versions has been inconsistent; Lecter states he was killed by Buffalo Bill in the film version of Silence of the Lambs, Clarice Starling contradicts this in the film version of Hannibal, attributing the death of Raspail to Lecter, in which he is described as a flutist for the first time on film. The film version of Red Dragon opens with a scene based on the fate of the literary Raspail, yet the flautist goes unnamed in the film, the credits and the script, and appears physically unlike Raspail's head in "The Silence of the Lambs", maintaining continuity between the two screenplays, both written by Ted Tally. However, it is possible that Lecter lied about killing Raspail, as he was seeking a transfer to a better facility at the time, and confessing to another murder was hardly likely to further that goal.
The novels also mention a few details about Lecter's other victims. One, who initially survived, was taken to a private mental hospital in Denver, Colorado. Others include a bow hunter, a census taker whose liver he famously ate with "fava beans and a big Amarone" (in the movie, the wine he had for this particular meal was "a nice Chianti"), and a Princeton student whom he buried. Lecter was given sodium amytal by the FBI in the hopes of learning where he buried the student; but Lecter, instead of giving them the location of the buried student, gave them a recipe for potato chip dip, the implication being that the student was in the dip. He had trained himself previously by administering self-hypnosis in case he was ever administered hypnotic drugs. Lecter committed his last three known murders within a nine day span.
Lecter was caught in March or April 1975 by FBI Special Investigator Will Graham. Graham was investigating a series of murders in the Baltimore area committed by a cannabalistic serial killer, and had sought Lecter out after discovering he'd treated one of the victims for a hunting wound. When Graham questioned Lecter at his psychiatric practice, he noticed some antique medical books in his office. Upon seeing these, Graham knew Lecter was the killer he sought; the sixth victim had been killed in his workshop and laced to a pegboard in a manner reminiscent of Wound Man, an illustration used in many early medical books. Graham realized that the hunting wound that led him to Lecter was similar to one in the illustration which inspired Lecter to further emulate the illustration. Graham left to call the police, but Lecter crept up from behind and stabbed him with a linoleum knife, nearly disembowling him. However Graham managed to shoot Lecter, who was then apprehended by police.
The courts found Lecter insane; this spared him the death penalty. He was instead sent to the Chesapeake State Hospital for the Criminally Insane for nine consecutive life terms, under administrator Frederick Chilton (The second book in the series changes the name to Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane for reasons unknown, though there is evidence given in the books that the hospital may have had a name change and renovation). Many of the families of his victims pursued lawsuits against Lecter to have their files destroyed. The FBI exhumed the graves of four patients who had died under Lecter's care for further investigation into the cause of their deaths. He was nicknamed "Hannibal the Cannibal" in the National Tattler, a tabloid that also published unauthorized photos of Graham in the hospital after being attacked by Lecter. Another officer retired from the FBI after being the first to discover Lecter's basement. Lecter's electroencephalogram (EEG) showed a bizarre pattern and, given his history, was ultimately branded "a pure sociopath" by Chilton, even though Harris wrote in Red Dragon that Lecter didn't fit seamlessly into any specific psychiatric diagnosis.
Lecter, while in custody, was said to be "far too sophisticated" for most forms of psychological evaluation, especially as he enjoyed staying abreast of all of the latest developments in his field. Since he knew how the tests worked, he could easily come up with the typical answers that would brand him as not being psychologically disturbed, and he also mocked the psychiatrists' attempts to profile him by folding their tests into origami.
Lecter was a model patient until the afternoon of July 8, 1976. After complaining of chest pains, he was taken to the infirmary. After his restraints were removed for his electrocardiogram (ECG) he attacked a nurse, tearing out an eye, dislocating her jaw, and biting her tongue off. Chilton would later note that Lecter's pulse never went above 85 beats per minute "even when he swallowed [her tongue]." During the struggle with the orderlies, his shoulder was dislocated. Following the incident, Lecter was treated very carefully by the hospital staff, often outfitted with heavy restraints, a straitjacket and muzzle, and transported only when strapped to a hand-truck.
Chilton and Lecter's relationship was marked by mutual hatred; Chilton's status as a psychologist, his mediocrity and inflated self-importance offended Lecter, who often humiliated his keeper; while Lecter's constant mockery and elusiveness infuriated Chilton, who punished him by removing his books and toilet seat. At the end of Red Dragon, Lecter diagnosed this form of punishment as indicative of the damnation of society by half-measures: "Any rational society would kill me, or give me my books." By contrast, Lecter reached a mutual respect with his primary caregiver and warden, Barney Matthews, and the two often shared thoughts over Barney's correspondence courses. During the investigation of Buffalo Bill, the two would also discuss Clarice Starling. It is also implied at the end of the novel and of the film adaptation that Lecter seeks revenge on Chilton for the mistreatment that he endured at Chesapeake. Moreover, near the end of the novel, Harris writes:
"Next, he dropped a note to Dr. Frederick Chilton in federal protective custody, suggesting that he would be paying Dr. Chilton a visit in the near future. After this visit, he wrote, it would make sense for the hospital to tattoo feeding instructions on Chilton's forehead to save paperwork."
Aiding the FBI
During his stay in Baltimore State Hospital, Lecter would help with four FBI cases. Graham came out of retirement in 1978 to offer his insight on the "Tooth Fairy" case and upon arriving at a dead end, went to Lecter for help, as he had twice before after Dr. Lecter was in custody, but before Graham went into retirement. Lecter gave Graham some valuable insights into the Tooth Fairy, but upon learning about the case, secretly sent a coded message to the killer, Francis Dolarhyde, to kill Graham and his family (which would later result in Graham's permanent disfigurement). Five years later, Jack Crawford sent FBI trainee Clarice Starling to Lecter to administer a psychological questionnaire. Starling, initially assuming the assignment was related to her studies, ended up getting him to help the FBI in the Buffalo Bill case. In both of these cases, Lecter used wordplay and subtle clues to help Graham and Starling arrive at the conclusions themselves.
Lecter's relationship with Starling, around which The Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal revolve, was part antagonism and part seduction. Starling allowed Lecter into her mind in return for leads and information on Buffalo Bill, which Lecter found fascinating. Nevertheless, Lecter was not amused when Starling provided possibly the best psychoanalysis of him, observing:
"You see a lot, Dr. Lecter. I won't deny anything you've said. But here's the question you're answering for me right now, whether you mean to or not: Are you strong enough to point that high-powered perception at yourself? It's hard to face. I've found that out in the last few minutes. How about it? Look at yourself and write down the truth. What more fit or complex subject could you find? Or maybe you're afraid of yourself."
Buffalo Bill's last kidnappee was Catherine Martin, daughter of Senator Ruth Martin. Lecter told Chilton he would reveal Buffalo Bill's real name to Martin and was promptly flown to Memphis, Tennessee, and held at the Shelby County Courthouse. During his stay in Memphis, Lecter lied to Martin, giving her the fake name "William Rubin," or "Billy Rubin". (Bilirubin is a pigment found in feces. It is the same color as Chilton's hair, Lecter's hint that the name was fake. The film adaptation changed the name to "Louis Friend," an anagram for "iron sulfide" - fool's gold.) Starling then visited Lecter at his makeshift cell, and he gave her some final clues before making a bloody escape, killing two police officers during the ordeal. He escaped by making a "mask" from the face of one of the officers, donning the officer's uniform and pretending to be his own still-living victim so that he would be hurried away by ambulance while the authorities hunted for him.
After plastic surgery and the removal of a distinctive sixth finger, Lecter relocated in Florence, Italy. Lecter avoided reconstruction of his nose to protect his uncanny perception of fragrances. In Florence, he took the pseudonym "Dr. Fell," possibly a reference to the Tom Brown translation of Martial's epigram "Non amo te, Sabidi" ("I do not love thee, Doctor Fell / The reason why, I cannot tell." Fell also means "cruel" or "fierce") As Dr. Fell, Lecter's dazzling charm won him the recently vacated position of museum curator; Lecter had, of course, murdered the position's previous occupant.
Lecter's identity would be discovered by Florence detective Rinaldo Pazzi seven years after his escape from Memphis. Lecter had been going by the false name Dr. Fell and Pazzi, who had been disgraced when he bungled the "Il Mostro" case, saw a chance for redemption when he realized Dr. Fell's true identity. Pazzi struck a deal with Verger to get the doctor alive so that Verger could exact his revenge by feeding Lecter to a group of specially trained boars. In his efforts to capture Lecter, Pazzi found himself the doctor's prisoner, and he informed Lecter of his plot. After disemboweling and hanging Pazzi, Lecter returned to the United States. Both Verger and Starling would hunt him, hoping to get to him before the other. Lecter was captured by Verger's men, but Starling rescued him. In the ensuing fight, Verger's men shot her with two darts filled with sedatives. Lecter carried her away from the boars and convinced Margot Verger to kill her brother. Lecter left a voice message claiming responsibility for Verger's death. (In the film adaptation of Hannibal, Starling was shot in the shoulder with a bullet instead of being shot by darts, while Verger met his end at the hands of his personal physician, Cordell Doemling.)
Lecter kept Starling in total isolation during the next few months, subjecting her to various conditioning techniques in order to systematically replace Starling's memories and personality and make her believe she was Mischa. After breaking Starling down, Lecter kidnapped her nemesis, Paul Krendler, who was trying to discredit her, as a final test. At the rented home that Lecter was living in, Lecter performed a craniotomy on a drugged Krendler and tastefully prepared and shared his brains with Starling and Krendler himself while Krendler was still alive.
However, Lecter's plan to brainwash Starling ultimately failed, as he utterly underestimated her strong will; Starling refused to have her own personality sublimated, mocking his efforts to turn her into his sister. Then, she exposed her breast to Lecter and seduced him.
The couple then vanished. In 1993, Lecter's former caretaker, Barney Matthews, spotted the two in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It is stated on the last page of the novel that both Lecter and Starling were capable of murder at any time; in essence, whatever of Lecter's conditioning took created a "counterpart" of himself in Starling.
The ending of Hannibal sparked controversy among critics and fans. Harris wrote an alternative ending for the film adaptation: in the new ending, Lecter didn't try to brainwash Starling, and the infamous dinner party where Krendler's brain was served took place days, not months, after the death of Mason Verger. The police tracked Lecter down, and, in order to buy time, Starling handcuffed herself to Lecter. In the film's climax, Lecter grabbed a meat cleaver and prepared to chop off Starling's hand to escape. She was defiant, so Lecter tested her: he asked her to beg him to turn himself in to the police and renounce his murderous ways - if he loved her. Starling refused, and Lecter thanked her for not disappointing him; he then chopped off his own hand so he could escape. The film ended with a scene from the middle part of the novel, where Lecter was on a plane and gave some food from his Dean & Deluca travel pack to a child sitting next to him. While the novel made it clear that Lecter gave the child liverwurst, the film heavily implied it was left-overs from Krendler's brain. At the end of the film, Hannibal Lecter was still alive and at large.
Lecter's confirmed number of victims is at least 27, though the actual number is most likely higher. By the end of Hannibal, the FBI knew of only 16 victims, a Florentine detective and a bow hunter being added to his original list of 14. Lecter's association with three attempted murders and a driven suicide become apparent too. The novels leave uncertain whether the FBI know of Lecter's role in Krendler's murder. The beginning of Hannibal suggests that Lecter killed the curator of the Capponi Library in order to more easily assume his position as Library Curator. Both The Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal make strong implications that Lecter killed Chilton after escaping from prison.
Lecter killed a total of eight people in Europe before he came to the United States. He murdered nine more victims when he lived in the Baltimore area. Two other victims survived, one of which was Mason Verger. He also attempted to murder Special Agent Will Graham after Graham discovered his identity as a serial killer of nine victims and two attempted murders, but failed and was captured and incarcerated. During his incarceration at the Baltimore State Hospital, he ravaged a nurse and he drove I.J. Miggs, a patient in a cell in the same ward, to suicide after he showed "discourtesy" toward FBI Trainee Clarice Starling. During his escape from prison, he killed at least five; two police officers, an EMT (possibly other EMTs), an ambulance driver and a tourist named Lloyd Wyman (at the airport). Seven years later in the events of Hannibal, he kills a pickpocket, Florentine detective Rinaldo Pazzi and a Sardinian who was working for Mason Verger. Upon his return to the United States, he killed Donald Barber, a bow hunter who offended him, and Paul Krendler.
Known VictimsName Notes
Attempted VictimsName Notes
Possible VictimsName Notes
Traits and abilities
In the books, Lecter has been described as short, but with noticeable wiry strength and dignity of bearing that makes him seem more physically able than his age presents. He had maroon-colored eyes that spark red in reflected light and even rows of small white teeth. His "most ardent fan," Francis Dolarhyde, remarks that he is "the dark portrait of a Renaissance prince". In The Silence of the Lambs, he is mentioned to have a widow's peak, and dark hair. After plastic surgery, he has different hair and a minor alteration to his nose and cheeks. At the end of Hannibal, when Barney Matthews spotted him with Starling, he has had his face altered again. Lecter refrained from major alterations to his nose, because it would severely inhibit his incredible sense of smell. His voice is described as having a metallic ring to it, as though he spoke with a perpetual tension.
Lecter's left hand had a extremely rare condition called mid-ray duplication polydactyly. His left hand had six fully functional digits, the middle finger being perfectly duplicated. Lecter had the second middle finger removed at some point after his escape from custody, when such a distinctive feature would have quickly led to his recapture. No mention is made of Lecter's condition in the novel Hannibal Rising or in any of the film adaptations; and all the actors who portrayed Lecter had the regular five fingers.
Lecter is portrayed to be intellectually brilliant, but at the same time, primal in his mannerisms. On several occasions in the novels, his extraordinary intellect is described as "not be measurable by any means known to man." His natural posture and stature is still and erect, and he tilts his head to one side when listening. Lecter's senses are so extreme that they are considered inhuman, his most noted trait is his animal-like sense of smell (being able to smell trace amounts of blood or semen, he is also able to identify a person by scent alone).
Lecter is a superb artist; his accurate representations of human anatomy were a major factor in his winning his internship to Johns Hopkins. He is also an excellent surgeon and psychiatrist; his articles were still accepted in scientific journals even after his incarceration. Lecter is also a brilliant pianist and a capable swordsman. His native tongue was Lithuanian, but his travels allowed him to gain fluency in a variety of different languages, including Italian, German, Russian, Polish, French, English and Spanish. He is also capable of passable Japanese.
Lecter organized his memories in an elaborate "memory palace". In Hannibal, Harris exposits Lecter's unique intellect and memory as being the product of well-developed Ars Memoriae, or Memory Palace form of mnemonic discipline. The young Lecter is taught this discipline by his tutor, Jakov, in Hannibal Rising. Lecter was able to remember entire books and could even recall entire conversations years after they occurred. Harris also raised the proposition that the palace can be a dangerous place for its owner. In one scene, Lecter retired to his palace in search of comfort only to become haunted by horrific memories his subconscious had stored there in numerous oubliettes. He also used it as a sanctuary; when he was being tortured with a cattle-prod by Verger's men, he entered his memory palace to place his face on the cold surface of a statue that he had touched while he lived in Florence. Lecter also has a remarkable photographic memory, and in Hannibal Rising, it is mentioned by a psychiatrist that he can have several unrelated trains of thought going at the same time without disturbance from one another. This is explained with his ability to operate the separate hemispheres of his brain so that they act independently. He is also noted to be incredibly patient, so much that he did not complain when he waited eight years for just the right moment to escape from custody.
Even though Lecter has been branded a "pure sociopath", his general behavior fails to perfectly exhibit the standard forms of the condition. In order to be diagnosed as a true sociopath, a person must exhibit all three sociopathic characteristics from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual's checklist. Lecter however, is seen to only exhibit two of the characteristics. Harris also writes in Red Dragon that Lecter did not fit any existing psychiatric condition, and physicians who examined Lecter during his stay at the Baltimore Asylum reported his brain patterns were inconsistent with those of typical sociopaths. In Red Dragon, Graham said he believed that Lecter has a neurological disability, akin to a severe congenital deformity. In The Silence of the Lambs upon his first interview with Clarice Starling, Lecter performs self diagnosis. He simply labels himself evil, stating that the nature of his actions couldn't be reduced to a behavioral abnormality.
In Red Dragon, Graham said that Lecter displayed the earliest sign of sociopathic behavior: sadism towards animals. However, Lecter never displays this form of sociopathic behavior in any of the novels. To the contrary, Lecter was in fact quite kind to the swans and horses that occupied his home as a child.
Harris, who was a crime scene reporter before he was an author, has never given specific details about what influences that he had for Lecter. But in a documentary of Hannibal Rising, Lecter's early murders were said by the filmakers to be based on murders that Harris had covered when he was a reporter . Harris, who rarely gives interviews, has never definitively explained his influences for creating Lecter. However, real-life cannibalistic murderers such as Albert Fish and Andrei Chikatilo have been suggested to be possible influences. In 1992, Harris also paid a visit to the ongoing trials of Pietro Pacciani, who was suspected of being the serial killer who was nicknamed the "Monster of Florence". Parts of Pacciani's killing methods were used as reference for the novel Hannibal.
A number of critics have noted similarities between Hannibal Lecter and Dracula , a connection which Harris compounded in Hannibal Rising by making Lecter, like Dracula, an Eastern European Count. Both characters share habits of vicious biting and a darkly seductive charm. Many of Lecter's physical features, such as his maroon colored eyes which spark red when exposed to light, his widow's peak, and acute senses (especially smell), are also characteristics of Dracula.
Harris may have based the Lecter-Starling relationship on the "consultations" between profiler Robert Keppel and serial killer Ted Bundy, in which Bundy offered to help Keppel track down the Green River serial killer. Interestingly enough, Bundy is known to have owned a copy of Red Dragon while on death row in Starke, Florida. In his book Obsession, profiler John Douglas suggests that Bundy's contacting Keppel was inspired by the Lecter-Graham relationship described in Red Dragon.
Brian Cox was the first actor to portray Lecter, taking the role in Manhunter, but due to Cox declining the role of Lecter for the sequel, the actor was changed to Sir Anthony Hopkins for the filming of The Silence of the Lambs. Hopkins continued to portray Lecter in the following films (including the remake of Manhunter which was filmed under its original book title Red Dragon). However, in the film Hannibal Rising, French actor Gaspard Ulliel plays Hannibal Lecter as young man, and Aaron Thomas plays him as a boy.
In a commentary on The Criterion Collection DVD version of The Silence of the Lambs, Hopkins claims the villainous computer HAL 9000 from Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey as one inspiration for his interpretation of the character. Cox stated on the Manhunter DVD interview that his main inspiration for playing Lecter was Scottish serial killer Peter Manuel, who, according to Cox, "didn't have a sense of right or wrong."
Even before the character's established backstory in Hannibal, both Brian Cox and Anthony Hopkins portrayed Lecter with distinctly European accents. Cox spoke with a British accent, whereas Hopkins spoke in a hybrid of British and American. An accent is never even mentioned in the books.
The infamous slurping noise that Hannibal Lecter makes after he tells Clarice Starling about him eating the census taker's liver was never in the original script. Hopkins added the noise as a joke, and didn't think that director Jonathan Demme would keep it in the final cut. This quote was also voted as the 21st most famous movie quote of all time by the American Film Institute.
Robert Duvall was the first actor asked to portray Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs. Robert De Niro was asked to not only direct the movie, but portray Hannibal Lecter after the role had been turned down by Duvall. Both said that the character was too disturbing. Jonathan Demme (the project's new director) then cast Hopkins.
Lecter as a cultural figure
Even though Lecter is a fictional character, he has been referenced in real life by authors, movie makers, and even the FBI. Because of his disturbingly realistic personality, many real-life serial killers, such as Andrei Chikatilo, BTK, Robert Maudsley, and Jeffrey Dahmer have been compared to him. Lecter's relationship with Starling and Graham set a precedent for the relationships between fictional murderers and police officers; it has now become common for cinematic detectives to have "special relationships" with serial killers based on grudging respect and mutual obsession, and for police to consult with them in their cases in order to "think like their prey." While Harris' novels Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs were critically and commercially successful, it was not until the film adaptation of the latter was released in 1991 that Lecter, as played by Anthony Hopkins, became a cultural icon. The character became a major influence for cinematic portrayals of serial killers from that point on as cold, calculating master criminals who live to play "cat and mouse" with the police, manipulating both their victims and the detectives who "hunt" them.