Anthony Hopkins’s Best Line Was A Medical In-Joke

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By Douglas Helm
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Everyone is familiar with Hannibal Lecter, Anthony Hopkin’s chilling serial killer role that earned him an Oscar for his inhuman performance in The Silence of the Lambs. Throughout the movie, Lecter serves as a sort of serial killer consultant for Clarice Starling as she searches for Buffalo Bill. After all, it takes a serial killer to know a serial killer. Of course, Lecter isn’t the most straightforward consultant, and one famous scene involves Lecter describing how he ate a census taker’s liver with “some fava beans and a nice Chianti.”

The phrasing and Anthony Hopkins’ creepy delivery have made this one of the most iconic movie lines of all time and for good reason. It perfectly sums up Hannibal Lecter’s character. He’s a cannibal and he fancies himself a person of education and class. However, if you aren’t familiar with anti-depressants or if you’re not a medical professional, you may have missed an additional subtlety of the line, as noted by IFLScience. Liver, fava beans, and wines like Chianti are all high in a substance known as tyramine. It’s specifically recommended to avoid tyramine-heavy foods if you’re on a strong antidepressant known as MAOIs or monoamine oxidase inhibitors. As a psychiatrist, Lecter would be very familiar with MAOIs and the side effects and foods you should avoid. Lecter was making a joke that he was either off his meds or that he was abusing his medications by indulging in these foods. Or he could have just been making a joke to amuse himself. As always, Lecter’s motivations are murky at best.

anthony hopkins
Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Information like this just continues to show how great of a movie The Silence of the Lambs is. Anthony Hopkins is perfect as the psychiatrist/serial killer and Jodie Foster is every bit his equal as Clarice Starling. They both took home the trophy for Best Actor and Best Actress respectively at the Oscars that year. Not only that, but Jonathan Demme also nabbed the award for Best Director and Ted Tally took home the award for Best Adapted Screenplay. To cap it off, they won the big award and took home Best Picture too. The only awards that the film was nominated for but lost were Best Film Editing and Best Sound.

It’s been a while since Anthony Hopkins appeared as Hannibal Lecter. Following his performance in The Silence of the Lambs, Hopkins appeared as Lecter again in the sequel Hannibal in 2001 and the prequel Red Dragon in 2002. While audiences appreciated returning to Hopkins’s best performance, these movies didn’t quite reach the lofty heights of The Silence of the Lambs. Still, we can always revisit The Silence of the Lambs and all of the fantastic lines from that film. It’s also definitely worth checking out Mads Mikkelson in the role on the TV show Hannibal. While it doesn’t seem likely we’ll be seeing Hopkins return as Lecter anytime soon, you can check out his latest film Armageddon Time in select theaters on October 28. You can also keep an eye out for The Son, which stars Hopkins alongside Hugh Jackman, Laura Dern, and Vanessa Kirby. That movie will be hitting the Venice International Film Festival in September.