We've already learned that Jodie Foster wasn't the original pick for Silence of the Lambs' Clarice Starling, but Michelle Pfeiffer wasn't the only actor who was troubled by the movie's dark side. The first celebrity to turn down a role was the legendary Gene Hackman. The star of films like The French Connection and The Conversation, Hackman was looking to become a director, and when he read Thomas Harris's novel, Hackman knew this was the project he wanted to make. "It's one of the most cinematic books I've ever read," he explained. "As I read it, the movie was clicking in my mind."
In addition to directing, Hackman also considered starring in the film, although he wasn't sure if he wanted the juicy role of Hannibal Lecter or the smaller part of FBI agent Jack Crawford. But even though he owned the book rights, Hackman eventually pulled out of the project. Some believed he grew troubled with the story's darkness, but Silence of the Lambs director Jonathan Demme and talent agent Robert Bookman tell a different story. In an interview with Deadline, they explained Hackman's daughter read the book and was so grossed out that she told her father he wasn't making this movie.
"God bless Gene Hackman's daughter, if that's true," Demme said, "and that's what I've always heard. God bless her."
In the same Deadline article, Demme revealed that Anthony Hopkins had some stiff competition for the part of everybody's favorite sophisticated cannibal. According to Demme, pretty much every actor in Hollywood wanted the part, "from Dustin Hoffman to Morgan Freeman." However, the director knew Hopkins was the man for the job…or maybe Sean Connery. Demme believed the Scottish superstar had the "fierce intelligence" and "serious physicality" to pull off the character, but after reading the script, Connery turned it down because "it was disgusting," and he "wouldn't dream of playing the part."
Valid criticism, perhaps, but we like to imagine Connery turned it down because he prefers martinis to Chianti.