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Here's Why The Hannibal Lecter Trilogy Replaced Jodie Foster With Julianne Moore

Nearly three decades have passed since The Silence of the Lambs was unleashed on the masses to waves of critical adoration, box office success, and awards season glory, and it's still the most talked-about film in the career of legendary actor Jodie Foster. Ditto for her iconic co-star Anthony Hopkins, who delivered a legitimately iconic performance as the brilliant, cannibalistic killer-slash-psychologist Dr. Hannibal Lecter.

By now, most of us know a bit about the behind-the-scenes machinations of The Silence of the Lambs, chiefly that neither Hopkins nor Foster were the first, or even the second, choices to play their respective roles. We also know that when the dust settled, they both took home Academy Awards for their work, Hopkins as Best Actor and Foster for Best Actress. So legendary was the duo's work in the film, there was little question both actors would reprise their roles for a sequel when The Silence of the Lambs scribe Thomas Harris released that book's followup novel Hannibal in 1999.

Per a 1999 article in The Guardian, that was exactly the plan for the producers of the adaptation, with Foster initially showing interest in returning for another foul feast with Hopkins' Dr. Lecter. Unfortunately, when cameras finally rolled on Hannibal, only one half of the dynamic The Silence of the Lambs duo was on set, with Julianne Moore trading lines with Hopkins instead of Foster. 

Per that same report in The Guardian, it seems the horrific tale Harris spun in the Hannibal novel (which finds Clarice being brainwashed by Lecter, entering into a relationship with the madman and indulging in cannibalism herself) was a big part of what kept Foster away from the film. Hannibal producers reportedly even cycled through several screenwriters hoping to hit on a script that would entice her back into the fold, but ultimately never found a tone suitable enough for Foster. 

Jodie Foster had another good reason to pass on the Silence of the Lambs followup

As it was, producers didn't find a tone that worked for Oscar-winning The Silence of the Lambs helmer Jonathan Demme either, with Ridley Scott (AlienBlade Runner) claiming the director's chair on Hannibal. With Foster being an official "no" for the sequel, Julianne Moore was tapped to step into the coveted role of Clarice Starling for the Hannibal. Though Moore proved a suitable enough fit for the role, critics were far from kind to the film overrall, with some lamenting the absence of Demme's more nuanced approach to the horrifying world of Dr. Lecter and the absence of Foster's commanding, understated screen presence.

To their credit, both Demme and Foster remained largely quiet about the state of Hannibal when it finally reached theaters. When pressed on her absence from the film in a revelatory 2005 interview with Total Film, Foster continued to take the high road, slyly claiming it was her desire to direct her long-gestating passion project Flora Plum that ultimately kept her away.

"You know, I don't think you can ever take away what Silence [of the Lambs] was ... The official reason I didn't do Hannibal is I was doing another movie, Flora Plum [a long-cherished project that has yet to be shot]," she said. "So I get to say, in a nice, dignified way, that I wasn't available when that movie was being shot. But Clarice meant so much to Jonathan and I, she really did, and I know it sounds kind of strange to say but there was no way that either of us could really trample on her."

When asked if she'd seen Hannibal in the same interview, Foster admitted she had before offering, "I won't comment."

Sometimes silence is the harshest of critics, and Foster's continued silence on the Hannibal front clearly speaks volumes.