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This Famous Scene In Silence Of The Lambs Was Unscripted

When Thomas Harris' "The Silence of the Lambs" novel arrived on bookshelves in 1988, the author probably had an inkling that Hollywood might come calling. After all, Michael Mann's "Manhunter," based on Harris' first book "Red Dragon," had debuted in theaters just two years prior. But "The Silence of the Lambs" is a very different beast and obviously features a completely different version of Hannibal Lecter in the form of the legendary Anthony Hopkins.

Look, we could spend all day waxing lyrical about how incredible Hopkins' Academy Award-winning performance is, but everyone already knows that his work in the role is nothing short of stunning. But there's another performance that doesn't quite get as much praise for being an intimidating force in the film, Ted Levine's Jame Gumb, A.K.A. Buffalo Bill. Some of his lines have been referenced, homaged, and parodied countless times across a number of TV shows and movies in the years since.

But although "It puts the lotion on the skin ..." is just as intimidating as many of Lecter's lines throughout the Hannibal movies, there's another iconic Buffalo Bill scene that was completely unscripted.

Jame Gumb's dance

Although Ted Levine didn't have a problem with Jame Gumb's nature in the script, the actor felt that it didn't quite capture everything about the character in the way that Thomas Harris' book did. But Ted Levine took inspiration from the novel when it came to the iconic scene towards the end of the film where he dances nude in front of the mirror. The book just saw Gumb stand in front of the mirror admiring himself, rather than dancing and embracing his sexual fantasies alongside the transformation he sees himself going through. When speaking to the Chicago Reader back in 1991, Ted Levine pointed out that having both a script and the source material made things difficult for him because he'd already spotted things he wanted to pull from in his performance, which is why he improvised the dance.

"It was hard. I'll never do a character like this again. I would have loved to just have done the part from the script, and not deal with the book, it would be so much easier to work that way, and there are so many images in the book that aren't in the film. On the one hand they can be useful to you, on the other hand you can end up working too hard, which is something I think I did. I drove myself nuts with this character."

It's a fascinating moment that really explains a lot about who Jame Gumb is and who he wants to be. But it clearly took its toll on Levine, who also revealed he "took a couple shots of tequila" before shooting the improvised scene. Fair enough.