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Anthony Hopkins Called This Performance One Of The Best He's Ever Seen

It's hard to argue that legendary actor Anthony Hopkins' chilling performance as Dr. Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter in the 1991 film classic "The Silence of the Lambs" isn't one of the scariest — if not one the greatest — performances in cinematic history. Lecter, of course, is the frightfully calm psychopath who manipulates relatively green FBI Agent Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) as he helps her key in on a suspect in a high-profile kidnapping case. But what makes Hopkins' performance so amazing is that his presence as Lecter looms so large over the entire film — even though he has 24 minutes and 52 seconds of screen time (via Gold Derby) — that it earned the revered thespian his first best actor Oscar.

As great as Hopkins is as Lecter — a role he reprised in 2001 in "Hannibal" and again in 2002's "Red Dragon" — the actor humbly named another thespian when it came to being asked by TV talk show legend Dick Cavett who he thought gave the most brilliant performance he's ever seen. Given that the actor also played a villain, it's a pretty amazing honor to be called out as "the best," considering that the American Film Institute in 2003 would name Hopkins' Lecter the No. 1 scariest film villain of all time. That's a pretty distinguished achievement, as the demented doctor placed ahead of "Psycho" murderer Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), and "Star Wars" Sith Lord Darth Vader (David Prowse and the voice of James Earl Jones), who came in at No. 2 and No. 3 on the list.

At No. 17 on the list is the actor who Hopkins thinks was most convincing in an unhinged, villainous performance, and in the Cavett interview, he gave a pretty compelling reason why.

Bates' Annie Wilkes from Misery tops Hopkins' list

Appearing on "The Dick Cavett Show" less than a month after winning his best actor Oscar for "Silence of the Lambs" at the 64th Academy Awards in March of 1992, Anthony Hopkins told the host that Kathy Bates' performance as the fan-obsessed reclusive Annie Wilkes in "Misery" was terrifyingly real. Bates was so convincing, in fact, that the "madness" her character exuded reminded Hopkins of a woman he knew in real life.

"I know a woman who would kick you on the shins and then say, 'Don't you have a sense of humor?' and smile — that kind of madness. They could change reality for you [and] really manipulate you," Hopkins told Cavett. "I think Kathy Bates in 'Misery' is the most brilliant piece of 'mad' acting I've ever seen, because this woman in America, she was exactly like Kathy Bates in [that] film."

"Misery," which was released a year before "Silence of the Lambs," in 1990, earned Bates an Oscar for best actress. Talk of "Misery" resurfaced in July 2022 with the passing of iconic actor James Caan, who played protagonist Paul Sheldon in the film. A mild-mannered author who was injured in a car crash and later held captive by Wilkes because she was obsessed with his work, Sheldon was hobbled by the rabid reader when she broke both of his ankles with a sledgehammer. It's a scene that no doubt gave fans nightmares, and apparently, it messed with Hopkins' mind, too.