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Read the Original Ending of ‘The Silence of the Lambs’

I’m having an old friend for dinner.

Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal
Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal

It is only right that a movie about transformation would go through some changes during development. “The Silence of the Lambs” is famously adapted from Thomas Harris’ 1988 novel. From there, Ted Tally wrote the Academy Award winning screenplay.

Tally’s original ending, still ends in a phone call. However, Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) has already captured his next target, Dr. Chilton. Here’s how the original script ends.

While still conveying an eerie tone, this ending is not as strong. Tally commented on the ending in Syd Field’s book Four Screenplays. After director Jonathan Demme told Tally the script was too close ended Tally agreed to change it. Tally decided that Dr. Chilton should not be caught yet and Lecter should be in the act of hunting him. Tally told Field:

That freed me up. The fact that Chilton was not yet trapped and caught, and I felt I could have some fun with it. It was more open-minded as well. Something else I learned is that if you can end a movie without tying up all the loose ends, it’s better. If you can leave it open-ended, it will live in the audiences’ imagination better… They will continue the story in their own minds when they leave the theater.

Tally and Demme’s decision paid off. Following its release 30 years ago, “The Silence of the Lambs” won the big five Academy Awards. Becoming only the third film to do so. The success of the film resulted in one sequel, two prequels, and two TV spin off series. The latter of which, “Clarice,” will premiere this Thursday February 11th, on CBS.

The films actual ending is one of the most memorable in cinematic history. Lecter’s last lines haunt you for far too long. Check out it for yourself.

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