Anthony Hopkins Reflects on Cannibal Role

Many great actors are forever tied to their most famous role; Anthony Hopkins' just happens to be a gourmet cannibal.

Hopkins once again reprises his Oscar-winning role as Dr. Hannibal Lecter in Red Dragon, opening today. It's a prequel to the 1991 blockbuster Silence of the Lambs, giving horror fans one more glimpse of the brain-eating, Chianti-savoring psychiatrist.

You can't even mention the original in polite conversation without someone doing an impression of the good doctor, from the scene where he's first interviewed by fledgling FBI agent Clarice Starling, portrayed by Jodie Foster.

"A census taker once tried to test me," Lecter tells Starling through his high-tech prison cell. "I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti."

And, of course, no impression is complete without hearing Lecter's unforgettably sinister slurping.

The Specter of Lecter Hopkins, 64, says Dr. Lecter's specter is always nearby, but it doesn't bother him.

"Am I creeped out by him? No," says Hopkins. "It's just a job. It's just a part I played."

Earlier this year, Hopkins paired up with Chris Rock in Bad Company, and the Welsh-born actor said he really enjoyed the shoot-'em-up aspects of a popcorn-munching summer action flick.

Bad Company might have been bad at the box office. But after appearing in more than 100 movies, Hopkins just appreciates the variety that his talent and fame affords him. In one turn, he's claiming his rightful place as a fine British actor in The Remains of the Day. In another, he's Oliver Stone's choice to play the president in Nixon.

Hopkins can also play quirky roles, as he did last summer as the mysterious upstairs neighbor who befriends a young boy in Hearts in Atlantis.

"I don't get excited by things because you're only going to be disappointed, so I guess I have a sort of fail-safe system built into me," Hopkins says.

"I've always been a bit like this, ever since I was a kid. And It's not cynicism, it's just an inability to actually get hysterical."

A ‘Low-Carb’ Cannibal Hopkins first reprised his Dr. Lecter role last year, in the massively anticipated Hannibal. Each of the films are based on Thomas Harris books.

Red Dragon is actually a prequel to Silence of the Lambs — and it's a remake of Manhunter, a 1986 Michael Mann film that starred Brian Cox as Lecter.

In the new version, Edward Norton plays an FBI agent who's dragged out of retirement to help look for a serial killer known as "The Tooth Fairy" (Ralph Fiennes), who has brutally slain two families in the South.

You can see Norton replacing Foster as the FBI agent who needs the criminal genius of Dr. Lecter to solve a crime. When he interviews Lecter in a prison cell, you can almost hear echoes of the original, when Lecter snarls, "You stink of fear under that cheap lotion."

Though it's 11 years after Silence of the Lambs hit the big screen, the audience is just going to have to accept the lapse in continuity and Hopkins' age.

Ironically, Hopkins told TV Guide that he went on a low-carb diet to reprise his role as a cannibal. But for the most part, no overt filmmaking, digital artistry or makeup trips were employed to make Hopkins look like a younger Dr. Lecter in this installment.

The trick this time around, says Hopkins, was to avoid self-parody.

"I'd like to play him more dangerously," Hopkins says, when talking about a younger Lecter. "This guy, after all, is nuts. He's lethal. He's not somebody you can cuddle up to. So I didn't want to be the campy guy that I was in Silence of the Lambs … I didn't want to play on that."