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'The Silence of the Lambs' Author Thomas Harris Breaks Long Silence: 'Nothing's Made Up'

Creator of Hannibal Lecter gives first major interview in four decades

In his first substantive interview in four decades, "The Silence of the Lambs" author Thomas Harris says he's never "made up anything" -- a surprising revelation given the nature of his biggest and most monstrous creation, Hannibal Lecter.

"I don't think I've ever made up anything," he told the New York Times in an interview published Saturday. "Everything has happened. Nothing's made up. You don't have to make anything up in this world."

The article's author, Alexandra Alter, wrote that Harris kept repeating this idea whenever she asked him about the origins of certain characters or plot details, adding that Harris has been "a keen observer and a chronicler of people and their darkest impulses."

Harris, whose novels include "Black Sunday," "Hannibal" and "Red Dragon," is releasing a new novel this year titled "Cari Mora" -- his first book in 13 years, and the first time since 1975's "Black Sunday" that he hasn't written about Lecter. Instead, the new book focuses on a Colombian refugee who is the caretaker of a Miami Beach mansion that once belonged to Pablo Escobar.

"The Hannibal character still occurs to me, and I wonder sometimes what it's up to. But I wanted to deal with Miami, and the people here and the struggle here, and the aspirations that I see in the new people that come here," Harris said. "You see such a hunger for a different life."

Harris once wrote that he was "not comfortable in the presence of Dr. Lecter, not sure at all that the doctor could not see me." Of course, the creation became a huge part of pop culture when "The Silence of the Lambs" film was released, starring Anthony Hopkins as Lecter and Jodie Foster as F.B.I trainee Clarice Starling who visits him in prison to track down a serial killer. The 1991 film won five Academy Awards.

Harris said he didn't watch the film adaptation for years because he had been disappointed by "Manhunter," Michael Mann's 1986 adaptation of his novel "Red Dragon." But when "Silence of the Lambs" won all the Oscars, he accidentally landed on a channel that was playing it.

"The dialogue was very familiar," he explained. "So I sat down and watched it. And it was a wonderful movie." Of course, he wrote two more books about the erudite cannibal: "Hannibal" and "Hannibal Rising."

Harris has always lived a private life, telling the Times that fame "is more of a nuisance than anything else."

Read the full interview here.