Welcome to the First 15 Minutes Project! I’m always on the search to figure out why we love some heroes and others leave us cold. To help solve this eternal mystery, I’m going to watch the character introductions (the first 15-20 minutes) of some of my favorite movies and TV shows. Unsurprisingly, we’re starting with one of my most frequent go-to movies on this blog...
Character Intro: Clarice Starling in Silence of the Lambs:
- We first see Clarice in sweats with pearl earrings, really pushing herself as she runs through the woods, then climbs her way through a ropes course.
- An instructor runs up to her: “Sterling, Crawford wants to see you in his office.” “Thank you, sir.”
- Runs past a sign on a tree. “Hurt, Agony, Pain-- Love it!”
- Enter the FBI training facility. She’s clearly happy to be there.
- As she passes other cadets, she gives a high five and a “Hey!” to a black female cadet.
- Clarice enters the elevator: everybody else is bigger and tougher, but she doesn’t care.
- She is somewhat lost in the offices of the officials, looking for Crawford’s office, where she’s clearly never been.
- Clarice is shown to the right office and waits nervously, then notices a cork-board filled with evidence of the “Buffalo Bill” killings and studies it intensely.
- Crawford shows up and reads her CV: “Sterling, Clarice M., Top quarter of your class. I remember you from my seminar at UVA. You grilled me pretty hard on the Bureau’s record on civil rights in the Hoover years. I gave you an A.” “A-, sir” He lists all the awards she’s won. He wants her to interview Hannibal Lecter, claims it has nothing to do with the Buffalo Bill case. She recognizes Lecter as “Hannibal the cannibal.” Warned to be very careful. “Tell him nothing personal. Believe me you don’t want Hannibal Lecter inside your head.”
- Clarice goes to the facility holding Lecter and meets the head psychiatrist, Chilton, who calls Lecter his “prized asset”, and then hits on Clarice. She politely but cleverly deflects his attentions.
- As he walks her to the cell, he says “Crawford is clever using you: pretty young woman to turn him on.” He gives a long list of rules for staying safe while visiting Lecter.
- They arrive, but Clarice sends Chilton away: “If Lecter feels that you’re his enemy, then maybe we’ll have more luck if I go in by myself. What do you think?” He takes offence: “You might have saved me the time of walking you here.” “Yes, but then I would have missed the pleasure of your company, sir.”
- Walks past a crazy named Miggs who yells something horrible at her.
- Lecter stands perfectly still. “You’re one of Jack Crawford’s.” “I am, yes,” He makes her hold credentials close, forcing her to break a rule right off.
- Lecter asks “What did Miggs say?” She considers lying, but answers honestly, repeating the embarrassing comment word for word. He is impressed.
- He guesses that this is really about Buffalo Bill. He then guesses where she’s from her hidden accent.
- He likes her but then she gives him the standard questionnaire, which insults him. He sends her away with nothing.
- While leaving she gets hit with Miggs’s bodily fluids and doesn’t flinch.
- Impressed, Lecter calls her back, tells her to look up his old patient Miss Muffet, who might lead her to Buffalo Bill.
- After leaving the prison, She has a flashback: greeting her sheriff daddy in the rural house where she grew up.
- In the parking lot, she cries against the hood of her beat-up old car...
Now let’s apply our character checklist to this intro:
When we get a big enough sample, we’ll analyze our data and see what trends we find...
I really enjoyed reading through your checklist on this one. It's one of those rare projects where both the book and the movie are well-crafted, and the movie was blessed with great casting -- especially in Jodie Foster. Arguably, any number of actors could have scared us as Hannibal Lecter, but making us invest in Clarice Starling was a much tougher gig. (Off-hand, the other actresses I might envision in the role, besides Foster's inteligent take on it, are Holly Hunter or Debra Winger...)
Holly Hunter came to mind for me too, if they had to recast, but I really can't imagine anybody other than Foster.
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