Anthony Hopkins reflected on his role in Silence of the Lambs in a virtual chat with costar Jodie Foster

Anthony Hopkins had a very different understanding about The Silence of the Lambs at first.

The 83-year-old actor and costar Jodie Foster recently reunited virtually for Variety's annual Actors on Actors series, where Hopkins revealed that he thought the psychological horror was a children's story after first being sent the script.

"Is it a children's story?" he recalls thinking. "I was in London in 1989, doing a play called M. Butterfly. My agent sent the script."

After 10 pages, Variety reports, Hopkins called his agent back, asking if it was a real offer, declaring to his agent: "This is the best script I've ever read."

"I read the rest of the script, and Jonathan [Demme, the director] came over on a Saturday afternoon and we had dinner," said Hopkins, who won the Oscar for his role as Hannibal Lecter in 1992. "And I said, 'Is this for real?' And he said, 'Yeah.' I said, 'Okay.' He was such a wonderful guy to work with. "

"I couldn't believe my luck, and I was scared to speak to you," he told Foster, 58. "I thought, 'She just won an Oscar, ' " Hopkins added, referring to Fosters' Oscar win in 1989 for The Accused.

Silence of the Lambs reunion
Anthony Hopkins, Jodie Foster
| Credit: Variety

During the pair's virtual chat, Hopkins admitted that he was "nervous" about taking on the role of Hannibal Lecter — until Demme assured him he was the perfect fit for the job.

"I was naturally nervous, an Englishman — a limey like me, a Welshman — playing an American serial killer," Hopkins recalled. "And I remember Jonathan, when the camera picked me up, he said, 'Oh, my God. That's it. Hopkins. You're so weird!' And I said, 'Why, thank you.' And they wanted the lighting girl to come into my cell, and I said, 'What are you doing in my cell?' And [Jonathan] said, 'Oh, my God.' So I knew I had pressed the right button. Once you got that button, hold on to it — and go with it."

Foster said that the film was "a life-changing adventure" for both she and Hopkins, before asking her costar, "I'm sure you still get people who come up to you and say, 'Would you like a nice Chianti?' "

"Oh yeah," Hopkins said. "They do."