The Official, Complete, Rejected Film Script for “The Silence of the Lambs”

In 1990, I was hired by New Line Cinema to write a film-length version of Thomas Harris’ 1998 novel, Silence of the Lambs. My treatment was rejected by the studio for being too “gritty” and “real”. They went with Ted Tally’s script, which was on the whole a lot more family friendly. I’m not bitter, though. While my script is deep, moving, and appropriately horrifying, Tally’s supplies the slapstick humour that gets people into theatres. I understand why they did what they did.

So, I have decided to post my edition here, allowing the public (and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) to decide which is better. Enjoy.

 

EXT. OUTSIDE. ABANDONED RACE TRACK. DAY

Enter STARLING. She is JOGGING with her boss JACK CRAWFORD.

STARLING: You have to put me on the case Jack!

JACK: You’re not ready for the case! You’re just a rookie at FBI ACADEMY! Plus, I remember last time, something bad happened. Someone…. got hurt.

JACK looks AWAY and makes EYE CONTACT with the camera.

STARLING: Is this because of our affair, Jack? Because you’re the one that ended things!

JACK: No baby girl you know I love your sweet lovin’. This isn’t personal, it’s just business.

STARLING: Then put me on the case! I’m the best at business.

JACK: You’ve persuaded me! You’re on the case. Now go find Buffalo Bill, he’s kidnapped PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON!

 

 

INT. FBI OFFICE DAY.

STARLING sips PINOT NOIR while Jack Crawford rubs her shoulders.

STARLING:So what is Buffalo Bill charged with?

JACK: I sincerely don’t remember.

CRAWFORD tries to run out of his office but SLIPS on a BANANA PEEL. Que LAUGH TRACK.

 

 

INT. APPLE ITUNES PING MENTAL ASYLUM FOR THE CRIMINALLY INSANE.

STARLING is talking to head psychiatrist FRED CHILTON. He is tapping away at his IPHONE 6C.

STARLING: Damnit Fred, you have to give me access!

CHILTON: Is this about our affair?

STARLING: Not everything is about our affair! I’m not that same girl anymore, Alex. I’m a woman now.

CHILTON: Yes, [he pauses to lick his lips] you sure have become a woman. A sexy one, too.

STARLING: Oh Fred [she swoons]. You know just what to say.

CHILTON: I mean it, baby doll, you’re one smokin’ broad.

STARLING: I thought you said I was a woman.

CHILTON: What’s that song, ‘Once, Twice, Three Times A Lady’? It’s like that.

STARLING: Let’s try to keep this professional, Alex.

CHILTON: It’s not my fault you’re a babe, babe.

STARLING: I said no. I’m only here for one thing, and that thing isn’t you.

CHILTON: What’s that?

STARLING: I’m here to see Dr. Hannibal Cannibal Lecter.

CHILTON: [Shrieks and falls to the ground]

 

 

INT. SAME. NIGHT.

STARLING sits cross-legged eyeing FRED CHILTON menacingly.

CHILTON: Why do you want to see Lecter? Don’t you remember what happened last time?

STARLING: I could never forget. That monster ate my baby, Mavis.

CHILTON: There’s a reason people call him Cannibal Lecter. He eats people. And babies. I don’t want you to get any closer to that man.

STARLING: You can’t control me Alex! I need his help on the Buffalo Bill case. To find a serial killer, you need to ask another serial killer where the first serial killer is. It’s textbook.

CHILTON: Don’t you think I don’t know that? How do you think we found Lecter in the first place? We just asked Real Life Villain Neil Diamond where he was and he led us right to him.

STARLING: Let me see Lecter!

CHILTON: Don’t get too close. You know what can happen.

STARLING: Right, he ate my baby.

CHILTON: [Turns and stares directly into the camera]. That’s why I got an epidural. Epidurals: they’re not just for the bourgeoisie anymore.

STARLING: So can I see him, or not?

CHILTON: Ya of course lol

 

 

INT. TORTURE DUNGEON. NIGHT.

It is NIGHT. BUFFALO BILL is standing above a GIANT HOLE. There is a woman trapped in the hole. She is NOT THRILLED.

BUFFALO BILL: It rubs the lotion on its skin whenever it is told.

GIRL: What? I can’t hear u bro.

BUFFALO BILL: It takes the lotion from the basket. Then it rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again.

BUFFALO BILL [To his Dog, Precious]: Yes it will precious, it will get the hose again!

GIRL: LOL! [It rubs the lotion on its skin].

BUFFALO BILL: Now it puts the lotion in the basket. It puts the lotion in the basket or it gets the hose again. There is nothing wrong with skin that cannot be cured by what is right with lotion.

GIRL: Can I go now?

BUFFALO BILL: It puts the lotion in the basket.

GIRL: [Scoffs] Fine [It puts the lotion in the basket].

BUFFALO BILL: Mmm girl.

GIRL: Do you want to go to McDonald’s?

BUFFALO BILL: I haven’t eaten at McDonald’s since I became president.

 

 

INT. APPLE ITUNES PING MENTAL ASYLUM FOR THE CRIMINALLY INSANE.

STARLING walks into a JAIL CELL and meets with the evil HANNIBAL LECTER.

LECTER: [Hissing] Hello, Clariceeee.

STARLING: Dr. Lecter, I’m here to talk with you about my search for the evil Serial Killer, Buffalo Bill. He’s kidnapped President Clinton and we’ve got to get him back.

LECTER: [Not listening] Mmm girl… shake that thang.

STARLING: DOCTOR LECTER! I recognize that you’re at home, but this is my place of work. And I prefer to not be harassed.

LECTER: Oh I’m sorry, Clarice. I didn’t mean to be untoward. So why are you here?

STARLING: I just told you.

LECTER: Is this about our affair?

STARLING: Goddamnit, no

 

 

INTERIOR PRISON CELL NIGHT.

STARLING is playing with a BALL OF STRING while LECTER is eating some meatloaf. In walks DR. CHILTON.

CHILTON: [To LECTER] I want to use you to further my career. [To STARLING] You look like a hot chick today, bro.

STARLING begins to BLUSH. CHILTON leaves.

LECTER: You can’t trust Dr. Chilton, Clarice. He’s going to manipulate this situation to get what he wants.

STARLING: [Screaming] PUT A CORK IN IT BRO!

LECTER: I’m just trying to help, Clarice. Just like those firefighters were trying to help people at Ground Zero on September 11th, 2001.

STARLING: If you want to help then help me find Buffalo Bill!

LECTER: Oh what’s Bill done now?

STARLING: He kidnapped President Clinton. He’s believed to be holding him hostage in the Washington Monument, but we’ve been unable to independently verify his location. The President is in danger!

LECTER: What do I care about the President? I’m a serial killer. I eat babies! I ate your baby.

STARLING: I know you ate Mavis. I wasn’t thrilled.

LECTER: It was her fault, dressing like that.

STARLING: I know. I don’t blame you.

LECTER: Thanks, Clarice.

 

 

INT. APPLE ITUNES PING MENTAL ASYLUM FOR THE CRIMINALLY INSANE.

LECTER is eating some MEAT LOAF. In walks CHILTON. He is wearing a corset and smoking a LUCKY STRIKE cigarette.

CHILTON: [Directly to the camera, maintaining eye contact] We doctors don’t always smoke, but when we do we smoke ‘Lucky Strike’!

CHILTON turns to LECTER.

CHILTON: Isn’t that right, Dr. Lecter?

LECTER: [Looking into the camera, beaming] That’s right, pal! We wouldn’t smoke anything else. Lucky Strike: not just for jews anymore!

CHILTON and LECTER begin to EMBRACE. CHILTON takes the LUCKY STRIKE out of his mouth and puts it in LECTER’s. LECTER does the SAME.

LECTER: So why are you here, Doctor?

CHILTON: I know you’ve been collaborating with Starling, trying to find Buffalo Dill.

LECTER: Buffalo Bill, actually. Buffalo Dill died in the tragic events of September 11th, 2001.

CHILTON: Whatever, I want you to stop helping her. I want you to help me instead. I want all the glory of bringing this killer down.

LECTER: That makes no goddamn sense. I’ve been in prison for, like, ten years now. Why do you guys think I might know where Buffalo Bill is? There isn’t some serial killer Facebook where we all check-in with each other.

CHILTON: Stop talking about Facebook. The year is 1992. Anyways, I’m prepared to commute your sentence to life in a minimum-security prison for the rich. It’s on a beach. All you need to do is promise that you won’t try to escape.

LECTER: Honestly, I really don’t know where Buffalo Bill is.

CHILTON: Thank you for your help Lecter. I think with this information we can really bring down Buffalo Bill. You’ll be transported to The Saint Charles Berkeley Hospice for the Criminally Insane immediately.

LECTER: Thanks man.

CHILTON: By the way, have you seen famous star of screen and stage, Michael “Meat Loaf” Aday? He was seen wandering around the facility and we just lost track of him.

LECTER: [Turns to the camera and smiles mischievously]

TWO GUARDS grab LECTER and take him to the LOUVRE.

CHILTON: [Making eye contact with the camera] I’m going to be rich! Famous! The man who brought down Buffalo Bill! Bazongo!

 

 

INT. LOUVRE NIGHT.

LECTER sits cross-legged in a cage. He is stopped here while he is being transported to THE BEACH. OFFICER STEVE talks on his cellphone.

OFFICER STEVE: Oh my god! I’m going to be a father. Labour? Oh my! I’ll be right down to the hospital. I just have to finish watching this harmless inmate.

LECTER continues to read.

OFFICER STEVE: What? My mom wants to see me? After all this time? I’m so glad to reconnect with her. When she abandoned me I was angry, but I think I can learn to forgive. I never felt validated as a man, you know, when my own mother rejected me. I think in meeting her I could finally get closure.

OFFICER STEVE: No, honey. I cancelled the life insurance. I know I’m the sole bread-winner for us and our ten kids, all of whom have special needs. Don’t worry, nothing bad is gonna happen to me.

LECTER smiles KNOWINGLY.

LECTER: Oh Steve, can you come tell me something?

STEVE: Sure thing buck-o.

STEVE walks to LECTER’s cage, unlocks it, walks in, and leans in real close.

STEVE: What do you have to tell me?

LECTER: [Brandishing the knife in his pocket]It smells like updawg in here.

STEVE: What’s updawg?

LECTER: Not much, what’s up with you.

STEVE: Oh, you [Steve wags his finger real gentle-like], you get me everytime.

LECTER winks.

LECTER: Bazongo!

STEVE: Anyway, bye.

LECTER: See you later, alligator.

STEVE: In a while, crocodile!

STEVE locks the cage and leaves. LECTER goes back to his reading.

 

 

INT. APPLE EARPODS GYM BATHROOM NIGHT.

Jack Crawford is changing his shirt. In walks DR. CHILTON in a silk bathrobe. Both men are smoking LUCKY STRIKE CIGARETTES.

CHILTON: What’s up, bro?

CRAWFORD: I’m fucking chilling, bro.

CHILTON: Nice bro.

A woman WALKS BY.

CHILTON: You hitting that bro?

CRAWFORD: You fucking know it, playa.

The two men BUMP FISTS.

CHILTON: Bro, can we be real, bro?

CRAWFORD: Sure thing man, let’s be real. You can tell me anything, bro. You’re my brother.

CHILTON: Thanks bro, I fucking love you, man.

CRAWFORD: So what’s the problem bro?

CHILTON: Do you know what my problem is bro?

CRAWFORD: What’s your problem bro?

CHILTON: I like bad bitches, that’s my fucking problem.

CRAWFORD: Don’t I know it, bro. Chicks are crazy.

The two men EMBRACE in a PLATONIC HUG. A single tear falls down CHILTON’s cheek. CRAWFORD wipes the tear off and licks his finger.

 

 

INT. DARK ALLEY NIGHT.

STARLING stands beside a payphone.

STARLING dials the payphone.

PAYPHONE: Ring-a-ding

CUT TO: JAIL CELL NIGHT. LECTER’S phone begins to RING. He picks it UP.

LECTER: Hello, Clarice.

SPLIT SCREEN: LECTER talks on one end while STARLING talks on another.

STARLING: What’s up bro?

LECTER: Don’t you know I’m fucking chilling?

STARLING: Yeah, boi.

LECTER: Anyway, sup.

STARLING: Looking for Buffalo Bill. Where he at?

LECTER: I promised Chilton that I wouldn’t talk to you.

SPLIT SCREEN: LECTER talks on the phone. STARLING talks on the phone. CHILTON picks up a RUBBER DUCK and holds it to his ear LIKE A PHONE.

STARLING: Awe, please?

LECTER: I’ll tell you what I told Chilton.

STARLING: What’s that?

CHILTON: [To the Duck] Quack quack, Mr. Duck.

LECTER: I don’t know.

STARLING: What do you mean you don’t know?

LECTER: I’ve been in prison for eight years. I can’t keep track of where everyone is all the time.

STARLING: Fair enough. Sorry for bothering you.

LECTER: Now, tell me, Clarice, have the lambs stopped screaming?

STARLING: No, I will never have the Silence of the Lambs.

CUT TO: Title screen. All caps, blown up to 96 point futura font. Reads: THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS.

CUT BACK: Hannibal Lecter, ON THE PHONE.

LECTER: Hey Clarice, I have an idea.

STARLING: What’s that brah?

LECTER: Have you tried checking his house?

STARLING: Who’s house? Huh?

LECTER: Buffalo Bill, have you tried checking his house? A lot of times when you’re looking for people you’ll find them, you know, at their house.

STARLING: Neat idea, I’ll check it out.

LECTER: Love you, bye!

STARLING: Talk to you later, best friend.

 

 

INT. APPLE ITUNES PING MENTAL ASYLUM FOR THE CRIMINALLY INSANE JAIL CELL. NIGHT.

LECTER hangs up the phone. Then he rips off someone’s face and puts it on. He is NOT A GOOD GUY. He ESCAPES. OFFICER STEVE is UNHARMED.

 

 

EXT. ARKANSAS. NIGHT.

STARLING walks up to the GOVERNOR’S MANSION. She KNOCKS ON THE DOOR.

BUFFALO BILL answers.

BUFFALO BILL: Is this about our affair?

STARLING: No, christ, it’s not about our affair.

BUFFALO BILL: Then what do you want, girl?

STARLING: I’ve been searching for you everywhere, Bill! Come out, you’re surrounded.

BUFFALO BILL: [Laughing] What? Why?

STARLING: You’re wanted in conjunction with the kidnapping of Bill Clinton!

BUFFALO BILL: Are you, like, dumb?

STARLING: What do you mean?

BUFFALO BILL: [Sighs] Do you really not get it?

STARLING: [pulls out her gun] Get down on the fucking floor!

BUFFALO BILL reaches into his SLEEVLESS TRENCHCOAT, pulls out his WALLET, takes out his driver’s license, and HANDS IT TO STARLING.

STARLING: [Screams]It can’t be true!

STARLING drops the license and faints. Camera zooms in on DRIVERS LICENSE. It reads, in 96point futura font, “BUFFALO BILL CLINTON”.

STARLING: [regains composure] Well, I’m sorry for bugging you Mr. Clinton. I guess you haven’t committed a crime, you’re free to go.

BUFFALO BILL: Okay, bye.

BUFFALO BILL shuts the door. STARLING’S iPhone 3GS begins to RING.

STARLING: New phone who dis?

SPLIT SCREEN: HANNIBAL LECTER holds up a payphone to his ear. STARLING holds up her iPHONE 3GS.

LECTER: I’ve escaped, Clarice. But I’m not going to come after you.

STARLING: So what will you do?

LECTER begins to cackle, puts on a HAT, and looks menacingly over at SIMON & GARFUNKEL.

LECTER: I’m going to have some ‘Old Friends’ for dinner.

SMASH CUT TO: “The End” in 96point futura font. Also, the word “Bombs”.

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