'Lambs' Actor Ted Levine Remembers Jonathan Demme's Directing Style
"He was one of the most intensely sweet men I have known," said the actor, who worked with Demme on three films.
Silence of the Lambs may be one of the darkest, most twisted movies ever made, but Buffalo Bill villain Ted Levine remembers the set as being one of the most enjoyable he's been on during a shoot thanks to one man: Jonathan Demme.
"He was one of the most intensely sweet men I have known," Levine told The Hollywood Reporter in an interview on Thursday. "He was like an 11-year-old kid. He was always really excited about what he was doing."
The Oscar-winning director died on Wednesday. He was 73.
Describing the making of the 1991 horror thriller as a "glorious party," Levine said that Demme kept the mood light to counterbalance the dark subject matter.
"One of the reasons I do this work and enjoy it so much is for the element of collaboration on a project, and Jonathan embodied that in a big way," Levine said. "And I have kept that with me and have used it as a means to measure other productions, the vibe on the set, which is orchestrated by the director and the first assistant director."
Levine worked with Demme on three films: Silence of the Lambs, The Truth About Charlie and The Manchurian Candidate.
"The way he would say 'wonderful' — 'He was just Wonderful!''' Levine remembered. "And he was very generous with the crew and supportive of their work. I remember that an assistant prop guy on Lambs came up with the solution to a problem, and Jon pointed out on the set that this is the guy who did it. He gave his kudos in front of everyone, and it was cool."
Demme did have some trepidation about how the character of Buffalo Bill would be played, Levine said, because he was aware some would get the wrong impression from the performance.
"There was a lot of concern that came up about a negative portrayal of homosexuality," Levine said. "I never thought that Bill was gay. He was psychotic. And critics were all over it for this, and others took offense about the characterization of it. But the fact of the matter is he was not interested in people of his own gender. So, there was a little bit of fear from Jon concerning that, but he was very supportive, and let me do what I did."
The last time Levine spoke to Demme was about two weeks ago, he said.
"I was on a project in Hungary, and the showrunner and another person were veterans of Jon's, so we said let's take a picture and send it to him. He sent back an email saying how lovely it was to see our faces, and he wished he could be there with us," Levine said. "I thought that was a chance to say hello, but it turned out to be goodbye."