Fact meets fiction in The Silence of the Lambs, and the intersection is 20-year FBI veteran John Douglas, head of the division on which the film’s Behavioral Science Unit is based. A consultant to novelist Thomas Harris for both Silence and its predecessor, Red Dragon, Douglas also worked closely with director Jonathan Demme, and he’s the model for the character of Jack Crawford, played by Scott Glenn.
”The cast spent time with us to get the details right,” says Douglas. ”I think Glenn came down not really aware that this kind of thing existed. I showed him crime scene photographs, let him listen to a tape made by killers of a victim being tortured. It opened his eyes.”
Silence does depart from reality for dramatic effect. ”We don’t send people out alone; you work with partners,” says Douglas. ”And it would be very unusual to pull someone out of the Academy, the way Crawford does with Starling.”
Douglas has met his share of serial killers, and Silence‘s Buffalo Bill rings some bells for him. ”He’s a composite. The cast on the arm says ‘Ted Bundy.’ The peeling of the skin says ‘ed Gein’ [the 1950s murderer who inspired booth Psycho and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre]. I also see the influence of Gary Heidnik, who kept women in a pit in his basement [in the 1980s]. But I’ve never seen one killer with all those characteristics.” And Hannibal Lecter — has Douglas ever met anyone like him? ”No, thank goodness, though serial killers do tend to be fairly bright. I’ve interviewed people who think they’re as sharp as Lecter, but fortunately no one who really was.”