''Backdraft'' and ''Silence of the Lambs'' -- We uncover the similarity in the two films

Is it simply a case of great minds thinking alike? In this winter’s The Silence of the Lambs, based on Thomas Harris’ best-seller of the same name, FBI agent Clarice Starling interviews the diabolical murderer Dr. Hannibal Lecter to help uncover a killer’s identity. In this summer’s Backdraft, a fire investigator (William Baldwin) interviews an incarcerated psycho arsonist named Ronald to get help in figuring out who’s torching buildings around town. Furthermore, both Ronald the Torcher and Hannibal the Cannibal will volunteer information only after their respective interrogators reveal their feelings about the most traumatic event of their lives. ”It’s one of those unfortunate coincidences,” says Backdraft screenwriter Gregory Widen. ”Backdraft had been in development since 1987. After we saw Silence of the Lambs we said, ‘Oh, shit, we should take the scene out,’ but we both came up with it independently, so we decided to leave it in.” An even stranger duplication occurs with an earlier Lecter movie that Widen says he has never seen. In Manhunter, a 1986 film of Harris’s novel Red Dragon, an FBI forensics expert searching for clues utters the same line that Backdraft fire fighter Kurt Russell speaks while trying to discover the source of an inferno: ”You’re so sly, but so am I.” Maybe Lecter could leap into the writers’ minds and figure out the connection?

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