One of the inspirations that Anthony Hopkins borrowed from for his interpretation of Hannibal Lecter was a friend of his in London who never blinked which unnerved anyone around him.
Buffalo Bill's dance was not included in the original draft of the screenplay, although it appears in the novel. It was added at the insistence of Ted Levine, who thought the scene was essential in defining the character.
Anthony Hopkins deliberately provoked Jodie Foster off-camera by mocking her rendition of a West Virginia accent, which helped her convey Clarice's outrage when Hannibal taunted her for hiding her in-character accent.
When filming phonecalls, it is standard practice to film both sides separately and have the actors pretend they're having a phone call. At the end of Silence they hooked up the phone to the phone network and had Hopkins call from the set of another movie across the country. When Jodie Foster picks up the phone and Hopkins speaks back to her the look of surprise on her face is genuine.
In Memoriam: The film was dedicated to character actor Trey Wilson.
Life Imitates Art: In the book, the FBI approaches Johns Hopkins, a formerly known center for sex-reassignment surgery, for help tracking down Buffalo Bill. The institute refuses, objecting that this would give transgender people a bad name. After this exchange was cut from the movie, real-life activist groups made the same complaint about the film. In the book, the FBI was able to get what they needed by emphasizing that they didn't want names of people they'd approved for the surgery, but of people they'd rejected because they were not transgender. The diagnosis of Lecter's that they were going by pegged Buffalo Bill as more of a transsexual wannabe.
Throw It In!: Ft-ft-ft-ft-ft-ft. Hopkins threw this in as a joke at the end of the take (hence the long pause between the end of the line and when he actually starts the noises) but the director decided it was appropriately creepy and kept it.
Louis Gossett Jr. auditioned for the part of Hannibal in Silence but claims he was turned down partly because they didn't want to make him a Scary Black Man.
Silence was initially put together at the behest of Gene Hackman, who planned to direct and star as either Hannibal Lecter or Jack Crawford. Hackman left the project after his daughter urged him not to make it and after watching a clip of himself in Mississipi Burning at the Academy Awards made him uneasy about violent roles.
Michelle Pfeiffer was Demme's original choice for Starling, but she turned it down, finding the subject matter disturbing. Other actresses considered for the role of Starling included Nicole Kidman, Halle Berry, Andie MacDowell, Meg Ryan, and Melanie Griffith
Paul Verhoeven was asked to direct. He declined, thinking that there would not be an audience for a movie which such a dark tone. He regretted the decision after the movie proved to be both a critical and commercial success.
You Keep Using That Word: On a meta sense. Zehava Gal’on, leader of the Israeli leftist party Meretz, has often criticised right-wing and religious leadership in Israel for their conspicuous silence on growing nationalist chauvinism and intolerance and the violence these attitudes beget, labelling their behaviour as ‘the silence of the lambs’. This is despite the fact that the name derives from Clarice’s personal history living in a farm where sheep were slaughtered: the sheep would let out blood-curdling screams, and when Clarice couldn’t tolerate it any longer she tried, in vain, to grab a sheep and run off to save it; this even inspired her to join the FBI, to overcome her inability to protect the weak and make the metaphorical lambs stop screaming—in other words, ‘the silence of the lambs’ is a good thing.