From Bin Laden to Miranda Priestly: Famous Actors’ Reflections on Their Most Villainous Roles

Hollywood has always had a flair for creating compelling villains, so it’s only natural that the actors conveying them would covet – or disdain – the experience of being bad. Some actors lose sleep over playing the baddie, carrying their character’s guilt, while others enjoy getting into character perhaps a little too much, and revel in their ability to frighten.

For Ricky S. Sekhon, the actor cast as one of the world’s most hated real-life villains in Zero Dark Thirty – and who wrote about his experience in a recent Times Op-Ed piece – the eight weeks before he took up his role as Osama bin Laden were spent having heart palpitations. Sekhon’s pithy Times piece inspired us to look at other actors’ reflections on playing some of cinema’s most notoriously evil charactersHere’s what we found.

Anthony Hopkins on playing Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs

Of all the villains to ever darken the silver screen, Hannibal Lecter may be the most shiver-inducing. The way he licks his lips at Jodie Foster, and that stare he holds her with through the asylum bars have haunted this writer a little more than she’d like to admit. We thought Jim Ferguson’s 1991 interview with Anthony Hopkins might dispel our fear. But how wrong we were; Hopkins is half himself and the rest  Lecter in this interview, and speaks of the part “with relish.” And he’s far too quick to take credit for the chilling scene in which we’re introduced to Lecter; Hopkins suggested to director Jonathan Demme that instead of having the character sitting in the corner, he should be ready and waiting for Foster’s Clarice – and for us – at the bars. (It worked, that’s for sure.) There’s also a great reference to Hitchcock in the interview, as Ferguson, speaking of The Silence of the Lambs, said that “Hitchcock would have been thrilled” by the movie. Anthony Hopkins agreed at the time, though we wonder whether the thought crossed the actor’s mind again in his latest role as the master of spook himself.