Movie Article

Out of the Moths of Babes

Moth wrangling in ''The Silence of the Lambs'' -- Behind the special creature effects in the Jodie Foster film

In Jonathan Demme's new thriller, The Silence of the Lambs the theme of metamorphosis is in part represented by the life cycle of the moth. In a particularly unappetizing autopsy scene, Dr. Akin (Kenneth Utt), assisted by FBI agent Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) works his forceps into the mouth of a corpse and pulls out a cocoon. According to moth wrangler and special effects wiz Raymond Mendez, ''We made a copy of a real sphinx moth pupa using a rubber mold. Then I poured melted Tootsie Rolls into the mold to form the pupa. We wanted to have something edible in the actor's mouth, not something plastic.'' In a later scene, the offending cocoon was dissected ''using a plastic model, tubing, and K-Y Jelly.'' And for a scene in which Foster enters the killer's den and sights one of the winged creatures, a dull-looking tomato hornworm moth was outfitted in a little harness with colorful trappings made of acrylic polymer and silk. Maybe Silence will get an Oscar for Best Costumes for Nocturnal Insects.

Originally posted Feb 22, 1994 Published in issue #54 Feb 22, 1991 Order article reprints