April 9, 1952
Winston-Salem, North Carolina, United States
Playwright, Screenwriter, Producer, Writing teacher
A screenwriter and playwright whose work has often been laced with high psycho-dramatic tension, Ted Tally won an Academy Award for his adaptation of "The Silence of the Lambs" (1991), forever emblazoning the name of Hannibal 'the Cannibal' Lecter in the annals of American screen villains.Tally had a distinguished theater background prior to breaking into motion pictures. A graduate of Yale's prestigious theater school, he devoted the late 1970s and most of the 80s to the stage. His "Terra Nova" premiered at the Yale Rep in 1977; its 1984 NYC production earned the writer an OBIE Award. Tally began working in TV in 1983, adapting his 1978 off-Broadway play "Hooters" for the Playboy Channel. Among his other plays are "Coming Attractions" (1980), "Silver Linings" (1981) and "Little Footsteps" (1986). In 1987, Tally wrote the TV-movie, "The Father Clements Story" (NBC), based on a real-life priest who adopted a youth.The scribe made the transition to the big screen co-adapting (with Alvin Sargent) "White Palace" (1990), based on the novel by Glenn Savan. The drama explored the yuppie sexual angst of the 80s through the story of a young widower (James Spader) who falls in love with an older waitress (Susan Sarandon). The following year, Tally adapted "The Silence of the Lambs" for director Jonathan Demme. Ostensibly the story of the FBI's tracking of a serial killer with the aid of a unrepentant but brilliant flesh-eating doctor, it also was centered on a novice agent (Jodie Foster) coming to terms with her own demons through her questioning of and interaction with serial killer Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins). Although an adaptation, the closing line of the film, "I'm having a close friend for dinner," was Tally's.In 1996, Tally had two dramas adapted from novels released. The unremarkable thriller "The Juror" featured Demi Moore tormented by the psychopathic Alec Baldwin, but was more lauded for the leads' performances than for its script and plotting. "Before and After," a Barbet Schroeder-directed film was about parents (Liam Neeson, Meryl Streep) fighting to prove their son (Edward Furlong) innocent of a murder and discovering their idyllic home is not what they believed it to be. While critics were divided in their opinions on the films' merit, audiences stayed away.