Dr. Frederick Chilton is a fictional character appearing in Thomas Harris' novels Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs, as well as the film adaptations Manhunter, Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs.
In the novels
Chilton is first introduced in Red Dragon as the pompous, incompetent director of a sanitarium near Baltimore, Maryland, acting as the jailer for the cannibalistic serial killer Hannibal Lecter. Lecter hates Chilton, mainly due to his incompetence and attempts to quantify him and goes out of his way to humiliate his keeper. Chilton in return punishes any misbehaviour of Lecter's by taking his drawings, books and toilet seat. When FBI profiler Will Graham goes to Lecter for advice on capturing another serial killer, Francis Dolarhyde, Chilton makes an unwelcome attempt to question Graham about Lecter's psyche. When Dolarhyde learns of Graham's visits with Lecter, the two killers attempt to correspond through the classifieds of a tabloid; a cleaning crew finds one of Dolarhyde's letters, hidden within Lecter's toilet paper spool. Chilton informs Graham and his partner, Jack Crawford, of the discovery. Lecter's reply is intercepted and revealed to contain Graham's home address, which Dolarhyde uses to track down Graham in the novel's climax.
The Silence of the Lambs
In The Silence of the Lambs, Chilton allows an FBI trainee, Clarice Starling, to interview Lecter about another serial killer, "Buffalo Bill"; he makes a clumsy pass at Starling at their first meeting, but is quickly rejected. He talks her through the extreme security when dealing with Lecter, showing her a photo of a nurse Lecter attacked. Chilton gradually grows jealous of Lecter's willingness to share information with Starling rather than him, eventually using a recording device to eavesdrop on their interviews. From this, he learns of Crawford's offer to transfer Lecter to a better prison facility in exchange for Buffalo Bill's identity. Chilton learns that the offer is false but sets it up anyway, quickly hogging the spotlight as the plan's architect. Lecter is transferred, but gives false information; he claims that the killer's name is "Billy Rubin," a reference to bilirubin, a pigment found in feces — and the exact shade of Chilton's hair. Lecter gives Starling the real information needed to track down Buffalo Bill. Afterwards, Lecter makes a bloody escape from custody after using an improvised handcuff key made from a pen tube and paper clip that he'd been concealing for several years and was only able to use once transferred to police custody. He later sends a letter to Chilton while on the run, promising gruesome vengeance.
Chilton does not appear in Hannibal; the hospital has been shut down by the time the novel's events take place. Hannibal mentions that Chilton disappeared while on vacation in Jamaica seven years earlier. It is strongly suggested that he was killed by Lecter. Clarice Starling interviews a female doctor who claims that she was engaged to Chilton, and is certain that Lecter killed him.
Dr Chilton was considered by many as arrogant, self important, incompetent and superficial. He gave a wrong first impression to many to those he met. Will Graham felt uncomfortable with Chilton's questions about Lecter, and was unimpressed by his sychophantic style. Clarice Starling was put off at his attempts of flirting with her and found him to be incompetent. His most negative relationship was with his patient Dr Hannibal Lecter. Chilton arrogantly believed that he was as smart as Lecter, desperate to solve "the puzzle" of Lecter. He considered Lecter his prized asset. However he mistreated Lecter, subjecting him to petty torments such as removing his drawings, toilet seat and books. He was disrespectful, addressing Dr Lecter by his first name, and delighted in telling him that Jack Crawford had fooled him with a fake offer. Lecter in turn, hated Chilton, believed him to be a terrible doctor, and would often mock Chilton's efforts of therapy. Chilton also recorded conversations between Starling and Lecter during the Buffalo Bill investigation. Chilton displayed a macabre side to him. When Graham, and later Starling visited the asylum, Chilton took pleasure in describing the time Dr Lecter brutally attacked a nurse, even keeping a photograph to show guests. Despite his faults, Chilton did not underestimate how dangerous Lecter was. He was adament on the extreme security measures when dealing with Lecter, warning any visitor to strictly follow the rules.
In other media
- In Manhunter, the first film adaptation of Red Dragon, Chilton is played by Benjamin Hendrickson. Chilton’s role is greatly reduced, and his hatred for Lecter and his incompetence are absent.
- In both The Silence of the Lambs and Red Dragon, he is played by Anthony Heald (photographed on the right).
- The films portray Chilton in the same manner as the novels, though some scenes with the character are altered in their adaptations. In Silence of the Lambs, for example, instead of the bilirubin pun and its specific disparaging of Chilton, Lecter supplies the name "Louis Friend" (an anagram of "iron sulfide", i.e. fool's gold) and Lecter's handcuff key is improvised from a pen stolen from Chilton shortly before Lecter's escape. While the novel leaves Chilton's demise at the hands of Lecter an open question, the ending of the film shows Lecter sitting in a small cafe, contacting Starling to tell her that "I'm having an old friend for dinner." He then proceeds to follow Chilton through a small Caribbean village as the credits roll.
- In an earlier draft of the screenplay for Silence of the Lambs, Lecter finishes his phone call with Clarice, then goes indoors, where Chilton is bound and gagged, and picks up a knife, saying, "Shall we begin?"
- In the television adaptation Hannibal he is portrayed by Raúl Esparza. In almost a very dark recurring gag in the show, Chilton is horribly injured in each of the three seasons and ends up becoming a victim of Francis Dolarhyde in the third season where he occupies the role originally taken by Freddy Lounds in the books and films where his lips are bitten off and is burned in a wheelchair. However Chilton survives the incident and begins receiving skin grafts.