In an airport hangar, a group of men in suits and trench coats surrounds Senator Ruth Martin.
As they await their guest, Senator Martin slowly walks forward. From the opposite end of the hangar, a group of police officers approaches. Two of them are wheeling forward a large upright gurney. On the gurney, at an angle, is a man wearing orange slacks, in a straight jacket, with a muzzle over his mouth.
As both parties stop face to face, an introduction is made, “Senator Martin … Dr. Hannibal Lecter.”
Why did I just spend 30 seconds explaining a scene in Silence of the Lambs? Because believe it or not, there is a hockey connection.
Anthony Hopkins (who played Lecter) proceeds to reveal the identity of Buffalo Bill (SPOILER ALERT ON A MOVIE THAT IS 26 YEARS OLD!), speaking through his muzzle.
Except, it’s actually not a muzzle at all. It’s a re-purposed goaltender’s mask.
And the man who created it, Ed Cubberly of Frenchtown, New Jersey, is a well-known goalie mask designer.
“Colleen Atwood, the head costume designer and head of the prop department (for the film) called me asking if I could make a mask for Anthony Hopkins,” Cubberly explains.
“I asked her to describe the scene in which it would be used. She said, ‘He’s a schizophrenic who goes around biting people.’ I said, ‘So you want me to make you a muzzle.’ She said, ‘So what do you have in mind?'”
Then, Ed Cubberly went to work.
By then, Cubberly had over a decade of experience making custom molded fiberglass goalie masks, as well as designing them. His NHL resume is a who’s who of goalies from the 90s: Mike Richter, Tom Barrasso, Olaf Kolzig, Sean Burke, Jim Carey (the Net Detective!), and much more. This is no surprise since Cubberly’s NHL goalie mask design career spanned from 1988-2000.
A signature of his masks was the “C” around the ear of the mask. “Look for the ‘C'” and you’d know it as an Ed Cubberly original. For the one and only movie project of his career, he knew exactly how he was going to do.
“It took me all of five minutes to design the Hannibal mask,” Cubberly confesses. “I simply took a photo of an old-time goalie mask I had made and drew on it with a blue sharpie to the shape of the Lecter mask. It was merely the lower half of an old-time goalie mask.”
And now you know. It almost makes ol’ Hanny Lects seem … less scary.
Back to Cubberly and the Lecter mask design.
“She asked, ‘What color would you make it?’ I said, ‘You told me the setting in the movie was where Dr. Lecter was in a dungeon type jail.’ Being fiberglass is naturally a greenish/brown color, I decided to leave the mask the natural fiberglass color to make it appear to have been made in the dungeon-like setting.”
The decision paid off. Both in creativity and in time-saving.
“(Late Silence of the Lambs director) Jonathan Demme said, ‘Brilliant!’ He loved the idea. It also saved me from having to paint it!”
Though it was ultimately chosen to be the one, Cubberly’s design wasn’t the only option. Twelve other masks were in play, including fencing headgear and a beekeepers mask. I think they made the right choice, and suddenly “half a goalie mask with metal bars over the mouth” doesn’t sound as ridiculous.
Decades later, Cubberly is still recognized for having created that mask, an iconic prop in film history. He is the sole copyright owner of the mask and makes commissioned replicas upon request.
When speaking with Ed for this piece, he did share a great story about Mike Richter’s mask. Though by the early ’90s “Look for the ‘C'” was already in vogue around the NHL, Richter was a late adopter. So when Cubberly brought the mask to a Rangers practice, No. 35 was reluctant to commit to it but decided to test it out.
How? By putting on the mask, taking off his gloves, putting his hands behind his head and letting Bernie Nicholls ping slap shots off his noggin. It passed the “headbutt save” test and the famed “Lady Liberty” Richter mask was born.