Picture High Fidelity‘s Rob Gordon, but instead of selling records, he’s slitting throats. That was NBC‘s original vision for Hannibal, the serial killer drama starring Mads Mikkelsen and Hugh Dancy. In an interview with Collider, creator Bryan Fuller revealed that the network envisioned John Cusack as their dark genius, but he was pushing to cast Mikkelsen as Hannibal Lecter from the beginning.
According to Fuller, NBC was looking for a more “American” actor to play the lead in the series. “I think the network wanted somebody that was much more poppy, much more mainstream, much more American,” he said. “That was just them thinking about, ‘Okay how do we get the biggest audience for our television show? We have to cast John Cusack as Hannibal Lecter and everybody will tune in because won’t that be surprising?’ I was like, ‘Well go ahead, make an offer.’”
The Hannibal creator said that although Mikkelsen was his top choice to portray Lecter, NBC wasn’t on the same page. “There was some resistance to Mads Mikkelsen because he was European, because he was somebody who you could look at and go, ‘Yeah I buy that he eats people,’” Fuller explained. “We were dealing with a very American network that wanted a very American actor to sell to American audiences, and all the creatives on the show wanted somebody who was the best person for the role.”
Fuller recalled that whenever he would mention Mikkelsen’s name, the network would suggest other options, like Cusack or Hugh Grant. When the actors turned down the Hannibal role, Fuller would suggest Mikkelsen again, in a cycle that lasted for months. “Finally I just said, ‘Mads is the guy, that’s the guy I see in the role and I have to write it and I have to champion it and I have to understand it,”” he said.
Although Fuller finally got his top choice for Lecter, the decision came with some consequences. Because NBC didn’t secure any of the big names, the show didn’t get as much publicity. According to Fuller, the marketing team “sort of gave up on it a little bit” because they cast “a European guy as the face of [a show] they wanted to be more accessible.”
They may have lost out on marketing, but Hannibal made up for it with creativity. Fuller said that casting Mikkelsen was “a gift” because it allowed for more freedom with the storyline and content without the constraints of a mainstream audience. “So Mads was the gift that allowed us to tell the story the way that we wanted to tell it, because the network was like, ‘Well it’s not the person that we wanted and we don’t really see him in this role,’ and we were like, ‘Fine, just let us make the show,’” Fuller said.
Hannibal first premiered on NBC in 2013 and lasted for three seasons before it was canceled in 2015. The series follows the unlikely partnership between criminal profiler Will Graham (Dancy) and psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter (Mikkelsen).
Head to Collider to read their full interview with Fuller.
Where to watch Hannibal
Source: New York Post
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