Reading the Screen: The New Hannibal

A while ago I mentioned NBC was working on a television series based on the characters Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham (who appeared in the books and movies Red Dragon, The Silence of the Lambs, and Hannibal). It’s going to be set before the first Lecter novel, Red Dragon.

British actor Hugh Dancy had been cast as Graham, but Lecter himself was still uncast. According to this article at TV Week, Mads Mikkelsen, the Danish actor who recently won the Best Actor Award at the Cannes Film Festival for his role in The Hunt, will be the new Hannibal. (Mikkelsen may be familiar to you as Le Chiffre, the villain with the damaged left eye in Casino Royale.)

I’m not up on my Danish cinema the way I perhaps ought to be, and Mikkelsen hasn’t done a lot of English-speaking roles (he was in Clash of the Titans — not the real one, the remake — and the recent Three Muskateers fiasco), but I think he’s a good choice for Hannibal. He’s got the same sort of gracious, subtle menacing quality as Harris’s character, and his relative unfamiliarity to American television audiences should eliminate the biggest hurdle in pulling off the show, which would have been having the viewer say: “Hey, look! It’s [famous movie or TV star] trying to be Hannibal Lecter!”

When they were casting Superman: The Movie — this isn’t as irrelevant as it sounds — and the producers wanted somebody famous like Redford or Newman or Reynolds, the guys who were actually making the movie said, People won’t see Superman up there on the screen, they’ll see Redford in tights.

You need to get, if not an unknown, at least someone unfamiliar if you’re casting a major, iconic role, especially when the role has already been played by someone as memorable as Anthony Hopkins. I’m curious what you guys think, especially those of you who are more familiar with Mikkelsen’s work than I am. Did they make the right choice, casting him as Hannibal?

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