How the Hannibal Books Spawned Two Different TV Projects
Has Hollywood overdosed on too many fava beans with their nice chianti? Two characters from the same series of Thomas Harris books wound up in development simultaneously, and how that happened is an all-too typical story of tangled Hollywood rights.
NBC had already ordered 13 episodes of Bryan Fuller's Hannibal (based on The Silence of the Lambs killer Hannibal Lecter) when TV Guide Magazine broke the news last month that Lifetime is developing Clarice, revolving around Lambs' Clarice Starling character.
Similar projects wind up in development (and even on TV) all the time, but it's unusual for two different takes on the same franchise to show up at once. In this case, it all begins with late mega-producer Dino DeLaurentiis, who was behind Manhunter, the first movie based on Hannibal Lecter, as well as the sequels Hannibal, Red Dragon and Hannibal Rising. DeLaurentiis' widow, Martha DeLaurentiis, also produced those movies, and brought the Hannibal franchise to NBC.
Here's the catch: Dino DeLaurentiis didn't produce 1991's The Silence of the Lambs. That movie came from Orion Pictures, which MGM later acquired. As a result, MGM has asserted its rights to the Clarice character. Under new TV head Steve Stark, MGM TV is looking through its library to find potential franchises to revive, and Clarice seemed like a good fit for Lifetime. Those two different rights deals are why Hannibal won't be seen on Clarice, and vice versa.
Fuller, whose Hannibal will focus on the relationship between the serial killer and FBI criminal profiler Will Graham, says he understands the appeal of the franchise. "Hannibal has a great legacy of elegant horror," he says. "I took inspiration from the lyrical, surreal horror movie moments from some of David Lynch's films and tried to give this project a sense of beautiful dread. I was drawn to the bromance, for lack of a better word, between two uniquely crazy people who need each other's crazy to understand their own."
In casting Mads Mikkelsen to play Lecter, Fuller says it wasn't until the actor was mentioned that he or pilot director David Slade "completely understood who this Hannibal was. Dr. Lecter is a capable, complicated character and we found an amazingly capable, complicated actor."
Fuller also likes the fact that Mikkelsen and Hugh Dancy, who plays the FBI's Graham, have worked together before and like each other. "There is a real friendship between these gentlemen and I'm excited about how that will inform their twisted camaraderie onscreen," Fuller says.
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