'Hannibal' the TV series casts its villain

The 'Hannibal' TV series on NBC has cast a former James Bond villain as its titular character.

Eric Gaillard/Reuters
Actor Mads Mikkelsen has previously starred as the main villain, Le Chiffre, in the well-received 2006 James Bond film 'Casino Royale.'

It’s taken a while, but NBC and showrunner Bryan Fuller (the creator of Pushing Daisies) have finally settled on an actor to portray Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter, M.D., in their upcoming television series, Hannibal.

The man in question is Mads Mikkelsen, the Danish thespian who broke out onto the Hollywood scene with his turn as the villain (with a bleeding eye) in Casino Royale. Mikkelsen was also recently approached to play an antagonist in Thor 2; his being locked down for Hannibal suggests that might no longer be an option.

Mikkelsen will play Dr. Lecter opposite fellow King Arthur alum, Hugh Dancy, who will portray FBI profiler Will Graham on Fuller’s Hannibal. The Lecter/Graham duo originated in Thomas Harris’ 1981 novel “Red Dragon,” which was the basis for Michael Mann’s Manhunter – featuring Brian Cox and William Petersen as the pair – along with Brett Ratner’s Red Dragon, which saw Anthony Hopkins and Edward Norton try their hands at bringing those respective characters to life (a third time, in Hopkins’ case).

When Fuller previously spoke to EW, he revealed that Hannibal begins prior to the events in Red Dragon. Moreover, the show starts off by portraying Lecter as “more of a peacock [with] a cheery disposition… He’s not being telegraphed as a villain. If the audience didn’t know who he was, they wouldn’t see him coming… We get to subvert his legacy and give the audience twists and turns.”

That makes the selection of Mikkelsen as Dr. Lecter only partial type-casting, as the actor is better known for portraying characters whose external appearance very much reflect their dangerous nature – be it the eye-patch-wearing Count de Rochefort in The Three Musketeers or the Viking “One Eye” in Valhalla Rising. (Mikkelsen does seem to have a thing for playing villains with eye issues, doesn’t he? Moving on…)

David Slade (30 Days of Night, Eclipse) is locked to direct the pilot for Hannibal, which Fuller will serve as an executive producer on, alongside the owner of the screen rights to the Hannibal Lecter character, Martha De Laurentis, and such television vets as Jesse Alexander (Lost), Sara Colleton (Dexter) and Katie O’ Connell.

If all goes according to (Fuller’s) plan, then Mikkelsen will be playing Dr. Lecter on the small screen for the next seven years. Of course, that depends in no small part on how receptive viewers are to his take on the infamous, suave, serial killer. Also, NBC’s willingness to not cancel Hannibal prematurely, which is something many people have already voiced their doubt about (and with good reason).

For our money: Mikkelsen is a great actor, and his being cast as Dr. Lecter gives us reason to check out the pilot for Hannibal (regardless of what NBC does). That’s to say nothing of the additional personnel working behind-the-scenes on this show, which looks to borrow some of the best plot/character elements found in fan-fave series like Dexter and Sherlock. (Intriguing, for sure.)

We will let you know when Hannibal secures an official premiere date.

Sandy Schaefer blogs at Screen Rant.

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