Who almost starred in Hannibal instead of Mads Mikkelsen? Here are the actors who turned down NBC, allowing Bryan Fuller to choose his best option.
Who almost starred in NBC? Hannibal instead of Mads Mikkelsen? The serial killer-themed show was canceled in 2015 after just three seasons, and subsequently gained a cult following. Mikkelsen delivers a charming yet chilling performance throughout By Hannibal 39 episodes, but it turns out that several bigger names were preferred during the pre-production process.
In pop culture, Dr. Hannibal Lecter is often associated with The silence of the lambs, a 1991 classic that doubles as a standalone film. However, the character was first introduced in Thomas Harris’s 1981 novel. Red Dragon, which was later adapted as Manhunter from director Michael Mann, with Brian Cox as the focal serial killer. When Hannibal Released on NBC in 2013, Anthony Hopkins was Dr. Lecter’s best known and most prolific actor, evidenced by his starring roles in The silence of the lambs, the 2001 film Hannibal, and the 2002 adaptation Red Dragon.
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Mikkelsen is a household name in modern European cinema, however you may not yet be familiar with global streamers who are unfamiliar with Hannibal. And it’s that concept that initially worried NBC executives who wanted a familiar star to maximize their weekly ratings, with James Spader from The blacklist being cited as evidence of an ideal casting (for Collider). Here are all the big name actors that NBC almost cast over Mikkelsen.
Scottish actor David Tennant met with Hannibal showrunner Bryan Fuller several times about his role as Dr. Lecter. During the audition process, however, the Doctor who The franchise star was ruled out as a potential lead. According to a 2020 report (via Rolling Stone), Tennant’s sympathy as a performer, ironically, played a role in NBC’s decision. By Fuller:
“There was a lightness to David’s performance in some ways that was an interesting contrast to Mads’ sobriety on paper. And I find David very funny and very attractive to watch. It’s hard not to love David Tennant on screen. And that may have had something to do with it. Honestly, it was a decision that was made above my salary level. But that would have been an interesting extrapolation to see David Tennant as Hannibal. “
According to the aforementioned Collider exclusive, Fuller absolutely wanted Mikkelsen to star in Hannibal due to its natural behavior. However, he received pushback from American executives who wanted a more recognizable star, like Hugh Grant. Fuller allegedly urged NBC to make an offer, knowing that the romantic comedy icon would likely not accept, which in fact was the case:
“It was an interesting dance because I was like, ‘Mads Mikkelsen!’ And they said, ‘No, what about Hugh Grant?’ and I was like, ‘Great, make an offer, he’s going to say no,’ then they make an offer and he says no … “
Fuller revealed that NBC also named John Cusack as a possible leader of Hannibal but the star eventually rejected her as well. In the early 2010s, Cusack was primarily known as a movie star best known for headlining Do not say anything Y High Fidelity. In fact, he had never appeared on television, other than a starring role in the 1999 television movie. The Jack Bull. When both Grant and Cusack passed away Hannibal, Fuller finally convinced NBC to go with Mikkelsen:
“I finally said, ‘Mads is the guy, that’s the guy I see on paper and I have to write it and I have to defend it and I have to understand it,’ and Jennifer Salke from NBC bless her heart she was like, ‘Okay, that’s it. your man. I believe and trust you and am excited about your vision for the show. ‘
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