In 2006, American audiences became familiar with Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen when he portrayed the villainous card-playing Le Chiffre in the blockbuster James Bond reboot Casino Royale. If everything works out, next year they will know him as the new face of the cannibalistic psychiatrist Dr. Hannibal Lecter in the NBC midseason prequel series Hannibal.
During an interview while promoting his new Danish film A Royal Affair, Mikkelsen discussed the show's new take on the character famously brought to life by Anthony Hopkins in a trio of films including 1991's Silence of the Lambs, 2001's Hannibal, and 2002's Red Dragon. "I'm in Toronto until next year at least," Mikkelsen told Entertainment Weekly. "Hannibal is a thriller. It's something you can get away with in American television, and quite bloody. There's a lot of gruesomeness in this one, but it's a big big mind game. We've only shot six or seven episodes now."
Shortly after landing the lead role on Hannibal earlier this year, Mikkelsen was offered the opportunity to play the villain in the film sequel to 2011's Thor, but had to pass due to scheduling conflicts. What is it that makes him so effective at portraying a heel? "If you're playing the bad guy, you have to find what you like about them. The character, in this case, is quite elaborate," Mikkelsen noted. "He's an art collector, he loves the opera. He finds life beautiful, on the threshold of death."
In addition to a cast that includes Laurence Fishburne, Camelot's Lara Jean Chorostecki, and Caroline Dhavernas of the short-lived cult favorite Wonderfalls, the series has already locked in a slate of guest stars. Most fondly remembered for her iconic childhood role in the 1991 film My Girl, Anna Chlumsky will appear in one episode as Miriam Lass, a young FBI trainee under the tutelage of Fishburne's Agent Jack Crawford.
Announced last week, British actor Eddie Izzard will also guest-star on Hannibal. He will portray an inmate at the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane who claims to be the infamous Chesapeake Ripper. This role will reunite Izzard with writer/executive producer Bryan Fuller, who had cast the comedian as Grandpa in his failed Munsters reboot Mockingbird Lane.
Other guest stars lined up for the 13-episode series include Molly Shannon, Gina Torres, Ellen Greene, and Chelan Simmons. As for a premiere date, NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt recently stated that the network still wasn't sure when they want to begin airing Hannibal, mentioning a possible spring or summer run in 2013.
Although I probably would have checked it out anyway, I didn't have much interest in this series until Mads Mikkelsen was cast. He was an inspired choice as the fifth actor to play Dr. Lecter—Scottish actor Brian Cox originated the role in 1986's Manhunter, while Aaron Thomas and Gaspard Ulliel played younger versions of the character in the 2007 prequel Hannibal Rising.
Are you interested in the continuing early adventures of Hannibal the Cannibal?