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Hannibal: NBC Wanted Hugh Grant or John Cusack as Dr. Lecter


NBC’s low-rated Hannibal lasted for three brilliant seasons before it finally got the chop, and in a new interview, creator Bryan Fuller, who recently shared some ideas for a possible fourth season, explained how he fought to cast relative-unknown Mads Mikkelsen in the role of Dr. Hannibal Lecter while NBC wanted a bigger name, along the lines of what they did with James Spader and The Blacklist.Talking to Collider, Fuller said “there was a difference of opinion on what a traditional television network would want as a leading man and what we would want as an actor playing Hannibal Lecter to personify playing that character.”

“I think the network wanted somebody that was much more poppy, much more mainstream, much more American I think in some ways,” Fuller stated. “That was just them thinking about ‘Okay how do we get the biggest audience for our television show? We have to cast John Cusack as Hannibal Lecter and everybody will tune in because won’t that be surprising?’ I was like, ‘Well go ahead, make an offer.’”

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Fuller shared that whenever NBC suggested a name, he suggest they make an offer. An offer he knew would be turned down. “I’d say ‘Mads Mikkelsen’ and they’d say ‘No, how about Hugh Grant?’ and I’d say, ‘Great, make an offer, he’s gonna say no,’ then they’d make an offer and he’d say no, and I’d be like ‘What about Mads Mikkelsen?’ and they’d be like ‘Well what about John Cusack?’ and I’d say ‘Great, make an offer, he’s gonna say no’ and they’d make an offer and he’d say no and I’d say, ‘What about Mads Mikkelsen?’”

The casting of Mads Mikkelsen, according to Fuller, then made the marketing folks more or less tune out from the show. But that, in turn, gave the Hannibal team way more creative freedom. “They sort of gave up on it a little bit because we were casting a European guy as the face of [a show] they wanted to be more accessible,” he said. “I felt that they were right for their reasons but wrong for my reasons.”

“And so the gift of that, the gift of casting Mads Mikkelsen, is that their investment in the show became dramatically decreased,” Fuller continued, “and so that allowed us to do a lot of things that we wouldn’t have been able to do if they were saying, ‘No this show needs to get 10 million people watching it every week.’ Because then we would have to really be tied down to certain parameters of storytelling that were going to mesh with a mainstream audience. So Mads was the gift that allowed us to tell the story the way that we wanted to tell it, because the network was like, ‘Well it’s not the person that we wanted and we don’t really see him in this role,’ and we were like, ‘Fine, just let us make the show’.”In other TV news, you can read IGN’s review of The Umbrella Academy: Season 2 (along with an explainer of the ending if you’ve already finished), plus here’s everything we know about The Witcher prequel series, Blood Origin.

Matt Fowler is a writer for IGN and a member of the Television Critics Association. Follow him on Twitter at @TheMattFowler and Facebook at Facebook.com/MattBFowler.

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