Just like a menu of liver with fava beans and a nice chianti, Dr Hannibal Lector and his palette have been updated under the guidance of writer Bryan Fuller who has given everyone’s favourite cannibal a new lease of life in Hannibal the TV series.
Fast-forward over two decades and it is now Mads Mikkelsen unleashing fury with eloquence and panache as Hannibal season two is released on DVD.
We caught up with the man behind the ever-so-sophisticated monster to talk about season two highlights, introducing Clarice Starling and his new project American Gods.
Always. I live in constant terror of mediocrity.
How is the new season going so far?
It’s going really well. We have changed up the dynamic in an exciting way so it is very different to what we’ve had before.
It’s more of a soap opera and dramatic thriller whereas in the first couple of seasons there was this crime procedural aspect to the story that gave us a focus and a spine in which to hang all of our character interactions.
Now going into the third season because of the events of the season two finale we are almost purely in soap opera territory where we are just hanging on what has been going on with the characters and how the survivors of the Red Dinner are making it through their lives after such trauma.
A lot of shows have made the move to shooting in the UK. Where would you like to take Hannibal?
We would love to take him to Italy because it plays such a huge part in the literature so we want to explore those chapters of the novel, Hannibal. We want to bring it to life with new characters and dynamic that tells a different aspect to the story but stays true to the spirit of the book.
So it seems likely that’s where season three will take us…
We are trying to work out if we will actually be shooting in Italy or someplace else in Europe that would be covering for Italy.
Ideally we would be filming there but its television and we’ve always got a budget.
It would be a great excuse to go somewhere sunny rather than shooting in Canada…
Yeah, it’s very snowy and grey up there [laughs]. It would be nice to have a little Mediterranean colour on our cheeks.
Yeah and she will be very important. Gillian Anderson is going to be a series regular. We are going to have her for many more episodes than we did in the past.
How was it for you to work with The X-Files legend given you are a big sci-fi guy?
It was of the coolest things in my career I’ve experienced thus far. It was interesting to see that show as a young man and it is ground-breaking, iconic, television story telling in a way that no one has matched yet.
A lot of people have been trying but haven’t come close to what Chris Carter, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson achieved with that show. For me as a fan of science-fiction and fan of genre storytelling to be able to work with an actress as iconic as Gillian is inside and outside the genre is amazing.
There have been quite a few graphic, disturbing, moments so far in Hannibal. Are there any you particularly liked?
There’s quite a few moments I was really excited by not at least at which by the final scene between Hannibal and Will in his kitchen where there goodbye was so heart-breaking and violently devastating.
Our whole strategy for that scene was to really make Hannibal the most sympathetic character of that whole piece. He gives Will Graham the chance to come clean, be honest and direct with him as his friend and partner.
Will doesn’t take it and that rejection, duplicity and betrayal that he acts out is particularly hard for Hannibal to see as he opens himself up in a way that he hasn’t done before in his life. The culmination of that in the final scene was really powerful for me.
I am particularly proud of episode two where a man pulls himself out of human mural trying to escape.
Things get pretty dark so how do you keep things on set fun?
Whenever there is a scene with Scott Thompson, Aaron Abrams and Hettienne Park those three keep things so fun and funny and outlandish that there is an infectious sense of fun on set already.
Looking at the crew and cast everyone has such a wonderful attitude on set that. I think there is a levity and support system because we’re dealing with mostly dark matter. It’s hard not to get a giggle when you’re playing with rubber dead bodies.
So would you be looking to introduce Clarice if you can get the rights to the character?
I would love to be able to tell the story of Clarice Starling. I guess I would love this show to be the definitive Hannibal Lector adaptation and run through all the stories with the same cast and same spirit of the literature would be a great honour for all of us.
Anyone in mind who you think would be great for the role?
It would be wonderful to get the rights to that character and I would love to get Ellen Page to play her.
I think she is such a fantastic actress and can bring some of the vulnerability that we need for the character as well as strength and bright light intensity.
You had Eddie Izzard come back in a great guest role for the second season. Do you think you could ever persuade David Duchovny to do something?
The fan boy in me would love that but the producer in me would worry about it breaking the fourth wall too much. I would love to work with David in some capacity as long as he wasn’t sharing screen time with Gillian Anderson. Both of them are so spectacular and there is something exciting about seeing them individually.
I would love to see them get back together for more X-Files.
You’re also working on adapting American Gods. How has it been working with Neil Gaiman on that?
It has been wonderful.
I loved that book when I read it over 10 years ago. Michael Green and I worked together on Heroes and we’ve been talking since about how to do something else together. When American Gods came up it was the perfect opportunity to work together again along with Neil who is the executive producer of the project.
It’s exciting for both Michael and I to really take an analytical eye to the book and figure out the rules of the universe and how they apply to other scenarios to expand the world and characters in a way that validates adapting it because it is such a special world.
When we look at characters like Bilquis, who only appears for a chapter in the book, we get to talk about what if she was a series regular. How would her role be in the battle between the Gods of the old and Gods of the new?
It’s such a different muffle to Hannibal, tone and spirit the show is so much fun. Maybe it’s because I am getting to work with Michael and Neil Gaiman but we’re having such a ball with it.
What characters are you most excited about developing?
It would probably be Laura but as I say that I then start thinking about Mr Wednesday and Shadow, who is iconic in his own rights.
One of the things really fun for us is to expand beyond the walls of the book. Michael and I are excited about bringing Laura to life and exploring that role in a greater capacity in the series than in the book.
Hannibal: Season Two is released on DVD and Blu-ray from 22nd September