Bryan Fuller on ‘Hannibal’, Still Wanting to Do ‘Silence of the Lambs’, and That Final Scene

     December 11, 2015


To celebrate the release of Hannibal Season 3 on Blu-ray/DVD, show creator Bryan Fuller, executive producer Martha De Laurentiis and co-producer Loretta Ramos invited Collider, along with a few other press outlets, to a dinner designed by José Andrés, the show’s culinary consultant, at The Bazaar. While we were served more than 20 different plates of the most delicious and delectable food and dessert, along with a special cocktail inspired by Hannibal, showrunner Bryan Fuller chatted with our table for more than an hour, about all things Hannibal and his hopes for the future of the series.

During the interview, he talked about his desire to tell The Silence of the Lambs story, the changes he would like to make to it and his dream casting, along with where he would like to see the Hannibal-Will Graham relationship go next, his intention between the final scene with Gillian Anderson, and his view on the sexuality between Hannibal and Will. Be aware that there are spoilers.

Question: Are you still hoping to tell the story from The Silence of the Lambs, at some point, and what would you like to do with it?


Image via NBC

BRYAN FULLER: What Thomas Harris wrote was so solid that it wasn’t dependent on gender or race to define the characters. Although, if we get the chance to tell The Silence of the Lambs, I think it would be very interesting to have a black or non-white Clarice because as much as you want to say, “Oh, race doesn’t matter!,” race totally matters. Race totally changes your point of view. It’s a different experience. That would be something that would make that story worth telling again, in a way that we could do what we did with Red Dragon and Hannibal with that character. I hope we get the opportunity to do that. I would love to see Hannibal: The Silence of the Lambs and see Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal with Clarice Starling. As long as I’m alive, I’ll be trying to do that.

What’s your dream casting for Clarice Starling?

FULLER: If you’re going to do a traditional adaptation of the movie, which is dangerous because it’s a perfect movie with perfect performances, someone like Ellen Page is great and has that spark. But, I would rather cast a non-white actor in that role. A poor white woman from the South is different than a poor black woman from the South, and has a completely different experience. I don’t know anybody in that age range that has popped for me in what I’ve seen, so it would be fun to actually discover somebody in that role. It lights my imagination on fire when I start to think about her life and the obstacles that she would have, as a non-white woman in the South. I think The Silence of the Lambs is a really masterful work, exploring what it was like in that era, to be a woman in that field and trying to navigate it. To see a small black women in a room of white men, telling them to hush up and pay respects, she has a different set of challenges, particularly in the South, because we’re not that evolved. The reason race is an exciting aspect of the issue is because we have a long way to go with race in this country. There’s a very high bar with the role.

You wanted Lee Pace for Hannibal, but that never worked out. Are you still hoping to work him in somewhere?

FULLER: I wanted to cast Lee Pace as Jame Gumb, to have him be Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs. And that may still happen. He’s into it. He would love to do it.

Would Will Graham be included in the Hannibal version of The Silence of the Lambs?

FULLER: Yeah, because you would have to address what happened, in some way. In The Silence of the Lambs, they just talk about him in passing. In the movie, you hear them drop his name, as though he’s active. In the book, there’s a reference to him being some drunk in Florida. In the movie adaptations, you get the sense that Molly and Will are going to live happily ever after, but that’s not what happens in the book. In the book, it’s broken and is never going to be the same. I hadn’t seen that in any of the adaptations, so I wanted to do that in ours. So much of what we ended up using from Red Dragon ended up being in all of the adaptations. I really appreciated what Thomas Harris did ‘cause his writing was so purple and beautiful and bloated. He loves words and he uses them so carefully and with such poetry. It’s interesting adapting Neil Gaiman, who’s such a different kind of writer with such an elaborate imagination that is unbridled. Thomas Harris is very controlled, but very purple and bloated, at the same time. Both of them are amazing storytellers with completely different styles. It’s an interesting juxtaposition.

Is there an ideal time and network that you would like to do that?


Image via NBC

FULLER: Two years, and I think it would be who wants it the most and what the venue is for it. I’m having a ball working with Starz right now. They’ve been so supportive and respectful of the book and the fans of the book, and wanting to make sure that they’re honoring the source material. We’ve never had any arguments about ethnicity, or anything like that. Neil [Gaiman] tried to adapt Anansi Boys a few years ago and they wanted to whitewash the characters, and he said, “No, you can’t do it.” You’re going to do a great Egyptian story and cast Gerard Butler (in reference to Gods of Egypt)? Who would do that? That wouldn’t happen. Alternately, you can look at Hamilton, which casts a show with all people who are not ethnically accurate for those roles, but you don’t give a shit because it’s so amazingly told and it’s not a part of the vocabulary of the tale that they’re telling. It’s something that elevates it to another level. If they told that with a bunch of white guys, it would be like us telling Red Dragon with a bunch of white guys. It’s about how you can make it different and not the movie Red Dragon or Manhunter. You want to make it your own.

So, would you really have explored Hannibal and Will Graham as murder husbands in Season 4?

FULLER: -Ish, yeah. Just having gone there, after all of that, would have been a lot of fun. I still feel like the most interesting chapter of Will Graham’s life is yet to be told. He’s on the other side of it. Everything we’ve experienced, thus far, has been on one side of a wall for him, and the next chapter of his story is on the other side of the wall. There’s great opportunity to explore that psychologically. I went to school to be a psychiatrist. That’s where I was going until I had a teacher-student conference with one of my teachers and there were film school pamphlets, and he said, “You don’t belong here. Get out. Go to film school.” So, I was fascinated with all of the psychology of the show. One of the hardest parts, but also one of the most gratifying parts was all of the psychological research that I was doing. I was like, “Oh, my god, I do that, too! I must be this disorder.” To explore that level of disconnect from who you thought you were, I think would be fascinating.

Just look at how we interact in society with people who are different from us, like Muslims in America. There is an approach and a thought process to how they live every day that is different than mine. It would be pathological narcissism to assume that that person had to live how I live. You can’t measure a dog’s intelligence by giving him a verbal test ‘cause it’s not on their scale, but that doesn’t mean they’re not intelligent creatures. I love that India has declared dolphins non-human people with all laws that apply to human. I’m fascinated with the alien-ness of that, and how that would be for Will Graham to go through a storyline like that. His tether got longer and longer as the show went on, but Hannibal just cut it. To see him free-floating would be exciting, creatively, for me.

I think one of the reasons it seemed so organic for Will to go over the cliff with Hannibal at the end was that, in his mind, as he understood the universe in his world, he had peaked. It’s also stopping a monster and stopping himself from becoming a monster, but I think part of him was thinking, “That was beautiful. I don’t think I can do that again and feel as high as I do now.” Everything overwhelmed him and he went over that cliff because there was an apex to his experience, in a way that was poetic and dramatic. And I hate suicide stories, just because I think it’s such a complicated issue. It’s the same reason that I don’t like to do rape stories. I think it’s too complicated to cover in a way that’s entertaining. If you go there, you have to actually go there and honor the trauma. The kind of suicide where somebody jumps off a bridge, part of them hopes they survive and part of them wants to be over. I think a lot of people are hoping for some percentage of survival that may change them because they’re looking for change within themselves. So, I think there was some bit of that. For the ending with Gillian [Anderson], there are two place settings for a reason.

What was your intention with that last season with Gillian Anderson?


Image via NBC

FULLER: I’ve read the two big interpretations and I was like, “That’s cool, but all right.” For me, that scene was that Hannibal survived, took her leg and was cooking it for her. She grabs that fork because the next person who comes into that room, she’s going to fucking stab that fork into them, as many times as she possibly can. And then, maybe we’ll see Gillian Anderson limping down the road with her wooden leg.

How do you see the relationship between Hannibal and Will Graham?

FULLER: I think that Hannibal is omni-sexual. Will Graham is heterosexual, but Hannibal is absolutely in love with Will Graham because he represents the magic of humanity in a way that transcends sexuality. When he says, “I forgive you,” some people were like, “I don’t buy it.” If somebody has wronged you in some way and you’re mad at them, for whatever reason, but then you just go, “Well, that’s how they are. I can’t change them, so I have to either accept them or reject them.” Will accepts who Hannibal is. It’s also narcissistic, in the way that we fall in love with people who make us feel better about ourselves and who make us feel like we’re a better version of ourselves. That makes us feel more secure in our bodies, in the dysmorphia of who you are on the inside versus who you project on the outside. That disconnect narrows dramatically when somebody sees you, understands you, accepts you and loves you. It’s transcendent.

Hannibal thought, “I thought I was going to live this entire damnation on this planet as a fallen angel without having a friend because nobody is capable of understanding me.” And then, he met a friend and his life changed, and he liked himself better. When Will says, “I never understood myself as well as when I was with Hannibal,” I think that’s a very profound, relatable, human experience. I remember times with friends where I had the epiphany of, “Oh, this is a friendship! I feel good about myself when I’m with you. I don’t have to get drunk.” Though, that helps. That’s human, and that’s what we were trying to do with this show. As pretentious, arty, cinematically aggressive and experimental as we were, I’m proud of the emotional authenticity of the relationship between these two guys because I feel like, if you take out all of the cannibalism and everything like that, you can just chart a male friendship. As a gay guy, I’m fascinated with straight male friendships. Watching my brother and his friends, I’m like, “You’re alien.” To re-contextualize the mythology of Hannibal into this bromance is why I wanted to do this show. What if Will Graham was a little bit more vulnerable and accessible, and Hannibal was a little bit more shrewd to be able to get in where he hadn’t before, in previous adaptations? What would that be like?

Hannibal Season 3 is now available on Blu-ray/DVD. Check out photos from the “Final Dinner” Hannibal event below.


Image via Lionsgate


Image via Lionsgate


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