Writer Thomas Harris’ creation Hannibal Lecter, first introduced as Hannibal Lektor in the novel RED DRAGON, has been played on film by a number of actors – first Brian Cox in MANHUNTER, then Anthony Hopkins in his Oscar-winning turn in SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, followed by HANNIBAL and the MANHUNTER remake RED DRAGON and finally by Gaspard Ulliel (and, as the child Hannibal, Aaran Thomas) in the Hannibal-as-a-young-man prequel HANNIBAL RISING.
Producer/show runner Bryan Fuller has adapted HANNIBAL for television. Now in its second season on NBC, Fridays at 10 PM, HANNIBAL chronicles the adventures of the brilliant cannibalistic serial killer/psychiatrist in the days before he was caught. Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen portrays Hannibal with gravity and panache – along with a healthy dose of combined physical grace and menace. At the end of last season,Hannibal had successfully pinned all of his homicidal handiwork on FBI consultant Will Graham (Hugh Dancy). However, Will is onto Hannibal, while at the same time,Hannibal likes Will and appears to be trying to convince the younger psychologist that he actually needs Hannibal’s help. We know from a flash-forward at the beginning of Season 2 that Hannibal will brutally tangle with Will’s erstwhile FBI boss Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne), but we’re still learning how this comes to pass.
The Copenhagen-born Mikkelsen starred in the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nominee THE HUNT, as well as having significant roles in some big English-language films including CASINO ROYALE, KING ARTHUR, CLASH OF THE TITANS and THE THREE MUSKETEERS. At a Q&A event NBC holds for the Television Critics Association, Mikkelsen remains available afterward for some additional friendly interrogation by the press.
AX: Did you watch any of the earlier incarnations of Hannibal?
MADS MIKKELSEN: I think we all watched that, growing up, right? We were certain from the beginning that we could not detach ourselves from the character. Obviously, he’s a man who loves anything beautiful – beautiful music, beautiful people, beautiful wine – so we had to address that, but we had to detach it from what Anthony did. Obviously, it would be creative suicide to go down his path. He was so wonderful, and if you try to copy something like that – but I think any actor would make it his own, regardless of if it’s me or somebody else, but it was a conscious choice that detached us.
AX: Can you say what you’re bringing to Hannibal?
MIKKELSEN: A lot of it is already in Bryan’s scripts. He’s already given life to the character to a certain degree, and then it’s up to me to step into those shoes. As I said before, any actor would color it somehow, and I’m coloring it – I’m trying, to a degree, to make him human. What he does is absolutely not human, but his emotions are true and honest.
AX: You’ve compared Hannibal to Lucifer. Is he becoming more Luciferian or less Luciferian as you go along?
MIKKELSEN: He is Lucifer. He is the fallen angel. The thing about him is that he’s honest – he’s honest with his emotions regarding Will. He’s having a hard time here trying to regain his friendship. That’s uphill, of course. But that’s his main target in this season.
AX: Do you think Hannibal qualifies as a psychopath by regular psychiatrist standards, or is he something else?
MIKKELSEN: I don’t think he is a psychopath. I mean, reading about psychopaths, they normally have a traumatized childhood or something they’re struggling with. He doesn’t have that. He’s as happy as you can get. He’s a happy man. I have rarely given life to a character that is as happy as him, I must say.
AX: What would you say Hannibal’s relationship is like with his erstwhile psychiatrist Dr. Bedelia du Maurier, played by Gillian Anderson?
MIKKELSEN: That’s obviously a very unique and kinky relationship that they have, and we will address it a little more in this season. I think she has been a very important partner for him, in a sense that we will see a different side ofHannibal, and he will be quite emotional with her to a degree. Why he’s doing that, we don’t know. And I think that’s just his little space of freedom where he can be what he is.
AX: You have a background as a dancer. How much does that inform your acting style, if at all?
MIKKELSEN: Any character I do will have a certain tempo or a certain pace or an energy, but I’m not super-conscious about it. Obviously, carrying himself the way he does,Hannibal, it’s probably something to do with my background [laughs], but it’s not the kind of thing I do deliberately.
AX: Mark Ryan, who was the sword master on KING ARTHUR, has talked about how great you were doing sword fights. Will you get to do any fighting with blades in HANNIBAL this season?
MIKKELSEN: Well, as you can see, we have some blades in the fight between me and Laurence – there are some knives coming into the picture – but I must say, he was not too bad himself.
AX: What do you think of Hannibal’s clothing and decorating style?
MIKKELSEN: It’s fantastic for me, because I normally walk around in running shoes, so for me, it’s a big transformation when I go in the trailer and I dress up like Hannibal – it’s a big difference for me, a big change. He’s having [his clothes] handmade from his tailor, and he does love that period. You can see in his house – everything has a kind of Art Deco style to it, and obviously filled out with some bird skulls and rhinoceros skulls and whatever [laughs], so he is from a different time. And so the suits are following him in that sense as well.
AX: We see a lot of Hannibal preparing meals. Do you cook a lot in real life?
MIKKELSEN: Not really. I’m good at Asian food – I’m good at chopping.
AX: Do you have a favorite scene or sequence you’ve gotten to do so far as Hannibal?
MIKKELSEN: There are so many. I do enjoy the little intimate scenes with Will. They’re starting out as a small, small friendship and it becomes bigger and bigger, and now obviously it’s broken, and now we have to mend it, repair it, and there have been quite a few scenes where Hannibal is playing his cards wrong, and Will is getting the upper hand in this season to a degree, and it’s quite interesting.
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Article: Interview with HANNIBAL star Mads Mikkelsen – Season 2 Scoop