“Hannibal” just concluded an amazing first season of television. Last week, I spoke with the show’s executive producer Bryan Fuller about the thought he and his tea put into finding a new take on Hannibal Lecter. I posted the first part of that interview yesterday, and I have the more spoiler-y portion (including some allusions to things from the various Lecter books and movies, so don’t read on if you have no idea what’s coming next for Lecter, Will Graham, or Jack Crawford) coming up just as soon as I draw you a clock…
Note: Ordinarily, I’d have done a review in addition to this interview, but this has been a really horrendous week, schedule-wise, and this review is one of several casualties of that. Sorry. Short version: Fuller and company did an incredible job of paying off the story of the season, and of inverting the archetypal image of Lecter facing his chief FBI rival. On to the questions.
In terms of Harris, what exact rights do you have beyond the actual story contained within the book “Red Dragon”? I know, for instance, that you can’t use Clarice Starling and the events in “Silence of the Lambs.” What else can you do within the universe that Harris created?
Bryan Fuller: We are able to use any character that originated in “Red Dragon.” We have access to characters in the book “Hannibal.” There are a few characters from that book like Mason and Margot Verger that we want to use in the second season of “Hannibal,” and we’re negotiating right now character rights to use them. We would have to pay a fee per episode. The “Silence of the Lambs” characters are owned by MGM. That’s where it gets more tricky.
How long do you see it taking you, in success, to get to the rest of the events in “Red Dragon”? One season? Two seasons?
Bryan Fuller: Season 4 would be “Red Dragon.” We have this first season, which was the meet cute of Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham – or “eat cute,” I should say. We can drop the m, unless it’s “meat cute.” I just got a visit from the Easter Punny, so there’s a lot to go around. For me, he idea of doing the definitive Hannibal Lecter adaptation was really attractive to me. “Silence of the Lambs” would be season 5 of the timeline. My secret dream is that MGM sees the show, says, “Ohmigod, we love this show. Why don’t we collaborate on this season?” But that may be a pipe dream. If they never agree to play ball with us in terms of letting us use some of those characters, then the plan would be to do the events of “Silence of the Lambs,” but slightly different. So instead of Buffalo Bill, we would come up with another killer that arcs over the season. Instead of Clarice Starling, we would have Flarice Karling, that tells a bit of that story without interrupting the canon that audiences are expecting. That’s fortunately four years away. So hopefully there’s inspiration and hopefully collaboration that could make that more fulfilling for me as a Thomas Harris buff, and for audiences who also love those characters and want to see them in this world, and to see what Clarice Starling would be like sitting across from Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal Lecter.
The way you end this season seems to me like it’s going to take a lot of time and effort to bring these characters back to the point at which “Red Dragon” happens. How much license do you have to mess with the history and change things around so it’s not exactly the way it was in the books or the other versions of the stories we’re familiar with?
Bryan Fuller: The thing that’s interesting about the backstory in “Red Dragon” is that we know that Will Graham, after investigating the Minnesota Shrike case, became so psychologically compromised that he had to be institutionalized. That’s kind of the extent of what we know. So I would argue that we are actually working within the lines fairly well. We just have added a lot more details than perhaps didn’t get included in those three pages of backstory. Those three pages are so thin and so broad that we are allowed to bring in elements that will surprise the audience, and take turns for the characters, but also give us the ability to get those characters back on track with the timeline that’s represented in the books. The big buy that we’ve taken in the series from the books is actually having Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham know each other. That’s the big buy. When Will was institutionalized, he had a different therapist. It wasn’t until after he came out of the institution and met Hannibal Lecter. That’s really the one kind of deviation that we’ve taken. Everything else is relatively intact; there’s just a little bit of magic dust being sprinkled. But I would argue that we are maneuvering between the words of “Red Dragon” effectively to keep close to the canon of what happened to Will Graham. Nobody said he is accused of all of these murders.