Connect with us


3 Different Faces Of Hannibal: Comparing The Lecters!!

The second season of ”Hannibal” premieres tonight at 10PM (9PM Central) on NBC. In an age where many network shows are struggling to compete with the freedom that cable provides in terms of content, this show is the rare exception where the quality actually measures up. This is a show that matches or exceeds the violent content of most cable programs – all the while managing to sustain a uniquely baroque beauty throughout. It also doesn’t hurt that the focus on character here is as strong as it is in the most compelling of dramas.

Speaking of characters, one of the most daunting tasks creator Bryan Fuller and his staff faced when bringing this show to the screen was finding someone to play the title role. After all, whoever they found would be following in the footsteps of some truly iconic actors. Sir Anthony Hopkins (Silence Of The Lambs, Red Dragon, Hannibal) and Brian Cox (Manhunter).

Yet, they really made it work with Mads Mikkelsen. Let’s find out why below in a look sponsored by NBC!!


Hopkins is, of course, the 800 pound gorilla here (for our younger readers I’ll go ahead and point out that this is a figurative statement, not a pejorative). Not only did he play the role three times (in the aforementioned Silence Of The Lambs, Red Dragon and Hannibal), he won an Oscar for the part. In the minds of the vast majority, he is Hannibal Lecter. His performance was certainly the showiest and most flamboyant – which made total sense back in 1991 when there was less of a shorthand between audiences and the idea of the anti-hero. Back then we needed the “fava beans and a nice chianti” to get onboard. That’s not to say his performance doesn’t still resonate, it does (and Silence is an unmitigated masterpiece), but it’s not the only way to play the part.


You guys know (though the general public is still unaware) that Silence wasn’t the first time Hannibal Lecter appeared onscreen. Nor was the film Red Dragon the first time that particular Thomas Harris tome had been adapted into a film. Michael Mann used the book as the basis for his 1986 film Manhunter in which Brian Cox played Lecter (if you haven’t seen it – it’s heads and tails better than Ratner’s Red Dragon). The role was smaller than Hopkins’ take, in terms of both screentime and the general feel. Cox played Lecter as more of a direct presence. There was nothing heightened about him, if anything his evil was played as more of a cold pragmatism. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t effective – he’s the perfect Lecter for Mann’s understated masterpiece.


Casting Mikkelsen was a coup for Fuller and company. Not only is the Danish actor immensely talented, he’s a complete and total break from what came before. I’m sure you remember Don Draper’s advice, “If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.” This applies here. Mikkelsen is so different that there’s no point in wasting time comparing similarities between him and the other actors, because there are none. Of course, he’s not great by virtue of difference alone – his take on the character is fully realized. He’s quiet, assured and has a strangely wounded quality. It’s as though he’s at odds with (and resents) the fact he’ll never truly connect with humanity in a substantive manner. He also eats well, which is huge for me. He looks like he’s enjoying his food so much I almost get hungry for a slice of human. “Hannibal” is rightly praised for the beauty of its carnage, but I don’t hear enough about the beauty of its cooking sequences.


I never saw Hannibal Rising and it’s not currently available on Netflix, so I have no real ground to stand on when it comes to weighing in on Gaspard Ulliel’s performance. I’ve heard good things, but I want to hear from you, dear readers. Hit up the comments below and let us know how you’d rank the various versions of Hannibal. If you’ve seen Hannibal Rising please include it in your defense (or derision) of its depiction!



  • Ruuz

    Hannibal Rising is a very poor movie that’s an almost entirely accurate telling of a very poor book (I love Thomas Harris’s other works in the series, but Rising was pretty crap). Ulliel proves himself a capable actor with a great look for the role but isn’t anywhere near good enough to save the piece.

  • nostromo9468

    Though it is the weakest o the Hannibal books/movies, I did like Hannibal Rising. It wasn’t a thriller like the other 3 books so it feels a bit disconnected from the series, but Gaspard Ulliel does a good job of portraying a younger, less cautious Hannibal.

    I also have a hard time liking Manhunter as much as I want to. Brian Cox does a wonderful job playing Hannibal and while I do think that his performance is underrated, I hate how they replace the original ending (SPOILER ALERT) with a macho police shootout scene.

    While I am one of those people that views Anthony Hopkins as THE Hannibal, I loooooooooooove Mikkelsen’s interpretation. He had a tough act to follow with Hopkins but he really stepped up to it and made the character his own. So far I feel like this series might end up being the strongest interpretation of Hannibal’s story.

  • djblack1313

    Mads has become the “official” Lector for me. i always put Hopkins in that title but since the NBC has aired i can’t picture anyone else in this role which IMO says something because both Brian Cox & Hopkins are amazing actors. Mads is just my preference in the role. plus the fact he’s an amazing actor as well helps!

    i fucking love this show and am so excited for season 2 tonight!

  • TheManInBlack

    ‘Hannibal Rising’ was horrible. It is my least favorite of all the films. While ‘Manhunter’ is my favorite of the films, Hopkins is my personal favorite Lector, though Cox is perfect for Mann’s vision and Mads totally owns the role today. Very excited for the return of both ‘Hannibal’ and ‘Bates Motel’ this week.

  • sadiesaidhorror

    Brian Cox aside, I adore different qualities of each perceived Hannibal Lector in a way that makes me feel they simply do not compete with one another. It is (pardon the cliche) like comparing apples to oranges.

    Hopkins was mind-blowing in the 90’s when I think we were used to seeing a certain type-cast serial killer. He brought a certain sentimental sophistication and eerily exact science to murder.

    Gaspard on the other hand brought a reckless passion and cold endearment to the Hannibal character. He was oddly attractive and sensitive, but merciless and wily.

    Mads is amazing. He’s classy, charming, worldly and insanely handsome… but in a way that makes him stand out in a crowd. His interpretation of Hannibal makes him tend to want to blend in, while still being atrociously unique.

    While each version of Hannibal is interesting, this is simply my opinion of the character and not the movies in which they are acting. I thoroughly enjoyed “Silence of the Lambs” and “Hannibal Rising”, but I will stand by my view point that “Hannibal” was probably one of the corniest, most over the top “serious” horror movies that I have ever seen. I watch in now when I need a good laugh (and mumble to myself while talking to the screen about how stupidly ridiculous everyone is). Anyone who did not enjoy Hannibal Rising should watch it again with low expectations. It is sure to please.
    That is all. >^-^<

  • lovezoid

    I thought Gaspard Ulliel was fine, but I felt he didn’t bring anything new – it was an imitation of the Hopkins Lecter, an imagining of what that character would be as a youth – I would even go so far as to say caricature. His Lecter wouldn’t exist without Hopkins’ version. In that respect he was great. However, particularly after seeing Mikkelson’s version, I would now have to say that Hopkins, while awesome, was kind of a caricature of the Thomas Harris Lecter as well. Mikkelson is the first to really faithfully capture the character, in my opinion. Hopkins’ Lecter is fun – and so is Mikkelson, he has the wit and the sense of playfulness, but there is this well of darkness beneath it which scares the shit out of me. The brief moments in the show so far where he has let the mask slip are so violent and the transformation to monster is really disturbing. God I hope the show stays on the air long enough to re-imagine the novels, and I would kill to see that cast in a proper, faithful adaptation of the Hannibal book, especially. With the original ending.

  • Fair Dinkum

    Huge Hannibal Lecter fan, have seen all the movies at least 10 times each movie and have seen the television series twice. At first I didn’t like Mads version of Hannibal but he definitely grew on me. What I found especially good was how he was always two steps ahead of anyone and was never actually ‘caught’ except by his own hand. But at the same time I am partial to Mads Mikkelsens version as in Red Dragon, both the book and the movie it is Will Graham that catches Hannibal Lecter and has him institutionalised, not Lecter giving himself up but it also added an air of unpredictability as many of the shows references to the books were similar but twisted in a direction of the unknown that many of the book/movie fans were probably expecting.

    In my opinion, all three, Hopkins, Mikkelsen and Ulliard (haven’t seen Manhunter because ancient movie) were beautiful in their own way but Hopkins for me is the #1 Lecter.

More in Editorials