Hannibal: John Cusack or Hugh Grant as Dr. Lecter? It Almost Happened

In mid-July, Nerdist House hosted a livestream of "Hannibal: A Delicious Reunion," bringing together series creator Bryan Fuller, cast members Mads Mikkelsen, Hugh Dancy, Gillian Anderson, Caroline Dhavernas, Katie Isabelle, Raúl Esparza, Hettiene Park, Kacey Rohl, Scott Thompson, Aaron Abrams, and more for a look back at the popular take on Thomas Harris' "The Silence of the Lambs" universe. But Fuller wasn't done dishing the dirt on Dr. Lecter's on-screen exploits, revealing to Collider during a recent interview that if the network had its way? Instead of Mikkelsen, we might've had John Cusack (Grosse Pointe Blank) or Hugh Grant (Love Actually):

Hannibal
A scene from Hannibal (Image: NBCUniversal)

"There was a casting kerfuffle on who to cast for Hannibal Lecter, and there was a difference of opinion on what a traditional television network would want as a leading man and what we would want as an actor playing Hannibal Lecter to personify playing that character. I think the network wanted somebody that was much more poppy, much more mainstream, much more American I think in some ways. That was just them thinking about, 'Okay how do we get the biggest audience for our television show? We have to cast John Cusack as Hannibal Lecter and everybody will tune in because won't that be surprising?' I was like, 'Well go ahead, make an offer.'"

According to Fuller, the networks had an issue with Mikkelsen "because he was European" with a look that they felt didn't create the "surprise" factor they needed: "There was some resistance to Mads Mikkelsen because he was European, because he was somebody who you could look at and go, 'Yeah I buy that he eats people'. We were dealing with a very American network that wanted a very American actor to sell to American audiences, and all the creatives on the show wanted somebody who was the best person for the role."

Even with Fuller championing Mikkelsen, the network still thought they should make offers to Grant and Cusack: "It was an interesting dance because I'd say, 'Mads Mikkelsen!' and they'd say, 'No, how about Hugh Grant?' and I'd say, 'Great, make an offer, he's gonna say no,' then they'd make an offer and he'd say no, and I'd be like, 'What about Mads Mikkelsen?' and they'd be like, 'Well what about John Cusack?' and I'd say, 'Great, make an offer, he's gonna say no' and they'd make an offer and he'd say no, I'd say, 'What about Mads Mikkelsen?' That carousel went around for three or four months after we had cast Hugh [Dancy], it was going on for a while."

Thankfully, one NBC executive was willing to trust Fuller's instinct and give the green light to the actor that Hannibal fans couldn't imagine not playing the role: "Finally, I just said, 'Mads is the guy, that's the guy I see in the role and I have to write it and I have to champion it and I have to understand it,' and Jennifer Salke at NBC bless her heart was like, 'Okay, that's your guy. I believe you and trust you and I'm excited about your vision for the show'."

About Ray Flook

Serving as Television Editor since 2018, Ray began five years earlier as a contributing writer/photographer before being brought on board as staff in 2017.

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