Mads Mikkelsen Source
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New Interview with Bryan Fuller in which he talks a lot about Mads.

AX: How did you decide to cast a Danish actor, Mads Mikkelsen, as Hannibal?
FULLER: Hannibal Lecter is actually Lithuanian, and Eastern European, which is not Denmark [laughs]. But the interesting thing for me was to work with Mads Mikkelsen, because I think he’s a phenomenal actor and not just in CASINO ROYALE and a lot of the big genre films that had made me aware of him through, “Hey, that’s the guy with the eye patch,” or he’s played heavies in these big science-fiction/fantasy films, but for me what did it was this film AFTER THE WEDDING. It’s a beautiful film and he plays this heartbroken man who is trying to get back a lost romance and he was so sweet and emotional and vulnerable, and I really wanted meet him, because I felt like [part of HANNIBAL is] about Hannibal Lecter trying to find a friend, because he’s lonely in his own way. I wanted to see that vulnerability, that bonding, that need for a companion to share his life with in a way that he thought would never be possible. Then along comes Will Graham, a man who empathizes with the worst of humanity, and perhaps there could be a chance for Hannibal to have a friend after all. It felt like it was such a fascinating place to take a villain. It would be very easy to [depict] Hannibal Lecter as a psychopath or a sociopath, and in the book RED DRAGON, Thomas Harris says, “He’s not really a psychopath or a sociopath, because he does understand empathy, so what kind of crazy is he, and the answer is, we don’t know.” Primarily because it’s a work of fiction, but he does not fit any of the kind of the categories of the multi-phasic tests for psychopaths. He doesn’t fit any of those columns, so [the series] looks at him not as a psycho, but as someone who was completely Other.

When [Mikkelsen’s] name entered the [casting] conversation, I was like, “Oh, my God, yes, yes, yes. Yes, absolutely.” Because I had seen AFTER THE WEDDING and was aware of what an experienced and full-bodied actor he was, or is, and I think a lot of people may have been, “Oh, well, he always plays villains.” Well, he plays the villain in American movies, but he’s actually the George Clooney of Denmark [laughs].

At the very beginning of the season, Mads comes up and he says, “I think Hannibal should be much more active and I’m really good at fight scenes, so if you write one, I will nail it.” And I was like, “Okay, great, we’ll write one.” And he did a fight sequence – all of the stunt choreographers were like, “Oh, my God, this guy is better than anyone that we’ve ever worked with like this.” His experience as a dancer really helps. He has such control of his instrument and his body, so he really is somebody that you want to see in an action sequence.

Mads Mikkelsen’s approach to the character was not to play him as Anthony Hopkins did, but here he is, this fallen angel who is capable of horrific things, but yet has an awe for humanity and an appreciation of the [human] condition. And that felt like it was such a fascinating approach to the character. And when I see the episodes again, I look at him now not as Hannibal Lecter, but as this guy [who] has that really distant look in his eyes, that infinity of thought, that goes beyond a mortal man. It’s such a smart, interesting, fresh approach to this character that Mads has taken, not that we have altered course to accommodate it, but had it climb aboard and we were all set off to the same destination.

[Hannibal’s] arrogance is not sort of outward – there’s no dismissing of fellow man, no sense of offense or, “You have offended me, good sir.” With Hannibal, he’s not so much offended as he is kind of observational, and there are moments of his micro-expressions that [unint.] a big scene. I love the look after he snaps his patient’s [Franklin, played by Dan Fogler] neck when he’s confronted by [fellow serial killer] Budge [played by Demore Barnes] and drops [Franklin] like a bag of rocks, and just looks back at [Budge] with this innocent kind of, “Well, what’s next? What shall we do now?” It’s so delightful, because it wasn’t like, “I just killed a man because he had it coming because he was annoying,” it was like, “Well, that happened, and now I’m curious what happens next.”

AX: Before Hannibal kills Franklin, he tells Franklin he should leave. Is he sincere in wanting to let him go?

AX: So it’s, “If you don’t go now, I have to get rid of you”?
FULLER: Right. What I love about Hannibal is that he’s a good doctor for his patients and he wants to help them, and even though Franklin is a very annoying character and is a comic foil for Hannibal in some ways, I do think that Hannibal actually cares about Franklin and sees the flaws in his humanity and finds him endearing in some way. And there are people who see that and think, “Oh, that guy was dead from the moment we saw him,” and I’m like, “Well, this version of Hannibal would consider that rude,” because Franklin hasn’t done anything terrible in terms of his humanity. He’s clearly a lost and lonely man, and I think Hannibal has empathy for that. And when [he and Budge] are at the dinner table, Budge says, “I want to kill Franklin,” and Hannibal says, “Don’t kill Franklin.” It’s like, “Why?” With Franklin, he was just eager and lonely, so I don’t think he necessarily falls onto Hannibal’s plate [laughs], in Hannibal’s thinking. So I think right up until the moment that he snaps Franklin’s neck, he was hoping that Franklin would walk away. But [makes philosophical shrugging sound], eh.

Read the whole interview

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