An esteemed forensic psychologist who moonlights as a cannibalistic serial killer doesn’t exactly sound like the type of character that would serve as the basis for a sprawling multimedia empire, but Thomas’ Harris most famous literary creation isn’t your average protagonist.
Hannibal Lecter first appeared on the big screen in Michael Mann’s Manhunter in 1986 with Brian Cox in the role, but it wasn’t until The Silence of the Lambs five years later that he became a cultural phenomenon thanks to Anthony Hopkins’ instantly-iconic performance. After the psychological thriller swept the board at the Academy Awards, a franchise was born, and while the two sequels suffered from the law of diminishing returns, Hopkins’ three movies still managed to earn over $830 million at the box office.
2007 prequel Hannibal Rising is better left forgotten, and is far and away the character’s worst outing, while the three-season run of Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal between 2013 and 2015 is frequently labeled as the best. Despite being canceled five years ago, the acclaimed series has only grown in popularity and became one of the most-watched shows on Netflix after recently debuting on the streaming service.
Fans have been hoping this could eventually lead to a full-blown revival, something Fuller himself would also love to see happen, but with CBS working on a Clarice Starling prequel show and nobody stepping in over the last half decade to resurrect Hannibal, it still remains wishful thinking at this point.
Of course, the self-anointed ‘Fannibals’ had always wanted to see how Fuller and stars Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen would have incorporated The Silence of the Lambs into their narrative, but in a recent interview, the showrunner admitted that rights issues meant it may not have ever happened anyway.
“Silence of the Lambs is owned by MGM. What happened early on, and why there was sort of a sticking point for us with the Clarice rights is that MGM was originally working on a deal with Martha De Laurentiis that had everything in one package, and then Gaumont came along and offered Martha a significantly greater deal that MGM couldn’t match. So there’s been a little bit of animosity between the studios because MGM’s like, ‘Hey, you were gonna do it with us’, and she was like, ‘Yeah, but you didn’t give me the better deal’, and they were kind of upset about that. So that’s why it’s been sort of a sticking point to try to get the Clarice rights.”
While it’s a shame they never got to adapt Silence of the Lambs, what Fuller says certainly makes sense. And you can be sure that whenever Clarice eventually debuts on CBS, Hannibal fans will no doubt be checking it out to see how it compares to Fuller’s cult favorite, and also lamenting the fact that the creative team never got the chance to work with Harris’ most famous novel.