Mads Mikkelsen was this close to not being cast in the crime-thriller series “Hannibal.”
In a recent interview with Collider, creator Bryan Fuller revealed that the show’s network, NBC, would have preferred actors like Hugh Grant or John Cusack to play the lead character, Hannibal Lecter.
“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,” Fuller said, noting that there was resistance because Mikkelsen is European.
However, he did not stop fighting in Mikkelsen’s favour.
“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?'”
He added: “That carousel went around for three or four months after we had cast Hugh [Dancy], it was going on for a while. 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.'”
Besides being perfect for the role, Fuller said there was a specific advantage to casting an actor who wasn’t as popular.
“For the other sort of marketing folks, they were like, ‘Oh this show isn’t going to break through for us.’ They sort of gave up on it a little bit because we were casting a European guy as the face of [a show] they wanted to be more accessible,” he said. “And so the gift of that, the gift of casting Mads Mikkelsen, is that their investment in the show became dramatically decreased, and so that allowed us to do a lot of things that we wouldn’t have been able to do if they were saying, ‘No this show needs to get 10 million people watching it every week.’ Because then we would have to really be tied down to certain parameters of storytelling that were going to mesh with a mainstream audience.”
While “Hannibal” was cancelled in 2015, you can watch all three seasons on Netflix. You can also catch Fuller’s full interview here.