Why David Tennant Lost Hannibal Role According to Bryan Fuller


Mikkelsen may have absolutely been the right person to play Lecter in Hannibal, but casting him was a tug of war between Fuller and NBC.

“Casting Mads was a challenge,” Fuller explained. “Because I wanted him, the director wanted him, Hugh Dancy wanted him. We all universally knew that he was the right person for the job. But he was sort of this European art-house performer. NBC were trying to kind of counter-cast, in a way. They wanted Hugh Grant to play Hannibal, they wanted John Cusack. They wanted a lot of folks that were much lighter on their feet. They wanted someone effusive and comedic, and has that level of charm to them to counter all of the evil. I was like, ‘Mads Mikkelsen is this role.’ And I remember one of them saying, ‘He’s kind of creepy!’ And I’m like, ‘He’s Hannibal Lecter!'”

Eventually, Fuller ended up repeatedly calling NBC’s bluff when it came to casting an actor with more name recognition.

“Every time they said, ‘We’re gonna cast Hugh Grant,’ I would say, ‘OK, let’s make an offer,’ knowing full well that Hugh Grant had just passed on $750,000 an episode for Two and a Half Men, and that was three times their licensing fee. I was like, ‘It’s just not realistic. He’s not going do it.’ I was like, ‘Make an offer, and then I’ll bring you back to Mads.’ And so we did we did that dance at least a half a dozen times, where the network would say, ‘We want Paul Bettany.’ And I was like, ‘Great, make an offer.’ ‘We want John Cusack.’ ‘Great, make an offer.’ And everyone always passed, as I knew they would. And then I brought up Mads Mikkelsen again. And finally, after, you know, six or seven rounds of going with actors that were never going to do this role, I threw myself on the mercy of Jen Salke’s desk, and said, ‘I know you guys see this character in a different way. But this is how I see the character, and I have to write him, and I have to understand him, and I have to be in the trenches with him.’ And Jen was like, ‘OK, we trust you. We’ll cast the person you want.'”

The rest is TV history, and Tennant agreed that he wouldn’t have nailed the role of Hannibal like Mikkelsen did.

“I met Bryan Fuller a couple of times, and we talked about it,” Tennant told EW in 2018. “But I think they quite wisely chose Mads Mikkelsen, I think he was a perfect choice for it, and I think he did things with that character that I wouldn’t have managed, so I think the right man got the job.”

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